|The World's Magazine: generator21.net
Event # 240: PUTTING OUT FIRE ... with gasoline
CARTOONS BY GASPIRTZ
G21 Digital Internet Postcards
G21 E-MAIL NEWSLETTER
MEMOIRS OF THE INFO AGE
MY GLASS HOUSE
EVERYONE LOVES "RECOMMENDED DAILY REQUIREMENT" but can't find their favorite article. No More! Here's *another* link to the complete ARCHIVES.
G21 STUFF: We know. You want to let people know that you KNOW. So why not prove it by wearing a G21 t-shirt? Drink from a coffee mug that proclaims your allegiance to The World's Magazine. Thank you so much!!!
LAST WEEK's EDITION
MEET THE G-CREW! These are the people behind this jam-band every week. AND there are GUIDELINES FOR YOU TO JOIN THE BAND...
This is a link to an older article at A List Apart, but I can vouch for most of facts remaining true. Just look around.
I'm considering doing a feature at G21 on this issue, so I welcome your comments. (I assume you'll give your permission to be quoted, though no last names or affiliations will be published.) Please read the *entire* article before sending me something "off the cuff." Thanks.
I knew I was taking *another* risk.
After all, one thing I've learned over the years is that those who aren't People of Color get their backs up very quickly when you broach the subject of inequalities and barriers based on race or ethnicity.. But I decided to take a chance. After all, I was dealing with the new priesthood, the lords of the Information Technology. As Richard Barbrook and Andy Cameron pronounced, "The Brain Lords."
Nonetheless, I knew Bremser's article from A List Apart would open me up to brickbats (though I had NOT personally written it, recall) just for bringing up the taboo.
Without further ado, let me bring you some of the comments of my esteemed Discussion List Members. My commentary follows. [EDITORIAL NOTE: All emphasis in these quotes are ours, not those of the Discussion List participants. ---RA]
FROM JOHN M. (A Dallas, Texas-based telecom IT manager:)
Nothing here really new. However I did discern a interesting tidbit in the included side bar article. Quoting:
"Distance learning is one online application being utilized more frequently by minorities and those living in rural areas other than white Americans, the study found.
About 37 percent of whites take courses online compared with 50.3 percent of Latinos, 47 percent of American Indians/Eskimos/Aleuts, 46.3 percent of African Americans, and 40.4 percent of Asian/Pacific Islanders. Moreover, 45.4 percent of people in rural areas take courses, compared with 36.8 percent in central cities and 36.9 percent in urban areas."
Now of itself this is not mind numbing in the short term. However in the long term this could be the critical leveler of economic opportunity for cultures other than Caucasian. If truly, the Net is agnostic to color then over time, should this trend continue, opportunities and choice will come to these groups more so than the Whites.
The rural areas have been at a disadvantage in the Telecom sphere. This has been due to service cost density per line mile more than anything else. The cities are a choice plumb in new offerings as the costs are capable of being shared over a lager population per line mile. That however is about to change. Several 2 way satellite services will come on line this year. Service will be equivalent to ISDN type speeds and tariff in $75/mo range. It is critical to remember that in rural areas, satellite will have an economic advantage. The marginal cost per customer remains relatively flat. Whereas cable and phone, costs per customer go up in direct proportion to the distance to garner the next available customer into the system.
One way to accelerate both developments would be for Congress to open up the qualifications for Hope and Lifetime Learning credits available to all Americans. If these credits were available to child age families for purchase of systems and access some of the disparity would be eliminated over time. Congress might also want to consider a 5-8 year extension of REA for telecom data services into underserved districts. And as always apply the greed factor to encourage corporations to take the risk (or better yet 0% loans to data coops to set up ISP's in these areas. Almost making the Met go full circle....).
So if a rural user can get a 0% loan on the sat/computer system, and the education credits are used to drive down access to $20/mo a veritable explosion in telecom usage is guaranteed in the rural areas.
But I ramble. Follow that quote Rod. That's where the story is.
