‘When he came, in the game, he made his own lane
Now all I need is y’all to pronounce my name’
— Mr. West
I’m a white guy so I’m not allowed to talk about race.
At least that’s what they tell me (BY THEY, I MEAN THE PEOPLE OF COLOUR WHO APPEAR IN MY DAYTIME SPECULATIONS ABOUT THEM).
Don’t talk about it because it’s a zero-sum game — and you’ll lose. White guys get all the breaks (I’M BEING SARCASTIC. I’VE WORKED HARD ALL MY WHITE TO GET WHERE I AM TODAY. I MEAN I’VE WORKED HARD ALL MY LIFE.), and as such we can’t contribute to the discourse (AGAIN, SARCASM. I’M ABOUT TO CONTRIBUTE IN AN EXTREMELY MEANINGFUL WAY).
But I believe we’re on the precipice of a post-race world (YEAH, WE’RE POST RACE, EVER SINCE OBAMA GOT INAUGURATED. WELL ACTUALLY, EVER SINCE SLAVERY WAS ABOLISHED. GET WITH THE PROGRAM GUYS), and many of us took the leap long ago (I DON’T GO TO THE GYM ANYMORE – I GET ALL THE EXERCISE I NEED BY JUMPING INTO DIVERSITY). We have mixed-race families, diverse startups and we — gasp! (SORRY, I’M OUT OF BREATH FROM ALL THIS LEAPING) — select our music based on how it sounds, not the ethnicity of the performer.
We don’t have hatred in our hearts for people, except maybe for inefficient people (LIKE BREASTFEEDING PEOPLE AND SICK PEOPLE). Oh yeah, and for the people who build bad products — we have a lot of hate for them! (HAHA! WE HATE THEM, RIGHT? IS THIS A HATE WE CAN ALL AGREE ON? RIGHT? GREAT.)
Sadly, we live in a world where race still is an issue because some folks haven’t made the leap. Those folks are old and dying (UNLIKE ME! I’M ALIVE! WHICH MAKES ME STATISTICALLY LESS LIKELY TO BE RACIST. BONUS!) in many, perhaps most, cases.
Racism exists. Racists exists.
No argument there. But boy do these people look stupider and stupider (DO I MEAN THE RACISTS LOOK STUPIDER AND STUPIDER, OR THE PEOPLE WHO KEEP COMPLAINING ABOUT IT? UNCLEAR, ISN’T IT.). I mean, the “God Hates Fags” church is so insanely stupid that they’ve become a staple in comedy (I MEAN NOT SO MUCH A STAPLE AS THE HILARIOUS GAY BEST FRIEND WITH NO LEADING ROLE, MORE LIKE A STAPLE THAT YOU ONLY EAT A COUPLE OF TIMES A YEAR). We don’t see them as dangerous (I MEAN I DON’T. PROBABLY I WOULDN’T BE AS RELAXED IF THEY WERE ATTACKING ME, BUT I’M NOT LGBT SO I DON’T HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT THAT) as much as dopey (WOW I HAVEN’T USED THAT WORD IN YEARS). Like, maybe they’re mentally challenged people (YEAH WHY DON’T I JUST COME OUT AND SAY IT. DISABLEDS. THEY’RE THE REAL BIGOTS). They’re just sad (HOMOPHOBES ARE JUST SAD, I MEAN, NOT DISABLEDS. ALTHOUGH THEY PROBABLY ARE TOO, BECAUSE THEY’RE ALWAYS SICK AND DYING).
However, the tech and tech media world are meritocracies. To fall back to race as the reason why people don’t break out in our wonderful oasis of openness is to do a massive injustice to what we’ve fought so hard to create (BY WE I MEAN ME AND OTHER HARD WORKING WHITES I MEAN TECHS).
It flies in the face of our core beliefs (I SAID FACTS, ORIGINALLY, BUT I JUST COULDN’T JUSTIFY IT): 1. anyone can do it, 2. innovation can come from anywhere and 3. product rules.
And anyone can do it.
And “anyone” keeps doing it.
This idea that Silicon Valley is in some way a closed, secret society is laughable. Ninety percent of the people in Silicon Valley were not born there — they moved there (TAKE THAT RACISM, YOU BIRTH-VALLEY DEPENDANT FORM OF OPPRESSION). The industry is driven by investment and investment is driven by metrics, THAT’S NUMBERS TO ALL YOU NON TECHNIES – NUMBERS, NOT COLOURS, AND not where you went to school.
