Black Teens Can Code, Too. Why They Should Might Surprise You.

So, first,… By ‘code’, I mean develop full-stack web applications.

Or new robotic capabilities. Or working Internet-of-things meshes.

…Apps that are online in the browser, or native on a device, that require and verify a login, that connect to a database, have dynamic pages, and do something unique. Internet-of-things interfaces that connect with the real world, a home or yard, a business property, a vehicle, a tree, forest, field, or pond. Complex programs that take months to complete.

Here’s why they should do this.

Not to “be career ready”. Though that’s certainly a nice, rewarding and well-paid benefit.

Not because it teaches them something about the technology that surrounds us, about the hundred or so computers in a car, or the dozens of processing devices in even a modest small home.

Not even because it teaches logical, detail-oriented, precise thinking. Though for many its an excellent extension or substitute for learning those skills in math or science classes.

They should learn full-stack web programming because it offers huge lessons about how complete strangers can work together. To reach across wide spaces and even time to accomplish enormous things. And, in so learning, discover not only modern digital tools, and tried-and-true people skills, but entirely new ways of thinking about banding together to solve society’s problems.

To be sure, such knowledge and skills are for all teens. There are, though, many reasons to highlight coding for Black [male] teens.

I used to attend coding meetups downtown Columbus. We’d meet one door down from Nationwide Arena — home to the Blue Jackets Hockey team, but also to events like WWE Live and concerts of all kinds.

Columbus itself is just under 1/3 Black/African American. Black business ownership is at 16% — not great, but not hopeless. Columbus schools are still — well, trying.

If you want to get a job where you can mostly teach yourself; where you don’t have to have a pricey degree, where you can make it purely on merit, coding is almost unique in it’s ability to give you a very well-paid place to work.

To repeat, you don’t need a degree. If you have moderate talent, and will work quite hard for a number of early years, it can be rather financially rewarding even at a bank or insurance company (Columbus’ major industries). And if you’re noticed, and get into a high-flying startup, the sky’s the limit on how well you’ll do.

But you knew that.

Here’s the point about Black teens and coding.

For all the meetings I attended, barely one in sixty of the participants were Black. One in sixty. In a town of one in three.

There are plenty more official statistics about Blacks and coding.

One is: though graduation rates have improved dramatically for all teens, and for Black teens, we’ve yet to systemically help Black boys. Black male teens are still not graduating near enough.

There are reasons outside school for this, to be sure.

How can we help reverse the trend and introduce every Black boy to serious coding?