New diversity initiatives from tech companies are always entertaining for me. Companies believe by promising that some percentage of their workforce will be people of color by 20XX, they’re tackling diversity on the head, and that both their peers and the underprivileged people they seek to hire will be impressed.
I’m not impressed. In fact, I’m more convinced than ever that Silicon Valley, for the most part, does not care about black people.
Tonight, another black man was killed by police. This time, it was 37 year-old Alton Sterling of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He was selling CDs outside of a shop. A video of the murder was posted online by a bystander. He did have a gun, but he didn’t motion or attack the officers—they had him pinned down such that he could barely move. Later, it was reported that he was the father of five children. Five kids who now no longer have a dad. Conveniently, both officers’ body cameras reportedly “fell off” during the encounter, and security camera footage was confiscated by the police after the encounter.
As I pointed out many months ago during Ferguson, it stands out just how mute Silicon Valley is when it comes to unarmed black people being shot and killed by cops. It’s alarming, considering this very same industry is actively trying to court underrepresented minorities for technical positions to make their workforce diversity statistics look less homogeneously white.
Beyond the tone-deaf tweets of the tech industry’s very white workforce while Black Twitter has yet another emotional meltdown, one begins to wonder, where are the initiatives from Silicon Valley heavyweights to make this stop? You know, kind of like FWD.us’ fight for immigration reform so tech companies can hire more foreign talent. Or, remember when Paypal halted its plans to open a facility in North Carolina when its governor signed anti-LGBTQ bills into law in April? Or how about all the effort Airbnb puts into influencing local governments and populations to allow their room-sharing service to operate? They won’t do anything about racist hosts, though.
Tech companies are no stranger to using media, money, and smarts to raise the stakes on issues it cares about. If they really thought that hiring black people was in their best interest, they wouldn’t let them be murdered in the streets by police. Silicon Valley does not treat black people like people, it treats them like a statistic. Its funny (not really), because that’s usually how the rest of America treats black people too. Silicon Valley was, as far as I know, one of the first industries to treat LGBTQ individuals like people, and look how far we’ve come on that front.
The point is, if technology leaders want to solve their diversity problem, they have to prove that they understand our issues, struggles, and our fears. The overwhelming majority don’t, and they have research to do. They have to understand that promises of diverse workplaces aren’t enough for a community that’s been given nothing but promises for hundreds of years. Women and people of color take a risk every time they join a tech company with questionable diversity statistics. It’s time for tech companies to take risks too, by rejecting the people and practices that allow African-Americans to be routinely murdered by law enforcement for simply living.