In fact, people are leaving their Harvard MBAs off their resumes because they don’t want to seem outside of the classic archetype: outsiders who dropped out and are uncontrollable rebels (THESE ARE THE ONLY CHARACTERISTICS OF THE ARCHETYPE. RACE AND GENDER AND DISABILITY AND AGE DON’T COME INTO IT. HELL YOU COULD BE A BREASTFEEDING, SICK, DYING WARTHOG AND IF YOU WERE STILL AN UNCONTROLLABLE REBEL YOU’LD GET THE JOB).
Now, there’s some truth to me not being able to speak about race. I haven’t experienced racism myself, except when standing next to my wife (who is Asian). I MEAN SHE WAS EXPERIENCING THE RACISM, NOT ME, BUT THAT’S A TECHNICALITY. I had no idea people were as racist toward Asians as they are — but they are. That makes me sad for my mixed-race daughter, who looks 97% Korean (I WORKED THIS OUT WHILE I WAS STARING AT HER FACE ONE DAY) and 3% Irish — let alone Greek or Swedish (sorry, Dad).
But she’s going to live in the post-race world we’re shifting to (WAIT, DID I SAY WE WERE ALREADY THERE? WELL, IT’S HAPPENING, IN ANY CASE). Her kids will probably share six or seven heritages — enough so that no one will matter (BECAUSE THAT’S HOW IT WORKS. THERE JUST HAVEN’T BEEN ENOUGH HERITAGES UP UNTIL NOW TO STOP RACISM). And that’s awesome.
Now, most of the folks on this email list were born in the 1st world (but not all — and I do know that because you always reply YOU SNARKY BASTARDS. PLEASE STOP REPLYING SO I CAN SAY 100%). About 95%+ of the folks on this email list were blessed with a 1st-world education. We all started on 2nd or 3rd base compared to folks in rural India, China or the tribal areas of the Middle East (HAVE I COVERED EVERYWHERE SHIT? YES? GREAT. MOVING ON.).
Do any of us in the 1st world get to talk about inequality? If I can’t talk about race because I’m white, it would follow that you don’t get to talk about inequality because you were born in the top 20% of people on the planet.
Now that we’ve established that we can all contribute to the dialogue (I LOVE SAYING ‘WE’ WHEN I KNOW IT’S JUST ‘ME’, I’M ALL LIKE, WELL WHO’S GOING TO ARGUE? IT’S JUST ME IN HERE ON MY LAPTOP!), let’s move on (I WAS READY TO MOVE ON AGES AGO BUT PEOPLE OF COLOUR WERE HOLDING ME BACK AS USUAL).
Besides, I like to talk about hard subjects, so let’s really talk about it (NOT JUST FAKE TALK ABOUT IT LIKE MOST PEOPLE).
This all started because of a well-reasoned and written blog post lamenting a race issue in the tech blogging community.
Jamellle, who I don’t think I’ve ever met or read before (BUT THEY ALL LOOK THE SAME TO ME SO WHO KNOWS), meditates on race and the “white male” problem at blogs like the Verge and The Next Web.
His position counters everything I’ve experienced in my career, I’VE NEVER EXPERIENCED ANY RACISM, SO PROBABLY THERE ISN’T ANY OUT THERE — and I’m one of Engadget’s parents (the other one is Latino — but that doesn’t matter, right? I’M BEING SARCASTIC. IT MEANS EVERYTHING).
Anyone can break into tech blogging. Anyone. EXCEPT INEFFICIENT PEOPLE.
First, I broke into journalism by starting a photocopied zine, which I wrote on nights and weekends while working during the day. It took me years of hustling (DID YOU THINK THAT WAS JUST A WORD THAT BLACK FOLKS USE? THINK AGAIN) in my spare time to do it and my timing (NOT MY SKIN TONE) was perfect — I started a magazine about the internet in 1995.
Two of my most successful writers are now high-profile bloggers: Xeni Jardin and Rafat Ali. The first a woman, the second with much darker skin than mine (brown, but not black for those obsessed with the exact tone — really? (HAHA. THEY’RE SO OBSESSED. I’M TOTALLY NOT. I MEAN MY DAUGHTER LOOKS 97% KOREAN BUT THAT’S MY DAUGHTER, I’M ALLOWED TO STARE INTO HER FACE UNTIL I GET THE PERCENTAGE CLEAR IN MY HEAD. I MEAN, I’M HER DAD. BUT THESE GUYS, THEY’RE REALLY OBSESSED). Both are exceptional talents who started their careers with — not for — me. I got lucky enough to recruit two folks smarter than me, the theme of my career I now realize (hire up!) (JUST TO BE CLEAR, THEY DID WORK FOR ME AFTER I RECRUITED THEM, BUT NOT LIKE, IN A, I’M-YOUR-WHITE-BOSS KIND OF WAY LIKE THE OLD DAYS).
