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Hi, I’m Brad Feld, a managing director at the Foundry Group who lives in Boulder, Colorado. I invest in software and Internet companies around the US, run marathons and read a lot.

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Racism in Tech

Comments (138)

There was a huge kerfluffle over the weekend about racism in Silicon Valley which tried to end when Michael Arrington wrote a post titled Oh Shit, I’m A Racist. But it didn’t end – on Monday there were stories by CNN reporter Soledad O’Brien defending herself with an article titled Michael Arrington is right (about one thing) and then a well reasoned post by Mitch Kapor titled Beyond Arrington and CNN, Let’s Look at the Real Issues. And I’m sure there will be more posts, including this one.

If you don’t know me, I’m white, Jewish, third generation American, born in Arkansas, grew up in Dallas, lived in Boston for 12 years, and I now live in Boulder, Colorado. My great grandparents emigrated from Russia and Germany – there were people in those countries trying really hard to kill them before they managed to emigrate to America. I say this not because I’m going to prognosticate about racism, but rather I’m going to tell a story. Of something that happened last week. Just to remind all of us that racism is alive and well in the US and in tech.

On Thursday, I got a call from a CEO of company I’m on the board of. He was very upset as he relayed a story to me. He had just heard from one of his employees who had been at a customer site for the past three days with another employee. The first person (person A) is white; the second is Indian (person B). The customer site is a government owned military installation.

Upon arrival, the customer would not shake hands with B. The customer would not acknowledge B’s presence directly. Over the course of the three days, the customer made endless racial and ethnic slurs directed at B. While it was extremely uncomfortable, A and B did their work, put up with the nonsense, and were professional.

While the CEO was relaying this to me, I was pacing outside a room that I was about to give a talk in. I was furious at the customer. I was sad that A and B hadn’t called the CEO immediately – I know he would have told them to pack it up and come home right away and he’d deal with the customer situation directly. The notion that B, and A, had to put up with racist behavior for three days was appalling to me. Especially at a government facility. In the United States. In 2011. In the tech business.

Everyone on this planet gets to believe what they want to believe, but I’ll assert that racism is alive and well in the US. I’ve seen it many times, including in Silicon Valley. Rather than get into arguments about the existence, or lack thereof, I’d encourage anyone who cares about this to listen to some wise words from Mitch Kapor.

“Being meritocratic is a really worthy aspiration, but will require active mitigation of individual and organizational bias. The operation of hidden bias in our cognitive apparatus is a well-documented phenomenon in neuroscience. We may think we are acting rationally and objectively, but our brains deceive us.”

When you see racism, don’t tolerate it. Take action. And don’t deny reality.

  • http://twitter.com/MogulAzam MogulAzam

    It is quite scary that our Govt have these people in uniform and represent our nation.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ashwin.bhambri Ashwin Bhambri

    A very interesting article , racism is everywhere in the world you just got to work your way around it. By experience I can tell that racism is usually the alibi of the mediocre and its trigger is mostly jealousy  

    Racism also appears to be the prerogative of the white, not true. I have seen a lot of Indians and Chinese practice reverse racism e.g. not hiring white people in their restaurants    
    The solution is just to work around racism and thats the best snub to a racist 

    • http://twitter.com/chriscarragher Christopher

      Not hiring white people is plain racism as well. Excluding non-white people in favor of white people only bacuse they are white and usually rejected would be what I would consider reverse racism.

    • http://www.facebook.com/ashwin.bhambri Ashwin Bhambri

      You got a point Chris and I agree on it. Racism has its shades 

    • Peter

      I don’t think not hiring white is racially motivated. Hell, now in Chinese restaurants, it’s all Mexican.
      But I do notice when serving the customers, if you speak their dialect, sometimes you get better treatment.

  • http://www.alearningaday.com Rohan

    Yup. Exists all over. Sadly enough.. I just choose to ignore it, as with things that are beyond my circle of influence. 

    I always thought the US was ahead in this matter. (compared to the EU) I guess it still exists though.
    (Coincidentally, I referred to Arrington and Bias in positive light just this morning. http://www.alearningaday.com/2011/11/bias.html )

  • http://twitter.com/kevindewalt Kevin Dewalt

    Awesome article Brad.  True indeed. 

    I’m in the process of moving to Beijing, China and am curious to see what it is like to be a minority (at least culturally/ethnically) for a few years.  

  • http://twitter.com/ArturoRyes Arturo Ryes

    There is racism everywhere, though I think it is way worse in some countries of the EU (countries with third world thinking).

  • http://www.andyswan.com andyswan

    Can we go a step further?  There is bigotry everywhere.  Some of it is more accepted (geographic assumptions, majority-bashing, identity politics, etc) than others (traditional racism and sexism).

