Racism and Meritocracy

It was never my intention to write about racism and meritocracy. Mainly, because I hate “talk” and prefer to “do”. Not saying that “talk” and discussion isn’t helpful, but its never been my thing, I “do”. So it slightly pains me to add to the “talk” with another blog post about racism and meritocracy.

First, my opinion on the media frenzy (CNN Black In America, Arrington, etc) that has taken place in the last month. Honestly, many of the points covered, (in blog posts and interviews), miss the mark and are shameful attempts for media coverage. However, like the rest of America, I tuned in. Which, I guess, was the only positive outcome, visibility to a problem.

A couple of my favorite articles on this race and meritocracy debate include Tristan’s interview with CNNMoney and Scoble’s thoughts on Black In America. The most hurtful piece I read was Arrington’s post on racism. Mainly because I have a lot of respectful for Arrington and his contributions to the tech community. But his post really revealed the lack of understanding of the problem, and instead focused too much on verbal daggers in some form of retaliation.

So, what has me eager to add my two cents? I just read Eric Ries’ “okay” post on TC titled Racism And Meritocracy. Again, I have a lot of respect for Ries and his contributions to the tech community, but I believe most people fail to see the root problem.

First, this is America. The country which was founded on liberty and equality, then implemented a system of slavery and inequality. Yes, no one wants to talk about our country’s origins, it always makes someone uncomfortable. But we have to deal with the fact that this country has a foundation of inequality. Yes, we have made great progress towards equality, but we have not arrived. So, how do you have a conversation about meritocracy, when this country can not guarantee education equalities. And the lack of educational inequality largely impacts minorities. I believe that there ARE opportunities in the United States to overcome a place of inequality. But most of minority america does not believe it. Couple this with natural behaviorial pattern recognition equals dangerous cycle of inequality.

How do we break this cycle of inequality? First, to those who represent the part of america that isn’t traditionally disadvantaged. Just be aware that we (all humans) have cultural biases naturally. Understand what that may mean for you and your cultural background. It may mean that you see a young white or asian male, computer science major and think genius. It may mean that you think the female in the office must work in hr or finance. Basically just be aware, and in every attempt, challenge your natural bias. In addition, support organizations who’s mission addresses the issue of inequality. (For those in tech startups, shameless plug for Black FoundersNewME, and Women 2.0)

My second piece of advice goes to those who represent traditionally disadvantaged america. This is OUR problem. Our problem, not because we’re in this alone, but OUR problem because it ultimately impacts and hurts us the most. We know that we live in a place of inequality, yes sad, but true, so let’s pull ourselves up and break this cycle. How? By doing and being better. It is culturally known in some African American circles that being good isn’t good enough, you have to be the best. Yes, its unfair, but we’ve already talked about that. We do, do better, and reach back to others to inform them of the same. This is my personal manifesto. In addition, we have to be the face of our own success, so that others may see. (Re: post on Black Zuckerberg)

The wrapup: racism and meritocracy is the age-old problem in america. It’s not exclusive to tech, silicon valley, or startups, they just happen to have the media spotlight right now. There is not an overnight solution to this problem. The problem is systematic, and people have been working on the solution since the beginning. So, we should continue to work the solution for continual progress in the hopes of equality. Now its back to ‘do’.

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13 thoughts on “Racism and Meritocracy

  1. I completely agree. This is definitely OUR problem and most of the points you stated were sharp; but in order for the black community in America to rise in society, we have to help one another and stop being selfish. The Arab guy who came to the house of the entrepreneurs on the CNN Black in America special even said it “Can i be critical of the community? Your people do not help each other.” I recorded the special on my DVR and have watched it twice. It is very inspiring to watch the group try to break into the tech world. I just wish they would have (again) worked together more…

  2. Thank you for your response..I do have a target market and the law enforcement is one of them . The whole ideal is to have the app in case you do witness something and is able to get very accurate information to the police. Even if you are in a safe area what if you where driving by and you witness a purse snatching while you were out of town on business? This could really help out my entire ideal concept is to bring back the Good Samarathan and help law enforcement with more information. You may never use it. But just to have it on your phone could really help someone else. Now that the FCC has passed a the law to receive texting, photos and emails this will even make this app more useful….Hey some will use it and some will not. Its really good to hear other opinions It make me sharper and helps me develop the app for the consumers needs. Thank you so much for your opinion!

  3. Interesting take. I watched the segment; it was a start.. I felt it focused to much startups chasing VC funding.. which is rediculous if you own a computer and you idea is half decent.

    Personally, resumes could be playing cards. I would only consider them to see how creative a person is and that the code quality matches.

    Tech is full of cliques, there are various levels of douch baggery. Get in where you fit in. The goal is essentially to suck less daily and not piss off the nutbars.

    Along they way you will become fat, rich, and somewhat respected for your time served as opposed to your contribution/s.

  4. A response to my Google Plus link of your Racism and Meritocracy post from: +Debra L. Stokes-Moore
    (reposted w/permission)

    – I can hardly stand to read this article because it stirs up some sour feelings I had to endure for 35 years.
    I retired from engineering two years ago after thirty years of working and five years prior to that getting a Bachelor of Science in Engineering in Texas.
    I learned to appreciate how it feels to be the recipient of racist behavior from the sexist treatment I received while getting an education.
    I applaud this young black woman for her abilities and for doing the work. I hope she holds up better than I did.
    It’s not fun to be the one that leads the way for others to follow and supposedly break the barriers (don’t know that I ever broke any barriers – the barriers broke me). Not fun at all.
    I respect Hadiyah and wish her the best.

  5. Regarding the Black in America /Silicon plug: For me it was very inspiring to see black faces in this light. When I was in college in the late 80s / early 90s, I had an opportunity to meet and work with many bright technical people that looked just like me. Since graduating from college (Comp Sci), seeing black people in the technical realm in the work force has been few and far between. Unfortunately, my day to day environment does not include many black people sitting at the table. So I was really taken by surprise to see the exciting things being done by the individuals on the program and I have since found a wealth of information on black people and things going on in technology and I’m excited to see it. Hence, finding your website(s) :-). I agree we must find a way to reach back and learn how to build together. I commend you for what you are doing and I wish you success in your endeavors. @_ninagriggs

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About Hadiyah

Software Engineer and Startup Aficionado. I co-founded software agency, Playpen Labs, and Black Founders nonprofit. I teach women how to code at Hackbright Academy.