Friday, March 17, 2006

adaptive path » we are white

So, I'm checking out Laughing Squid, and I see some white dude. OK. For whatever reason, I start thinking, darn - ya know - there has always seemed to be a lot of white people in all the glamorous digerati events that Laughing Squid attends - a lot - almost exclusively white, it would seem, if memory serves.

So I decide to check out one of the companies that's been getting a lot of pub at Laughing Squid - adaptive path. Checking out their 'about page', my initial thoughts seem to be confirmed - welcome to whiteville. White, white, white. I'm talking bleached-laundry white.

There's nothing inherently wrong with being an all-white company (no, your cleaning crew doesn't count, and I don't care how many non-white 'friends' you have). But I got to thinking about race, as I often do, and how black people in particular, but really, all sorts of non-white people, are excluded from many types of companies, but in particular how I imagine this effect to be particularly striking in high tech-type, cool-ish, neuvo-webbish-we're-back-in-the-early-to-mid-90's-cool-type tech companies.

I'm white - cracker-jack white - myself, but I'm from a blue collar background. I have the feeling that I'm one of the very, very few, percentage-wise, to have 'mingled with the stars' of the preppy digital illuminati. And I never felt comfortable. If an ordinary-looking white boy, white as the pure-driven snow, can't feel comfortable around an all-white cast, then how could it be possible for a non-white person?

Much of it, I believe, has to do with class as much as race, but it's something to think about. I've been involved in hiring before and it's very difficult to pick a black person over a white person when all other things are equal - that's true for me, and while I'm far from perfect, I've very aware of race issues and try my best - consciously - to keep my own racism in check. So, if someone like me, who actively tries to beat down racism, naturally leans towards the white person (or away from the non-white person) during an interview, how is high-tech, 'cool company' hiring being affected overall?

Maybe there are some perfect white people out there in 'cool company'-land who really, actually don't pay attention to race when hiring, but I've never met any of those people.

So, what's the bottom line? The bottom line is 'check yourself'. Make sure, in everything that you do, that you check your racism at the door - as much as possible. And that includes every step of the hiring process - all the way back to separating the 'Shaniqua' resumes from the 'Jennifer' resumes. And that directive/lesson holds for non-white hiring managers who think they know non-white people because they share the same skin color. Don't even front.

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