My good friend and "running buddy" Larry K., lives in Manhattan and has worked as a programmer for major financial institutions for the last decade. His comment:
A few thoughts come to mind:
Firstly, the overall tone of Bremser's article gives me the impression that he's got an axe to grind. Try to avoid that in yours, as I makes me question much of the research and almost all of his opinion.
I don't agree that the internet was invented on the West Coast. I remember early research going down for the ARPANET and joystick driven (approx = mouse driven) user interfaces to databases at a software company I worked at in the early 80's in Cambridge, Massachussetts. My first real revelation about the internet and it's newsgroups (pre www. days) was that I was talking with fascinating people from Stockholm and other parts of Europe. As we speak, some of the wildest erotica (and hence illegal by U.S. standards) comes from the former Soviet Block nations.
I think he makes an erroneous assumption that just because you don't see many African-Americans or Hispanics working in Silicon Valley, one can conclude that this is a "white" dominated industry.
The fact is that where I work, a very large investment bank in New York, where all applications being developed are now web-enabled, I would say that about 40% of the workforce on the IT floors is non-caucasian. Now I've not counted heads or done any scientific research here, but my day to day interactions, and riding the elevators to and from the lobby day in and day out are a pretty good guage.
As far as the break-down of the non-caucasians, my impression is that East Indians predominate, followed closely by Asians, with African-Americans third.
Far from being a tool of "not so subtle racism", I think the web is a great opportunity for ANYONE with a bright idea, a couple of grand for a computer rig, a couple of hundred for a domain name, and the patience and perseverance to design and program a web site. Or better yet, the silver tongue it takes to talk someone else into programming the web site for the promise of future riches. Computers can't see skin colors, the mouse and key clicks are all they know. I have a friend in Silicon Valley who held multiple millions of dollars in stock (options) due to his involvement with WebVan. He's African-American.
For any of us who are bi-lingual, or those -- like me -- who are forced to be partially so due to the nature of international business, know that we can choose our preferred language on many well designed web sites. Brazilian Yahoo is a single mouse click away. This does not strike me as a United States West Coast bias. The fact that I can find many English-German or English-French dictionaries online helps me on a daily basis.
Finally, I'd like to rant as briefly as I can, that many of the inequities in many aspects of life here in America are a direct result of, and mirror the inequities of our education system. Fixing the schools all over this country is the first and vital step to addressing inequities in the community, the workplace, in higher education, and in the distribution of wealth and power.
We had a chance to fix things back in the 60's. Fourty years have passed and many of those little school kids are now 45 year olds. Let's make a dramatic shift in the emphasis we place on education for EVERY child standing on American soil.
[Editorial Comment: Amen, Lars!]
My friend Barbara A. has been working in systems analysis and point-of-sale development for international retailers and is now moving on to a major developer in the IT certification arena. Her thoughts:
OK, I read the Whole Thing. And I agree that the WWW is one example of the racial discrimination perpetuated in the US. I thought the assessment was fair, accurate and disturbing - the WWW is only one of MANY areas where white male dominance permeates our culture, which was Mr. Bremser's point.
It seems so hopeless that I almost want to throw my hands up in frustration and pout (the WASP says stubbornly). But what good does that do??
However, there is one hopeful statement I gleaned:
Hopefully, with the hundreds of millions of dollars being generated in this industry, some will get spent recruiting African-Americans and financing education programs.
Education seems to be the underlying solution to many social issues. I firmly believe that syphoning off profit from the high-tech companies into education and internships can make a difference.
But how can one do that? Does it need to be mandated by the government? Or maybe the promise of corporate advertising to incent donations to education?
My current company has been in existence for 5 years and, although they generate revenue, they are still not making a profit. This fact motivates the executives to focus ONLY on that goal; in the meantime community involvement and philanthropy are almost non-existent.
The one success story is a minority intern that worked in a clerical position for two summers. He probably picked up some pointers about business dynamics and corporate behavior. When Jerrett earned a basketball scholarship to a big name university xxxx employees pooled their resources to get him a plane ticket and some cash to get settled.