We kicked ass together and it had nothing to do with our gender or race. We just all busted our asses and kicked a lot of ass (HAVE I SAID ASS ENOUGH? DO I SOUND COOL YET?). Xeni went on to do BoingBoing and Rafat did PaidContent and now Skift (which I’m investing in. WHAT RACIST PERSON WOULD INVEST IN A WOMAN’S START UP).
Second, I started a blog network in 2003. Again, I got lucky with my timing (SAY IT WITH ME: TIMING NOT SKIN TONE).
We hired 500 bloggers and not *once* (THAT MEANS NOT AT ALL, ABSOLUTELY NEVER, TO YOU NON TECHNIES) did we look at their gender, race, sexual orientation or color. We had no budget so we looked for folks who could write with passion and for a pittance: $2 a blog post. Everyone was a freelancer working from home — and we didn’t know where their homes were until we sent them a check (THEY DID ALL HAVE HOMES THOUGH. WE DON’T EMPLOY ANYONE WHO’S HOMELESS, THAT’S TAKING DIVERSITY TOO FAR).
Folks thought we were idiots for paying for blog posts at the time, since no one was getting paid. The rate quickly went from $2 a post to $15 and we wound up selling that company for a lot of money in under two years.
If you want to break into writing, you don’t need rich parents to get you a free internship at WIRED. That’s a 1989 thing — ’94 max.
I know because when I came into the game I used to be very resentful of those rich kids. They lived in Manhattan and went on long vacations to Europe while I took the R train in and out of the city in August. It was hot as hell, and I spent my time writing in journals in between dragging copies of my ‘zine about the internet to startup companies like DoubleClick and Razorfish. My luggage cart was always breaking and I was a bit of laughing stock to some I’m sure: “What CEO delivers his own magazines?” they must have thought. Answer? The one who is going to rank you 97 in the Silicon Alley 100, and who you’re going to be to take to a Knicks game and Nobu in another six months. Boom (YEP, BOOM. AGAIN, NOT JUST A WORD FOR PEOPLE OF COLOUR TO USE).
Those internships are long over. If you want to blog for Gawker or Engadget or TechCrunch the best way to do it is:
a) post highly intelligent comments — not about yourself — on those blogs 2-5x a day for three years.
b) start your own blog and write one blog post a day about one subject for three years — not about yourself, about the topic. Don’t ever talk about yourself.
c) go to any party, meetup or SIG you can find
You do those three things you will break in. Two hours a day for three years.
Anyone who does that is going to not only get a job but might actually build a sustainable business or have a bidding war over them.
You can sit there and come up with all the people stopping you , or you can decide to be unstoppable.
You can sit there and look backwards at the racist old-world, or you can look forward and create the new post-race world. TO BE CLEAR, I’M LOOKING FORWARD, AND ANYONE COMPLAINING ABOUT RACISM IS BACKWARD. I ADMIT IT’S CONFUSING BECAUSE IN THE PAST WE ALSO DIDN’T BELIEVE IN RACIST BARRIERS TO SUCCESS, SO THAT MIGHT SEEM BACKWARD TO SOME PEOPLE, BUT WE’RE POST ALL THAT NOW. THE IMPORTANT THING TO REMEMBER IS, IF YOU’RE NOT SUCCEEDING, IT’S PROBABLY BECAUSE YOU’RE CRAP.
The fact is that the tech industry and tech media should be extremely proud of what we’ve accomplished. We’re the most open meritocracy I’ve ever seen in industry. AND NO, I’M NOT GOING TO GO AND WORK IN A WHOLE BUNCH OF INDUSTRIES OR STUDY A WHOLE BUNCH OF INDUSTRIES JUST TO MAKE A POINT. OBAMA HAS ALREADY MADE MY POINT. RACISM IS DEAD AND TECH MEDIA RULES.
We accept anyone based on their performance WHICH IS EXACTLY WHAT ALL INDUSTRIES SAY. BUT WE’RE DIFFERENT. WE’RE SPECIAL WE’RE TECHNICAL.
In fact, the venture capitalists and angel investors I know would blow off their mother’s 70th birthday party in order to close a deal with a founder of a startup with a hockey-stick growth curve — regardless of their age, gender, color or sexual preference. AND I KNOW ONE OF YOU THIRD WORLDERS IS PROBABLY GOING TO ARGUE THAT IT’S HARDER TO BLOW OFF YOUR MOTHER’S BIRTHDAY PARTY WHEN YOU RELY ON A STRONG FAMILY NETWORK IN ORDER TO COMBAT RACISM, BUT IF YOU’RE NOT GOING TO SHIT ALL OVER YOUR FAMILY YOU’RE NEVER GOING TO GET ANYWHERE IN THIS INDUSTRY.
