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Dear White People, You Suck At Diversity

Stashed in: Sequoia, Sexism, @karaswisher, Salesforce, That's racist!, @dickc, @meganrosedickey, XX, Racism

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Megan Rose Dickey does not hold the punches. 

In the tech industry, white “leaders” have a tendency to talk about diversity in silos. Here are three recent examples:

On a recent episode of Re/Code Decode, Dick Costolo, in response to Kara Swisher’s broad question about diversity, makes zero mention of racial minorities, trans people and gender nonconforming people:

“A lot of men pay lip service to diversity without really doing anything about it,” Costolo said in an interview on Re/code Decode. “The real work is in developing female leaders inside these companies.”

At Dreamforce, Salesforce’s annual takeover of San Francisco, CEO Marc Benioff also failed to address the complexity of diversity:

“Overall, diversity is extremely important to us. Right now, this is the major issue [gesturing to the room/crowd]. I think when we feel like we’ve got this, you know, a little bit more under control, then I think that one is gonna surface as the major thing we’re focusing on. We’re not ignoring it, it’s something that we support, it’s something that we’re working on, but this is our major focus right now, is the women’s issue.”

And then there’s Sequoia Capital investor Michael Moritz, who seems to prioritize the hiring of women above underrepresented minorities, and spews nonsense about lowering the bar in order to hire more diverse candidates:

“In fact, we just hired a young woman from Stanford who’s every bit as good as her peers,” Sequoia Capital investor Mike Moritz said in an interview with Bloomberg, titled Sequoia’s Moritz: Looking for Women to Be Partners. “And if there are more like her, we’ll hire them. What we’re not prepared to do, is to lower our standards.”

I’m baffled as to why people say things like that. Is it because they’re racist? Sexist? Ignorant? Some sick combination of all three? Probably.

At (e.g.) Cal Poly SLO and Harvey Mudd, all emphasis is on recruiting more women to get a 50-50 balance. You hear nothing about racial or socioeconomic balance.

Yeah, I rarely hear about socioeconomic balance either. 

Clearly we still have a long way to go as a society. 

When people in positions of power speak or write about not lowering their standards, they are revealing a hidden bias that is a part of the historical and constitutional foundation of America: the idea that people of color are naturally inferior and that people who are labeled "white" are naturally superior. (The same is true for poor people; landowning people were assumed to be superior.) These are often the same people who comment that someone of color is "articulate" or "polished" with some measure of surprise, as if you wouldn't find class, educational, social and cultural diversity within groups of color, just as you find among the population as a whole. 

The challenge I have encountered in dealing with people like Mr. Moritz is the cognitive disconnect that they experience when you point out this bias. And goodness help me, if I challenge them on it, no matter how I do it, I find that I am still often labeled the "angry black woman" when anger isn't at play at all. 

As a society we certainly do still have a long way to go. During a conversation with a board member and investor in a Palo Alto music startup, he said with a straight face, "We ('white' people) hire Asians to do the code, Jews to handle the money and blacks to deal with the talent." 

That was 2008. I left for Seattle and didn't look back, despite the nexus of resources, money and power in the Valley for startups. I want to work with people who are open to seeing and knowing all of me, not just what they think because of my skin color.

Joe Biden's mom got it right:

"Sunshine, apt and miraculous, broke through the day of the pope's installation Mass. "Your Holiness, this is my sister, Valerie," Biden said. The pope. Joe Biden and the pope. Val was next to him in her long black chapel veil, the two of them together at church just like back in Wilmington, and Scranton before. Except it was the Vatican. In the reception line, Val didn't kiss the pope's ring, and Biden didn't kiss the pope's ring (to be fair, plenty of people didn't kiss the pope's ring), because they are Bidens, equal, not below or above anyone, not the pope, not some schlub on the street. "Nobody is better than you." That's the message their mom hammered into their heads. "You're not better than anybody, but nobody is better than you."

Brenda, thank you for sharing.

That quote from Joe Biden's mom is wonderful.

That story about the investor in Palo Alto is awful.

Clearly we still have a long way to go as a society. 

Thanks for replying Adam. I used to hate that investor. Then I began to pity him. He's missing out.

And thanks for PandaWhale! Context is exactly what we need more of to manage the essentially infinite amount of information on the web.

You are very welcome, Brenda. You're right that he's missing out.

And thank you for the kind words about PandaWhale. I agree we need more context!

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