Levi Strauss & CO. is the best example I have seen of teaching diversity and walking the talk. The fact that they have deep pockets and 150 years of doing business around the world may be the basis for this ideal model. This culture is definitely influenced from Bob Haas and the rest of the Board of Directors.
Rod- let me know if you want more.
Thanks for asking!
Robert P., is an attorney and social activist who has been involved in exploring issues of Internet privacy and law. His comments:
Bremser writes in his final paragraph: "The Internet, being part of the future of this country rather than the past, should reflect how we expect our society to be 10 years from now, rather than 20 years behind us." I agree: It should be, but of course it isn¼t; nothing ever has been. It¼s a waste of precious time and energy to hope that enlightened industry leaders will make it so.
Industries and markets are never about what the future is or should be; they¼re about where the money and power are today. Gradually, as they develop, they become more "inclusive" to the extent that they identify the next nearest potential market segment to exploit at the lowest marginal cost. Finally, if we¼re all lucky and markets permit, important technologies become ubiquitous.
If history is any guide, leadership in promoting true racial/ethnic/cultural integration of both the executive suites of Internet industries, as well as the online community, will come from only one source: The very groups who are themselves underrepresented.
DC: Y'know, Rod, I think it is this "better than" nonsense that has driven so many "successful" black people crazy and into despair. The constant and relentless pressure to be Superman (or Superwoman) when there are times when you long to be nothing more than Clark Kent.
Blacks live in a society where they are presumed to be incompetent and thus inferior but under no circumstances can they ever afford to just be mediocre (except in the NBA). Talk about a double-bind contradiction.
RA: I have to agree with you there. Seems like I've heard "better than" since the cradle --- as I've written in Glass House. I've always resented it as an unfair burden. This ain't the Olympics, after all. You just end up with a job, not a gold medal and millions of dollars in endorsement contracts.
The Internet industry will continue to buy Congressional votes for more H1B visas, and headhunt in their own homogeneous backyards, until it becomes clear that their businesses will suffer unless they do otherwise.
Similarly, the World Wide Web will become worldwide only as other peoples elbow their way in. This is the way capitalism works, for better and for worse.
If the leadership of the underrepresented succeed in generating enough public support for an agenda of inclusiveness, then government action supporting the effort becomes politically possible. But that government action will never be strong enough to provide the underrepresented with the advantages they need to actually catch up ‚ it never is or has been. (Recall that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was, by design, coupled with an impotent EEOC.) Our hope (as always) has to be that if the powers that be unlock the door, those who are seeking access will be able to kick it down.
So I think we should devote some energy to ensuring that the infrastructure of technological opportunity is put into place (e-rate, etc.). But the bulk of our efforts should be focused on the bricks-and-mortar and meat-space tasks of improving the health and education of members of underrepresented groups so that they¼re strong enough and smart enough to kick down doors ‚ and kick ass ‚ themselves.
Ironically (or perhaps not so?) I could only find one other member of this Discussion List who was also Black.
Darryl C. works in state government in Pennsylvania and has been involved in the political arena from coast to coast for the last few decades. He has been involved in various community building programs in meat-space, many dealing with youth development. His comments:
I have read Wayne Bresmer's piece several times and my short response is as follows:
I don't believe the web has a cultural landscape at least not in the deterministic or intentional way that Bresmer seems to imply in his essay.
What I mean is that there is nothing inherently in the web itself that is so off-putting or culturally biased such that it would drive blacks, as a group, away from using it.
Bresmer's interpretation of the research regarding black and Hispanic usage of the Internet versus white usage is a little off-base. The research seems to indicate that blacks, for example, choose to make other choices as consumers when considering whether to purchase a computer or some other high-end appliance such as a color television or stereo set. In other words, blacks with similar incomes as whites choose to spend their dollars on items other than computers. (When I made far, far less than $50,000 I had a computer because I DECIDED that having one was IMPORTANT to me.)
None of this means, however, that blacks do not encounter raised hurdles when they seek employment opportunities in the high tech and Internet industries.
