The Truth About Race, the Tech Industry and Meritocracy

Tracey Ross, writing at Ebony, sorts through a debate about the digital divide to conclude that some folks are mistaking the potential of the tech industry for reality. Luckily, she says, those who understand how things work have made their voices heard.

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Tracey Ross, writing at Ebony, sorts through a debate about the digital divide to conclude that some folks are mistaking the potential of the tech industry for reality. Luckily, she says, those who understand how things work have made their voices heard.

In a thoughtful essay posted last week, writer Jamelle Bouie explored the many reasons why White men might dominate tech writing and the tech industry. Bouie explained that implicit networks, rather than overt racism, are a root cause for the lack of diversity in the field. Not long after Bouie shared the piece via twitter, tech blogger/millionaire Jason Calacanis challenged his assertions, igniting a debate over whether tech's diversity issues stem from structural barriers or people of color simply not working hard enough (or their disinterest in the sector altogether). In his own blog post, Calacanis stated, “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.” For many, these sentiments were all too familiar.

Last year we saw a similar twitter debate arise over the all-White, all-male speaker lineup for the Brit Ruby computer programming conference. Conference organizers defended the homogenous speaker list, explaining that the panelists were chosen on "merit."

And of course, there was the Forbes essay by tech writer and entrepreneur Gene Marks ...

Despite the numerous barriers people of color face in accessing technology and competing in the tech world, many people continue to celebrate technology as the world's great equalizer. Granted, technology does have great potential for improving how we communicate, how we learn, and even how our communities function ... The problem is, these people are mistaking the potential of the sector for its reality. Like any industry, the tech sector is governed by the rules of man and all his shortcomings. Luckily, the Internet has given some of us a platform to try and set the record straight. And hopefully, we can continue to expand access to this platform.

Read Tracey Ross' entire piece at Ebony.

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Sept. 19 2014 8:34 AM