I frequent the blog HBCU Money for the social commentary and insight on personal finance. While reading one the posts today by William A. Foster IV, he made a statement sums up my feelings on Silicon Valley and its diversity issue:
It is time we reset our priorities. Focus on building institutions that are in our interest. We are not a self-dependent people and the things we do have are too few to support a nation of forty million. This was largely the point Washington was trying to stress. I do not believe he was against what DuBois wanted. He just had insight to know we needed to build institutions first so that those classically trained had some place to go upon completion. Instead, many of us continue to operate under the illusion of simply getting a degree or going to an HWCU will somehow grant me entrance and inclusion. Even a recent back and forth I had with Vivek Wadhwa on Twitter highlighted the problem of wanting to force entrance instead of building your own. He complained about the lack of “minorities” and women in Silicon Valley. My issue with this is the majority of African Americans are in the southeastern United States. Why would we not build our own Silicon Valley there? Again, we will get one in and call that progress, while the other nine are left in the cold. The energy to get that one in could be spent building an institution where all ten get in – one that we control and own not just there for “diversity”.
While I admire Wadhwa’s advocacy for minority inclusion in the Valley’s tech industries, I question the need to concentrate power and innovation in just that area. There are cities with bigger minority populations that great tech companies presently call home. I encourage women of color seeking opportunities in tech to explore all of their options instead of fighting for scraps in SV.
It’s also wise to create your own projects and find a way to monetize your talents through entrepreneurship. There’s an old saying: “if you are not offered a seat at the table, then perhaps it’s time to find somewhere else to eat”. True, but who cares about a mere seat when you can own the whole restaurant?