    Like most things, there is no one “right way” to deal with it.  In one instance, when the victim was someone I cared about, I knocked a guy out.  In another I became the exaggerated version of what they assumed I was, until they couldn’t take it anymore an apologized.  Most of the time a disapproving look like “I’m not with you on this” gets the job done.

    All seemed effective in dealing with the situation, but I really doubt any change the underlying idiocy.  

    • http://www.alearningaday.com Rohan

      Agree with you, I do.

  • http://blogmutt.com Scott Yates

    That individual bias is always there, and it’s a part of why (shameless self-promotion alert) I like Blogmutt’s current model. We provide blog posts for businesses, but the businesses never see anything about the writers. All they see are the posts, and that’s the only way they have to judge them.

    The writer could be a left-handed hermaphrodite, or a pygmy fetishist, the customer will never know.

    The one bit of bias that we have because of our government is that we can only pay freelance writers based in the United States, but that’s a comment for another post. 

  • http://www.citizenorange.com/orange kyledeb

    The Mitch Kapor quote is a good one, but your story doesn’t do it justice in that it was overt racism as opposed to the systemic racism that is more harmful and intractable.  Systemic racism in the U.S. is the kind that imprisons and disenfranchises a whole generation of disporportionately African-American people, it’s the kind that perpetuates a broken immigration system so that honest brown people who are contributing to this economy can be exploited, detained, deported, and shamed with the word “illegal.” 

    The most cynical part of all of this is that whomever brings up the racial aspects of these systems mostly white people protecting the status quo will pull a classic doublespeak debate tactic and accuse those bringing it up of racism.  In fact, I think the central problem you’re getting at in this post is that there’s a battle between the ideas of race-blindness and race-consciouness in this country.  Race blind people want to pretend racism doesn’t exist by burying their heads in the sand and hoping it will go away.  Race conscious people, for the most part, believe the best way to deal with the problem is to bring all aspects of it out into the open.  

  • paul Tndal

    I’m not convinced. My experience in law enforcement has taught me that there are at least two sides to every story. Here we’ve heard one. And rather than provide specifics, you’ve chosen to loosely describe what happened. And, of course, there’s the fact that, “On the internet, no one knows you’re a dog.” 

    So I’d suggest that everybody cool off a bit. 

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      Paul – sorry you aren’t convinced. I have more specific information that was verified by the two people involved. It’s a blatant and unambiguous case of racism. I’m described it the way I have to be respectful of the two employees and the company impacted as they work out their best approach to deal with the situation.

  • James Mitchell

    Yes, there is racism and sexism in America, and in
    high tech. But there is less racism and sexism in high tech than in America.
    High tech is not a perfect meritocracy but ignoring a few areas such as sports,
    it is the closest thing to a pure meritocracy we have ever seen. At the same
    time, the high tech community must not be complacent.

    Not to split hairs, but the terrible incident Brad
    talks about is not an example of racism in tech, it’s an example of racism at a
    customer of a tech company, specifically the U.S.
    military. So based solely on this one incident, one could say that an employee
    of a tech employee risks the risk of being subject to racist comments from
    customers of that firm.

    I am curious what the CEO of this company will do. Will
    he call the boss of the racist? Assuming the boss does not deal with the
    situation, what should the CEO do if this customer needs further on-site
    support? Only send a white guy?

    One of the other posts mentions that he hired a
    white guy to serve as a front man for his company when approaching VCs. That strikes
    me as a really bad idea. VCs are presumably very good at detecting BS, at
    determining if there is true passion in the CEO. Passion cannot be faked, a VC
    can tell if in the shower you are thinking about your startup.

    It’s a very interesting question what to do when
    faced with such comments. A long time I worked briefly at an IT headhunting
    firm. My bosses were amazing guys. At our weekly staff meeting, one of my
    bosses told me about a client he had just landed who had a very specific list
    of requirements for what was then called a “Data Processing Manager.” (Now this
    position would be called CIO.) I had interviewed a woman just a few weeks ago
    who seemed like a perfect fit, so I grabbed her resume and my notes and presented
    her to my boss. He said, “I have known this client since college, he would
    never hire a woman.” I argued a bit, but I was low man on the totem pole and it
    was his client, not mine. (Internally the process was the guy who had the
    client determined which candidates were submitted.) We did not submit her. I
    did tell her about the incident and she said, “I agree with your boss. The last
    thing I want is to waste my time going to an interview where I know going in I
    am not going to be hired.” Things worked out because about a month later I
    placed her at a company that was a better fit for her – more responsibility,
    higher salary. But to this day I have wondered if I should have done something
    different when my boss made his decision.

