First of all it was not Carl Franklin’s fault. In fact, it was Carl that brought up the topic—“something we should get into”—during the pre-show warm-up for .NET Rocks! #416, recorded in 2009. Second of all, the fact that it has taken me three years to respond to this issue is an indicator of not how little talking about “race” means to me but how many obstacles have been holding me back from addressing this issue properly.
In fact, for those who are left alive who claim to know me well—my negligence to bring up the “race issue” in detail on a popular show like .NET Rocks! would be considered yet another “contradiction” about my supposed personality. You mean to tell me Bryan did not pull the “race card” on a talk show that gets over 20 million downloads a month? What’s wrong with Bryan? Is he scared to lose his job or something? How can he look down on Microsoft and Telerik employees—and their golden muzzles when clearly he is muzzling himself with some nasty twine he found in a back alley—right?
The short response to all of these “questions” is that Carl wanted to bring up the topic. Once we got talking it was clear that I was not going to find the opportunity to get into the topic—and it would be too much of a risk to suddenly question me about it “for no reason”—surely more than one listener would accuse Carl of going way, waaay off topic.
In 2009, I was still struggling with XSLT and XML—two very, very unpopular technologies in the Microsoft world. I remember talking about the importance of the obscure
System.Data.Common namespace in the .NET Framework—which is now applied in the famous Entity Framework. My struggles show up in my voice. I have a speech impediment—very similar to the one the awesome David Fowler of Microsoft has. But unlike David Fowler, I do not have Damian Edwards to stand in for me when things get a little tight and I begin to stutter.
—And for those of you who are “clever” you may now assume that I am talking about “race”… (as a reminder, I put words like “race” in quotes because this is current vernacular of the time—not my time…)
In the-history-according-to-me, David Fowler is the first Microsoft personality that is a day-to-day, social-networking power player being continually recognized for his excellence by self-described “white” people (—this is quite different from simply having one’s existence recognized, by the way). Now for the complexity: Dare Obasanjo is a Microsoft employee—what about him? There are hundreds of thousands of corporate colored folk like Dare Obasanjo—but the following is not flattery: Dare is too “high up” (or “long gone”) to be as accessible as David Fowler. I consider Dare Obasanjo to be senior—he was there before Twitter. He was there, like me, when blogging first came out—he has developed patterns and practices that do not include the activities that a young cat like David Fowler does every day. It follows that:
One of the reasons why you see so few qualified African-descended people in the usual nerd social circles is that they have no time for it. They have been so successful their lifestyle shows no need for it.
Let’s take an extreme case. Think about the Indian-descended Om Malik in the nerd circles of Leo Laporte. Om showed up on Leo’s shows a few times and then started sending his employees to appear on Leo’s shows. So what we have is a tech elite that seriously have no time to be playing around with all due respect. (What of course is subtly racist is to be angry with Om—or to accuse Om of being “arrogant” for not having time for Leo—but Leo strikes me as not being that type of guy…)
But this observation should beg the question, “Where is African-descended ‘middle-class’ of tech in this brave-new Twitter world?” I’ve got four names: David Fowler (and he’s getting richer every day so his time is running out), Tiffany B. Brown, Denise Jacobs and the super-fine network-administration geek, Adria Richards. Yes, I’m sure there’s more but few (including the people aforementioned) would want to be in my little list.
When I’ve walked into a “blacks of tech” meeting here in Southern California over the years, I have rarely run across a straight-up, hard-core software developer with strong African features. Too many (for my taste) are managers or “entrepreneurs.” It’s like being a musician with a love for the music continually trying to socialize with (and being disrespected by) predators of the music—exploiters of the music—dudes who don’t give a f’ about the music—dudes pretending to know how to play but you never see them get down.
The first hard-core software developer I ever met was a super-fine, super-model-looking database programmer from Sierra Leone. I was so excited to talk to her about tech and she was so not interested in talking about her “day job” (granted: this was before the Internet as we knew it and we were at a 20-something house party). The second hard-core software developer I met was another super-fine sister, Kathy Lott. She hired me for a while to run a program she called “Kids 2000”—using computers to teach literacy to children. The third hard-core software developer I met at a “Blacks in tech” meeting was an older brother that did work for the government. His grasp over the concepts of computer science were sage like—he was a Thelonious-Monk character, kept in the shadows like a freak while the other mediocre manager-types dominated the show.
So the previous paragraph sounds like my talk about “race” and IT has nothing to do self-described “white” folks being total assholes. No. Not so… But my point would be that I have less control over self-described “white” folks being assholes. I still assume that I have more control (and resources better spent) when talking about the deep, deep flaws in the so-called Black “community” that fails to serve/revere/encourage/respect women and men with a technical background. However, I am not going to talk about these deep, deep flaws in forum like .NET Rocks.
Now I’m going to throw out a few flippant remarks within this context constructed by me:
- Many of the issues facing women in tech are identical to those faced by people of color in tech—especially African-descended peoples. So any new-media show about women in tech is (for me) a show about African-descended peoples in tech. …And many of these shows suck.
- The research skills that I used to study Black History are the same skills I use to study technology. And these are quite effective. So my habit of quoting sources and providing references comes from an “unexpected place.” Thank you Dr. Gerald Horne!
- The challenges that I face in the corporate-American IT world are largely amplifications of the same problems everyone of any skin color might have in the workplace. Think about an agile convert trying to survive in a waterfall world.
- What is rarely explored in the context of “race” talk is something we took for granted at the beginning of our Black education: that the world as it exists today is based on foundations that are fundamentally incorrect—and this why many actual “Blacks in tech” embrace new technologies faster than their “mainstream” counterparts because we are always looking for better technical tools in this wickedly wack bullshit called “the developed world.” You think the relationship between Stevie Wonder and Ray Kurzweil was a freak accident?
- My relationship with the concept of “correctness” is independent of any contemporary organization in the existence of my awareness. These ancient connotations—timeless connotations (after the first three minutes of the universe)—with “correctness” should be a well-known “ethnic trait” among us African descended people. It is my relationship with the sacredness of “correctness” that is the root of any conflict I may have had—and, sadly, will have—with self-described “normal” people.
I’ve heard Carl Franklin on a few rare occasions on .NET Rocks assert with a hint of irritation that he understands what is being said to him. The person talking at him is usually an asshole-like guy laying down some condescending, sophomoric “intellectual framework”—and Carl will interrupt this guy with the words, “I understand!” The world of Information Technology is full of these condescending, sophomoric characters—many of these minions are middle managers. You notice how “race” has nothing to do with this asshole situation? “Race” merely amplifies this situation. What racism does is help me find these assholes (and often unemployment) faster.
There is no need to slay the wicked.
Just leave them to themselves.
And they will perish…