Racism in Silicon Valley – Arrington vs. Obrien

There has been an interesting spat on the internet that caught my attention today.

Basically it’s a back and forth between serial entrepreneur and Venture Capitalist Michael Arrington and CNN reporter Soledad O’brien.

Long story short, Michael was invited to an interview by CNN where he was asked a bunch of technology related questions and he seems to have stumbled with his replies regarding race.

You can see part of the statement stumble below.

He later on claims that he was blindsided and thought that the interview was about something else ..blah blah blah

He responds here and claims that CNN set him up etc etc.

Soledad responds here with what I think is a pretty measured and reasonable response. Her providing a rebuttal email is pretty much a slam dunk to prove that Arrington was just sloppy. he wasn’t prepared and is trying to do damage control because of how bad the interview looks.

Now do I believe Michael Arrington is a racist? Don’t know and don’t really care but here’s what I will tell anyone reading this article:

I used to work in Silicon Valley and it is as racist as it gets.

It’s subtle racism and almost impossible to prove but it is absolutely racist. To say that there aren’t a lot of minority owned startups because minorities don’t focus on science and technology is nonsense.

There are quite a few talented minorities with great ideas and innovative personalities but here’s the dirty little secret – Silicon Valley is not meritocratic.

A meritocratic environment would fund the best ideas based soley on the merit of the idea and the hard work of the innovator.

Silicon valley is a very large, mostly white connected group of people and investments are based primarily on recommendations from that group. It’s based (like a lot of things in life) on who you know and not what you know.

I worked in Northern California during the dot com boom and you would see the same people starting companies, the same people running companies, the same people ruining companies and the same people getting rich. Over and over again.

Now back then, there was so much frikkin money that everyone who worked in technology made a lot of money (black, white, green or brown) but the real wealth (millions) stayed amongst the same group of people.

Not bitter, just telling you what happened from someone who was there.

I’m not too concerned about all this because I don’t live and work there anymore and I am an entrepreneur myself so it’s all moot.

I just find it amusing when people try and say that there aren’t a bunch of minorities qualified to start businesses in the valley or there aren’t enough interested in science and technology.

That bullshit continues to be the racist line decade after decade.

What do you all think? Is Silicon Valley racist?

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