Generally I really dislike when people take soundbites out of context. I'm sure Mike Arrington's remark that started all this ("I don’t know a single black entrepreneur.") had more context surrounding it. However, something struck me in his blog rebuttal to the world. (From NYT article):
On Oct. 28, Mr. Arrington took to his blog to accuse CNN of ambushing him. He asserted that he said he knew no black entrepreneurs because he doesn’t “categorize people as black or white or gay or straight in my head.”
He wrote, “They’re just smart or not smart.”The problem is, how he thin slices "smart" is almost certainly based on someone's appearance, accent, vocabulary, phrasings, and body language. And in technology, those in Silicon Valley who are not in the "White, American Male" category almost certainly have to work harder to earn a "smart" label.
I could cite compelling scientific evidence to support my claim (pick up just about any issue of the Journal of Experimental Psychology, the Harvard race project, or even just Google Scholar for "seeing race"), but for the purpose of brevity I will (just once) argue by anecdote: I am often told, "but you don't look like a Computer Scientist!". Why? Because the image burned in our brains of a smart computer scientist is: young, white, American male. Used to be a man with dark greasy hair and glasses, now it is a blunt, sneaky, snappy Jesse Eisenburg type man. But, still man, still white, still American.
"Seeing Smart" still means seeing color, seeing gender, seeing ethnicity. It just means you might cut someone a break if they can manage to work past those initial, societal-given barriers of What a Smart Person Looks Like.
This will eventually change, but Hollywood needs to step up and quit playing to tropes. Quit casting people of color and women as tokens/BBFs while the young white men do all the science and inventing. *This* is where kids get their role models from. This is where society gets its ideas of what Smart looks like.
Huh. I think I have the start of a STEM education grant here...