First of all it was not Carl Franklinâs fault. In fact, it was Carl that brought up the topicââsomething we should get intoââduring 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 âraceâ 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 wellâmy negligence to bring up the ârace issueâ in detail on a popular show like .NET Rocks! would be considered yet another âcontradictionâ about my supposed personality. You mean to tell me Bryan did not pull the ârace cardâ on a talk show that gets over 20 million downloads a month? Whatâs wrong with Bryan? Is he scared to lose his job or something? How can he look down on Microsoft and Telerik employeesâand their golden muzzles when clearly he is muzzling himself with some nasty twine he found in a back alleyâright?
The short response to all of these âquestionsâ 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 topicâand it would be too much of a risk to suddenly question me about it âfor no reasonââsurely more than one listener would accuse Carl of going way, waaay off topic.
In 2009, I was still struggling with XSLT and XMLâtwo very, very unpopular technologies in the Microsoft world. I remember talking about the importance of the obscure
System.Data.Common namespace in the .NET Frameworkâwhich is now applied in the famous Entity Framework. My struggles show up in my voice. I have a speech impedimentâvery 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.
âAnd for those of you who are âcleverâ you may now assume that I am talking about âraceââŠ (as a reminder, I put words like âraceâ in quotes because this is current vernacular of the timeânot my timeâŠ)
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 âwhiteâ people (âthis is quite different from simply having oneâs existence recognized, by the way). Now for the complexity: Dare Obasanjo is a Microsoft employeeâwhat about him? There are hundreds of thousands of corporate colored folk like Dare Obasanjoâbut the following is not flattery: Dare is too âhigh upâ (or âlong goneâ) to be as accessible as David Fowler. I consider Dare Obasanjo to be seniorâhe was there before Twitter. He was there, like me, when blogging first came outâhe 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.
Letâs take an extreme case. Think about the Indian-descended Om Malik in the nerd circles of Leo Laporte. Om showed up on Leoâs shows a few times and then started sending his employees to appear on Leoâs 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 Omâor to accuse Om of being âarrogantâ for not having time for Leoâbut Leo strikes me as not being that type of guyâŠ)
But this observation should beg the question, âWhere is African-descended âmiddle-classâ of tech in this brave-new Twitter world?â Iâve got four names: David Fowler (and heâs 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, Iâm sure thereâs more but few (including the people aforementioned) would want to be in my little list.
When Iâve walked into a âblacks of techâ 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 âentrepreneurs.â Itâs like being a musician with a love for the music continually trying to socialize with (and being disrespected by) predators of the musicâexploiters of the musicâdudes who donât give a fâ about the musicâdudes 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 âday jobâ (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 âKids 2000ââusing computers to teach literacy to children. The third hard-core software developer I met at a âBlacks in techâ meeting was an older brother that did work for the government. His grasp over the concepts of computer science were sage likeâhe 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 âraceâ and IT has nothing to do self-described âwhiteâ folks being total assholes. No. Not soâŠ But my point would be that I have less control over self-described âwhiteâ 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 âcommunityâ 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 Iâm 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 techâespecially African-descended peoples. So any new-media show about women in tech is (for me) a show about African-descended peoples in tech. âŠAnd 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 âunexpected place.â 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 âraceâ 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 incorrectâand this why many actual âBlacks in techâ embrace new technologies faster than their âmainstreamâ counterparts because we are always looking for better technical tools in this wickedly wack bullshit called âthe developed world.â You think the relationship between Stevie Wonder and Ray Kurzweil was a freak accident?
- My relationship with the concept of âcorrectnessâ is independent of any contemporary organization in the existence of my awareness. These ancient connotationsâtimeless connotations (after the first three minutes of the universe)âwith âcorrectnessâ should be a well-known âethnic traitâ among us African descended people. It is my relationship with the sacredness of âcorrectnessâ that is the root of any conflict I may have hadâand, sadly, will haveâwith self-described ânormalâ people.
Iâve 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 âintellectual frameworkââand Carl will interrupt this guy with the words, âI understand!â The world of Information Technology is full of these condescending, sophomoric charactersâmany of these minions are middle managers. You notice how âraceâ has nothing to do with this asshole situation? âRaceâ 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 perishâŠ
- âShow Notes for Carl Franklinâ
- âKwabena Boahen Takes Tech Bigotry Head On and Provokes the Racist Subconsciousâ
- âMy Response to âRacism, Prejudice and Oppression in the Information Technology and Social Media Marketingââ
- âWhatâs most busy about the IT consulting businessâŠâ
- âThe IT Workplace: Doing it Basil Styleâ
- âAn IT Fundamentalist Speaks: The Middle-Management Time-Elapse Memory-Erase Systemâ
- âFlippant Remarks about www.blackweb20.comâ