035_michael_arringtonMichael Arrington, founder of TechCrunch, CrunchBase, and CrunchFund and friend of this blogger, started what became a long, and at time unnecessarily heated, Twitter chat on racism in tech, or tech and race, if you like.

(As a note, this is not a blog post written to attack Michael, so if you’re looking for that, sorry. I consider him a friend, but he’s also a recognized leader in the startup world, so with that mantle comes the occasional observation that may tilt toward criticism, but is intended to be constructive. Michael is a good guy.)

Michael started it all with this Twitter tweet noting a Bloomberg article that had a rather wrong-headed racial slant, pointing to a “white-black” income gap. Now Michael should have known where the very mention of a racial income gap was going to lead in social media.

Uh, here’s the tweet:

To which, this guy named Chris Sweis chimes in:

To which I added:

Now, what I’m stating has been a general problem. How else to explain the racial disparity in the startup tech world – not the tech world? What people forget is that there are no absolutes here – it’s all a matter of judgement and perception. Otherwise, there would be few investment errors by venture capitalists and angels. Instead, we have many of them – the majority.

The fact is, the vast majority of American investors and tech execs are white and male, and we have a talk about a too small number of blacks and women in the ranks in the startup world. Thus, if white men are the gate-keepers here (and invites the idea of blacks starting their own tech startup world) it stands to reason its their perceptions of race and sex that contribute to the problem.

To which someone I never met before, @JustKurt from Gilbert, Arizona and who doesn’t post his full name, but could be the special assistant to the mayor, there, chimes in with this:

Oh, brother. Kurt’s tweet underscores the problem. If I blog or tweet that too many robberies in Oakland involve young black men, I don’t get an attack from anyone black or white. But if I state a truth that’s shared by many in American society, white guys like Kurt can’t handle that. The funny thing is, a ton of white women will agree with me.

So, I tweeted back this:

The overall point I was trying to make is that you have to be able to evaluate society as a whole, and not put yourself in the middle of it. For example, I’m a black male, yet, unlike Kurt, and others you’re about to meet here, I don’t personalize the conversation by talking about myself. I know I’m just fine; that’s not the point.

Kurt continued:

…about my girlfriend.

Then I tweeted…

Which, if you think about it, is true for anyone, regardless of race or sex. The fact of the matter is, you have to talk to many potential investors before you find the one or more that will jump on your bandwagon. That translates to a ton of rejection. Yes, the rejection may come for various reasons, including gender and race, but it’s a truism that you have to have blinders on.

It’s too bad that none of the white guys chimed in to tweet in agreement with me. They know that’s so. In fact, instead of agreeing with me, Chris tweeted back this:

Instead the common habit is to personalize the conversation, as Chris did…


You can’t resolve a problem that some people fail to desire to recognize. And so, the same, sad, pattern of some whites and blacks talking past each other whenever the conversation of the lack of blacks in the tech startup world – really, in Silicon Valley – comes up. (I might add that I think it’s a generational problem. Tech startup folks in their 20s don’t seem to have this problem to as great a degree as those over 37 do.)

The idea that someone uses the term “race card” is racist in itself. It means you’re not listening to the other person’s perception. And I told that to Chris, but Kurt was, at that point, not being a good person. So, I asked him to bow out:

Then, Tonya, who’s black and female, is involved in the Oakland tech and digital media scene, chimed in:

But of course, he wouldn’t stop:

I hate that game of trying to shut a person down from talking about race, first, by using the term “race card” and, second, by calling you the racist. As a note, being racist is saying that another person is beneath you because they don’t look like you, and excluding you because you don’t look like them. That’s the problem at hand.

It’s a problem that could be solved if tech leaders focused on doing so – but they don’t, so it persists.

Instead, Michael, who started the whole deal, then tried to run away from it:

And then Arrington tried to run away from the fact that he did use a mention of race in a tweet, which started the whole deal…

And here’s Tonya:

And Michael finally agrees that it’s about race:

Meanwhile, Kurt works to make amends:

And I tried to turn the talk to Amazon’s acquisition of Comixology:

Then, someone chimed in about lunch, to which Chris tweeted back, assuming it was my idea:

But I’d prefer Golf. Note that I never said Chris would pay, right? Keep that in mind…

And he took off after Michael:

And I was cracking up that Chris assumed that he would be paying…

And I reminded him, yet again…

So will we ever have lunch? Probably. But the bigger issue is one of blacks, tech, and startups. I can tell you the idea that there are not a lot of blacks in tech itself is just plain wrong. There are. The problem comes in the startup world.

It’s not just that our ranks are small, the real problem is there are many of us who want to break in to it, but we now have a lot of blacks with money – they just don’t focus on finding good black tech startup opportunities to invest in.

That will solve the problem. We need the Oprah’s of the world to move in that direction. I’m not confident that older white tech guys want to move in that direction, but I am confident that young white guys can, and because many of them don’t act like that – they have black male friends and black girlfriends and wives.

They are the change we need, but they can’t do it alone. Blacks need to get involved in investing in blacks.

Stay tuned.

By Zennie Abraham

Zennie Abraham | Zennie Abraham or "Zennie62" is the founder of Zennie62Media which consists of zennie62blog.com and a multimedia blog news aggregator and video network, and 78-blog network, with social media and content development services and consulting. Zennie is a pioneer video blogger, YouTube Partner, social media practitioner, game developer, and pundit. Note: news aggregator content does not reflect the personal views of Mr. Abraham.