    The most most prominent VC bloggers – Brad Feld,
    Mark Suster and Fred Wilson – have recently written about the lack of women in
    tech. What distresses me about all of their posts is that skirt around some of
    the real issues. None of them are willing to take the issue head on, namely
    that women are doing things that reduce their chances for success and these are
    what they are. We need the thought leaders like them to be saying, “Start
    taking more chances, the downside is not as great as you think it is” and “Don’t
    major in sociology, major in math, statistics, physics, computer science or
    engineering.” They repeatedly say how bad the situation is and they talk about
    what people in power (such as them) should do to remedy the situation. But they
    are not providing enough concrete specific steps the women should do.

    • Laura Glu

      They *do* major in STEM. Then they leave because of “offensive and hostile environments”: http://rachelappel.com/stats-data-and-answers-as-to-why-there-are-so-few-women-in-technology-fields
      Not because of institutional sexism (which isn’t gone) but because they are fearful in their workplaces.  This takes more than just women attacking the issue head-one.

  • DaveJ

    The Mitch Kapor quote doesn’t really comport with the story. Hidden bias and overt bias are very different things.  Every human has biases, some of which are conscious and some unconscious, and some of which are bad and some good. Modifying unconscious biases that we think are bad (e.g., racial bias, sexism) is a challenging, long-term project that seems to have made some limited progress in America.  Individuals can’t just fix their unconscious biases, they may not even know they have them.

    Overt bias is a different story.  This is an urgent and short term project and the offense needs to be remedied directly and abruptly, as you suggest. Tolerance of it breeds more of the behavior – among those promulgating it as well as those with hidden bias that might later become overt (which is how the two things connect).

  • http://twitter.com/ryanwaggoner Ryan Waggoner

    Wow, that’s unbelievable. I wonder if the customer in question was a civilian employee or a military member. I served in the US Navy and while racism existed at both the officer and enlisted levels, it wasn’t anywhere near this blatant and disrespectful. I worked every day with people from every race, religion, and socio-economic level, and for the most part people treated each other with respect. My guess is that the customer in question was a civilian, but pretty sad either way.

  • SL

    I had a “mentor” in one of the organizations I work for, we used to go for coffee every morning. I noticed over time the meetings went from 10% fun/90% work to the opposite. I put up with that I continued to find value in the meetings until one day the organization announced we hired an employee from one of our competitors. When I told this “mentor” his response was “oh, that’s that colored woman”. My response was “what does the color of her skin have to do with her job performance?” and walked out of the coffee shop. 

    On the flip side, there’s a hair salon a block from the office that I walk past daily. I regularly hear the employees making racial comments about me (I’m a 6’4″ white guy, built like a tank, with a shaved head). I can totally sympathize, racism goes both ways and I get lumped into a certain stereotype based on the color of my skin and my hair cut.

    I totally agree with your response. Any customer, employee, contractor, or business associate that’s racist, sexist, judgmental, etc. should be fired. Something to keep in mind, is when you deal with the situation by firing the customer, they really don’t have a leg to stand on (you still have to do it nicely & professionally though). The fired customer can’t spread negative publicity that you won’t do business with them because they make inappropriate comments, it just makes them look bad.

    Identify the problem, solve the problem, move on to the next one. Dwelling on it costs us too much.

  • http://www.syrv.us Julian Miller

    I haven’t even watched the infamous interview and do you know why? Because I don’t really care what Arrington has to say about race in tech one way or the other. He doesn’t hold the key to the world of tech so acting as though this interview could pry it from his remorseful hands with enough angry blog posts is an intellectually lazy waste of time.

    I had a teacher once (black) who asked of my high school English class to write a paper. The topic? “Which was the bigger issue between Slavery and The Holocaust. The teacher was very quickly fired and the paper never written, but I learned a lot about the power of a question and the reach and echo of an answer. Racism and bias exist. Period. Ask the right question in the wrong way and you’ll quickly find how deeply routed biases can be.

    That fact aside, when you are driving and you hit a closed road, do you stop, get out of your car and complain because the road is closed? Do you wait at the road until they reopen it? Personally, I prefer to find a detour. Anyone who is willing to stop/quit/otherwise take time away from building their company because of another person’s biases wasn’t that prepared to succeed in the long run anyway.

    My preferred modis operandi for situations where I’ve have to work around racism is to do my work, get my result and then look my former detractors deeply in the eye and smile as I move on to bigger and better things. My suggestion, for those of you taking the time to fan the “Arrington is a Racist” flames, is that you learn to do the same.

    • http://about.me/austinlac Austin Clements

      Ditto. I don’t think that there are many people (black or otherwise) are calling him a racist.  Most recognize that he made an impulsive and insensitive statement that made for a provocative soundbite. That doesn’t make him a bad person. It’s unfortunate that this important  conversation that we should actually be having may come at the expense of his reputation. 