All you need to make it in this world is hustle (A RAPPER SAID THAT ONCE. I PARAPHRASE FROM ANYONE, REGARDLESS OF THEIR SKIN COLOUR). You need to put in the 10,000 hours (SORRY SICK AND/OR DYING PEOPLE. BUT YOU’RE NOT GOING TO MAKE IT).÷…
Don’t let anyone tell you that some secret cabal of rich, old white guys on some secret golf course is trying to stop you. NOBODY PLAYS GOLF ANYMORE. THE GAME OF CHOICE FOR THIS INDUSTRY IS TOKENISM.
I mean, there are secret packs of rich, white guys on golf courses making fun of and trying to hold disadvantaged people back. They’re just not in the tech industry THEY ALL WORK IN BISCUIT MANUFACTURING OR SOMETHING, and they’re less and less relevant today—and they can’t stop you!
Nothing can stop you if you put in your 10,000 hours building your craft. I MEAN NOT NOTHING, BUT LIKE, ONLY LIKE, NUCLEAR WAR OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT CAN STOP YOU.
It’s all about skills NOT SKIN COLOUR.
Skills = power. SKIN COLOUR=TOTALLY NOT RELEVANT SINCE SLAVERY ENDED
On that measure, I think JB’s piece is a success. I didn’t know your race, just your excellent writing ability, when I got engaged. Now that I know you’re black you know what difference it makes?
YOU ARE BLACK THOUGH.
You’re followed and subscribed to based on your skills. HA! I JUST DISPROVED RACISM WITH ONE CLICK OF MY MOUSE. TECHNOLOGY STILL AMAZES ME.
PS - Even if the world isn’t, the LAUNCH Festival is a pure meritocracy! If you know of any stealth or non-stealth companies trying to make it in the world, let me know. If they are minorities, women or from outside the United States even better — as we run a diverse show by design! BUT IT MAKES NO DIFFERENCE TO USE, OBVIOUSLY. In fact, a female founder won best 2.0 last year BUT THAT IS COMPLETELY IRRELEVANT BECAUSE WE DON’T CARE EITHER WAY.
1. The LAUNCH Festival has so many amazing partners and supporters that we’re able to give scholarships to builders and broke founders — of any race, gender, etc. (NOT THAT WE CARE WHAT RACE OR GENDER YOU ARE. BUT IT WOULD BE NICE IF YOU ARE A PERSON OF COLOUR, PREFERABLY A WOMAN OF COLOUR, AND THEN I CAN USE YOU TO BACK ME UP WHEN I CLAIM THAT THIS INDUSTRY IS FREE OF RACISM)
2. The greatest hackathon ever held, The LAUNCH Hackathon, has 100+ teams already formed. That’s 300 developers/designers of 400 signed up. There is a $50k angel investment prize from myself and @dharmesh. I’m looking for another VC or angel to put up $25k-$50k and get the prize money to $100k. That would be insane, huh? Talk about an open opportunity!!!
3. We should do a panel on race and Silicon Valley… who should be on it? ME! HEHE, AW, NO, I COULDN’T. NO, NO, YOU TOTALLY SHOULD! OH GOSH WELL THANKS I’M FLATTERED, BUT I JUST DON’T KNOW IF I HAVE THE EXPERIENCE. BUT YOU JUST WROTE THIS GREAT ARTICLE THAT TOTALLY DISPROVED RACISM! WELL I GUESS I DID. COME ON, YOU’RE TOTALLY AMAZING! HEHE, STOP, YOU’RE MAKING ME BLUSH.
4. Great news episode of This Week in Startups with Mightybell’s Gina Bianchini & Little Bird’s Marshall Kirkpatrick, as well as my interview with David Cohen of TechStars.
5. Follow me if so inclined: @jason and YouTube.
6. Thanks to the amazing new partners of the event!
(There’s still time to reach the 5,000 developers/designers/entrepreneurs/startups that are going to be there. Email email@example.com)
* AWS (http://aws.amazon.com/)
* Digital Detox (http://thedigitaldetox.org/)
* Docstoc (http://www.docstoc.com/)
* ESRI (http://www.esri.com)
* FusionPR (http://www.fusionpr.com/)
* Google Developers (http://developers.google.com/)
* LewisPR (http://www.lewispr.com/)
* Ludlow Ventures (http://ludlowventures.com)
* MaRS (http://www.marsdd.com/)
* Media Temple (http://mediatemple.net/)
* Menlo Ventures (http://www.menloventures.com/)
* Micro Ventures (http://www.microventures.com/)
* PivotDesk (http://www.pivotdesk.com/)
* Samsung (http://www.samsung.com)
* Silicon Valley Bank (http://www.svb.com/)
* Venture51 (http://www.venture51.com/)