Aside from the covert racism which bars them from even getting a foot in the door, I am sure that talented and qualified blacks also face the "better than" syndrome as well. In other words, for a black to be hired he or she probably needs to be significantly more qualified for the position that he or she is being considered for.
In addition, while whites have skills that are considered transferable to jobs for which they may not have the specific training and background, blacks (and Hispanics and Asians) are generally not granted this sort of latitude when employers are looking to fill new positions or make needed transfers.
The Internet may just be an industry where blacks and others don't have to continually beg others for recognition of their talents and skills.
Whether we take it from the perspective of how many of us see some promise for understanding and communication because of this new medium that is a product of the development of Information Technology, or whether we take it as our duty to create a better future is not important.
What is important is that the intelligent people who just commented above all were OPTIMISTIC about what we can accomplish as human beings.
John talked about the people's hunger and curiousity to learn --- and ways they were finding on their own to do it! Larry and Barbara also looked to education --- and the most human of impulses, curiousity. "What's in there?"
But Barbara took it one step further and said that we have a responsibility to share our successes, to share the excitement of what can be...
And then Darryl claimed that this Web, this place where you are reading me and yourselves, is not inherently exclusive. IT just does not care. Here's the playground. Do you want to use the teeter-totter or the swings?
The foregoing is in no way meant to discount why I began this "survey" and sent out the Bremser article for comment. THIS IS NOT A PERFECT WORLD. In many ways, this is a brutal and unjust world. I mentioned challenges, didn't I?
The only way we can live honorable lives, the only way we are good citizens, is for us to step up to the plate and take responsibility for the future. We are the creators.
I've stated here and elsewhere many times that I think we are eating our young. The United States is good at it, but the rest of the world is racing to compete. What is wrong with this picture is that we are pretending that now is all that matters.
I'll repeat: We are the creators. The future is up to us.
How does this relate to our discussion? Thanks for asking.
We have discussed the implications of nanotechnology, robotics, genetic engineering as they pre-suppose a post-human (as we know humanity) future. We have talked about the change in our definitions of privacy. But we might have failed to discuss how our decisions today, those of you "Brain Lords," reading this, CREATE.
You create a future when you turn a person away from your department.
You create when you encourage or discourage.
That is the challenge.
I'm not going to bother to throw statistical analysis at you because there's a grain of truth to the old saw that there are "...lies, damned lies and statistics." Kofi Anan did a better job of addressing this issue in his UN 2000 address. As he pointed out, it is absurd to hype information technologies and computers to people who have never used a telephone.
But that is not the case in America or Silicon Valley. As Bremser correctly asserts there are more Black and Latino janitors employed by Silicon Valley firms than there are programmers or managers. (For example, I could respectfully quibble with Larry's argument about the predominance of East Indians with the stats on high tech employers bringing in East Indian programmers on H1B visas --- thus being able to pay less for their work than similarly skilled American programmers, and basically treating them like little more than indentured servants.)
I spent most of my adult life living in northen California, the majority of that in San Francisco, and I can tell you that even the San Francisco Human Rights Commission reports that the racism in hiring in that city and the area is NOT subtle at all. It is overt and well-documented. In a report on the 25th anniversary of the Commission's formation, it clearly stated that both public and employment policies in that city could not but be seen as engineered to exclude Black participation. San Francisco said that about itself, I didn't.
And interestingly, from my perspective, whenever a respondent brought up anecdotal evidence about some amazing African-American person they knew in some Web-based endeavor each and every one was just that --- amazing. The door was not closed to entry, in other words, it was simply that most of the Black players had to be extraordinary. That fact, in and of itself, is evidence of racism.
So while being hopeful, I know that denial is not a river in Egypt.
My conclusion: We have multiple challenges. But we ALSO have indomitable spirits. The playing field can be leveled, but only with conscious effort on the part of people of goodwill.
She is electric!
Can I be electric, too? --- Oasis
MEMOIRS OF THE INFORMATION AGE ARCHIVES
THE PREVIOUS MEMOIR
THE NEXT MEMOIR
© 2000, GENERATOR 21.E-mail your comments. We always like to hear from you. Send your kudos, brickbats and suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.