      There is a need for change. I thought it was mostly supply side (which I wrote about on my blog) until I read the article Kapor article Brad referenced above. In an industry that is driven by new ideas, it’s valuable to add new perspectives. Good thing there are people and organizations in the tech startup scene that are doing good things in this space. Brad being one of them, NewMe Accelerator bring another.

    • http://www.justanentrepreneur.com Philip Sugar

      That is a powerful third paragraph.

      I think that if you choose to exclude a certain portion of the population (for whatever reason, race, gender, age, etc) you can’t recruit the best talent.  If you can’t recruit the best talent you will lose.

      That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, but I think your last paragraph sums it up best: success is the best revenge.

  • Jack

    Well I’ll tell you for sure, racism is VERY alive in the countries from which the victims of racism in he west hail.
    Half of silicon valley is now Indians.  But look at the appalling Indian racism in Kenya.
    Or even in India itself with the (till thriving) caste system … yup, lighter skin, higher caste. 

    • Madhu

      Yes racism does exist in India, but how is that even relevant to Brad Feld’s article on racism in the US Tech industry ? (And I seriously suggest that you read up on the Indian caste system before announcing that it is based on skin color !!)

      • James Mitchell

        The little I know about India is that there is a fairly rigid caste system which to a large extent determines your destiny. Certain castes are looked down upon by “superior” castes, and their prejudice against these castes is stronger than racism is in America. The Indian government has tried to outlaw such discrimination because they cannot change people’s core beliefs.

        • Madhu

          Just to clarify – yes, you’re right. The Indian caste attitudes are widely prevalent; I was just reacting to your ‘ lighter skin, higher caste’ remark which was inaccurate.

          And I thought you were pointing at the caste system as a way of saying ‘the problem is much worser in India or Africa’. I guess that diverts the attention from the core soul-searching question of whether racism has a place in a progressive meritocratic country like the US, especially the Tech industry. 

  • http://www.bThere.me Todd Werelius

    There are whites that don’t like blacks, blacks that don’t like whites, Indians that dislike Pakistanis etc.  

    Personally tolerate it?  No.  

    Claim every American, and or non minority is one regardless of their beliefs? No that’s a far more destructive form of bias that diminishes the real thing and makes people tone deaf to such claims.

    Usually these campaigns are nothing but a stick to get something that a certain group of people ( and many times not even the target group ) wants, case in point the media hack that ambushed Arrington with a silly question designed to make him look a certain way, then edit out the parts that would have backed that out. 

    From my perspective “The ______ only club” regardless of which group fills in the blank is a form of preference, and when race is the blank then it’s racism, regardless of which race is doing it. 

    Sorry I just don’t buy into the america is racist thing, some Americans are, but most aren’t.  I also don’t buy into the only minority groups can be racist nonsense either. 

    Anyway that’s my opinion, for what it’s worth, which by my calculations is about $0.02

  • http://brightplus3.com Ted Fickes

    Thanks for speaking about this, Brad. The last line says it all…we all need to be aware of racism/discrimination be it subtle or over, take ownership of our actions when it’s there, and make sure that our organizations (and networks of family/friends/colleagues) have safe ways for people to take action. Obviously, in the case of your story, nobody felt they had the power to safely act on the racism and that just encourages it to continue. 

  • Guest

    First step:  Don’t hide the identity of the racist.  You may not be in the position to reveal the name, but the CEO certainly is.  Humiliation and shame is powerful.  It’s basically what brought down the KKK.

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      I agree, but in this case I’m being respectful of the company and the employees as they figure out the best approach for them for dealing with this particular issue.

  • Guest1232y

    Racism can be wrongly committed anywhere in the world.   White people are not the only ones guilty of being racist.  America is so isolated from the rest of the world, that is what someone would be forced to believe though.

  • Wayne Pankey

    There’s racism and there’s ignorance.  What B experienced was ignorance.   The very low probability that an african-american would hold B’s technical position is due in large part to racism.  I can assure you that there are plenty of black technical folks willing to suffer an ignorant ass or two in turn for decent employment opportunities.  And how exactly does Judaism fit into the racism argument?  Judaism is a belief system practiced by many different races of people around the globe.

  • Anonymous

    The blatant racism described in your anecdote and that described in Kapor’s quote are quite different beasts.

  • http://www.ambitiousceo.org Edward Agyeman

    No amount of news coverage or depth of an article will change someone’s racial nature–it just won’t. Racism is home-bread, it is not “acquired” as you go through life. The only way forward is for parents to educate their kids on the 21st century world, and on treating people (of all colors) with respect and dignity. We can talk about it, we can write about it. