Why Matt Damon should keynote SXSW Interactive 2016

I’ll explain the title in a second. But first, check it out ya’ll…I guess SXSW couldn’t find a Black person actually building and leading a tech company to be a featured speaker for Interactive this year so they got Kerry Washington. Yep, the star of the hit show Scandal.

Of course, SXSW will counter that by saying they also have Maxine Williams speaking and she’s leading the diversity efforts at Facebook. I have a lot of friends at Facebook and truly admire what they’ve done as a product, community and business, but I’m pretty sure they’d admit that ethnic diversity is not one of their strengths.

The same is true for Google, Amazon, LinkedIn and the other major publicly-traded tech companies so I’m not trying to get a rise out of anyone by pointing out that Facebook has something like 80 Black employees (or around 1.5%) out of 5,000 global employees.

Yet some people wonder why there aren’t more Blacks in tech. It’s not just the companies that are struggling with recruiting, and the lack of STEM education for underrepresented minorities, but also the popular tech conferences doing a shitty job of answering questions like this:

“Will Kerry Washington inspire more people to think about diversity in tech or will someone like David Drummond at Google or Tony Gauda at ThinAir Labs or Rob Reffkin at Urban Compass or Kanyi Maqubela at Collaborative Fund or basically any Black VC or Black individual with a founder/CEO title who actually knows what it’s like to be one of the few Black people in the tech industry?”

I’m not mad about Kerry Washington. I’m just mad that Matt Damon isn’t the keynote speaker. I saw The Martian recently, and loved it. I know the white guys in tech would be inspired to build the next unicorn if he came.

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