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Dispatches From The Tech Bubble


The bubble isn’t exclusive to politics, as Bill Maher would lead us to believe.

Yesterday, Jemelle Bouie, a political journalist who writes for The American Prospect and The Nation, among others, republished a piece he wrote in January for The Magazine on his blog regarding the lack of diversity in the tech media. It was noticed by entrepreneur Jason Calacanis. The following conversation ensued.

  1. @jbouie Do Tumblr, WordPress or SquareSpace see color, gender or age? I think not. There is nothing stopping anyone from starting a blog.
  2. @jbouie yes… And nothing can stop anyone from starting a blog tonight. And if you do it everyday for a year you’ll get good. #win
  3. @Jason So, if there aren’t many minorities in tech trade writing, it’s because they aren’t trying hard enough?
  4. @jbouie I don’t know why, but I do know that I have no education in writing and I started a photocopy zine to break in & got to top.
  5. When I came in the game I made my own lane @jbouie — I didn’t wait for a break, I broke the rules. You’re underestimating the hustle.
  6. . @jbouie and that sums up your problem right there. You think it can only be the system. You discount the resolve of the individual.
  7. @jbouie @jason perhaps the circles that most minorities run with aren’t interested in tech. Stereotyping here, but just wagering a guess.
  8. . @jengallardo @jbouie I can tell you the tech industry & tech media space are both largely post-race. Pure meritocracy… Page views rule.
  9. @mpaul @jbouie @jason 1, that stereotype is bullshit. 2, don’t you think that stereotype makes sites/pubs less likely to hire a minority?
  10. @Jason @jbouie And assumes equal interest. If minority X is N% of the pop it doesn’t mean that if they are not N% of a field it’s a problem
  11. . @samfbiddle @mpaul @jbouie if you get page views you’ll get hired. You think @hblodget cares about anything else?!?
  12. @Jason @mpaul @jbouie blodget is an idiot. but moreover, how are you supposed to get page views if you’re not hired in the first place?
  13. @samfbiddle @Jason @jbouie You get page views by signing up for a Blogger/Tumblr account, writing great content, and marketing it.
  14. @samfbiddle If you want to break into tech journalism you only need to blog every day for three years. there isn’t a race wall in tech.
  15. @mpaul @samfbiddle @Jason @jbouie so your premise is that minorities just aren’t good at writing great content or marketing it?
  16. @Jason @samfbiddle @mpaul @jbouie jason, are you really arguing that there aren’t systematic barriers against minorities in our culture?
  17. @Jason @samfbiddle @mpaul @jbouie here’s the thing – a person of color is telling you what they experienced. You’re saying “No you didn’t”.
  18. @Jason @jbouie if we point out a single example of there being access issues, will you concede that you’re wrong? Do facts not matter?
  19. @Jason @jbouie if tech media is based purely on performance, then you’re saying minorities are underrepresented because they can’t perform.
  20. @anildash @jbouie nope. I don’t know they are underrepresented, or they want the jobs–do you? I do know there is zero race-based barrier.
  21. @anildash @jbouie 1 issue of racism is not a systematic problem, But, sure make a list of ten race issues & I will coach those blocked out
  22. 1. start a blog, 2. Write daily for 2-3 hours for 1,000 days 3. Do that for 1 topic & you break in. — it is that “simple” #hardwork
  23. @PostBourgie @anildash @jbouie actually, I’m the guy who broke in and did it…. So I am the expert. You should look to me.

Let’s get one thing straight: the tech media is not post-racial industry, or a “pure meritocracy”. The hard truth is the tech media is a meritocracy for white men. For everyone else, there are two ways to break in; your merits have to be miles ahead of your white male competition that you just can’t be turned away, or you have to know someone. For minorities in the tech media, it’s not what you know, it’s know everything, or know someone with power.

When Calacanis says things like, “I do know there is zero race-based barrier,” and “I’m the guy who broke in and did it…. So I am the expert. You should look to me,” it shows his complete ignorance, comparing his situation as a white male to minorities trying to break into an industry clearly dominated by white males.

When Calacanis makes statements expressing his belief that there is no race-barrier against minorities in the tech industry, or tells Anil Dash — A person of color — he didn’t experience what he said he did, it shows his incomprehension for the situation is on par with the moronic male congressmen and senators  who believe they should be the ones making decisions about a woman’s reproductive rights.

As a 22 year-old black man, I’ve experienced my share of the race-barrier in tech. Breaking into the established tech media was extremely difficult, but luckily I met good, evolved people like Curt Hopkins and Abraham Hyatt, then the Production Editor and Managing Editor of ReadWrite respectively, who gave me my first major byline. Yes, there are people who treat the industry like a meritocracy, but from the old guard — the people who still hold a substantial majority of the power — those people are few and far between.

I am hopeful about the up-and-coming generation. From what I’ve seen and experienced, a large majority of people in power and doing the hiring haven’t embraced the post-racial ideology the people they are hiring were brought up in. Those under 30 grew up in a much different world, when compared to the old guard. For the under-30 crowd, race hasn’t been as divisive an issue as it was for the preceding generations, mitigating what may be the subconscious predispositions deterring some of the old guard from hiring minorities.

Though many would like to believe it, the tech media is not a post-race industry, but soon, this may be the case. But when you fervently say we are already there, and have been for a while, to the dismay of the minorities of whom you are speaking about, you do yourself, or the industry no favors. Just because you may see and believe yourself to be evolved, it doesn’t mean your peers are. Xeni said it perfectly:

That doesn’t mean white people can’t talk about race, it means they will never fully understand it.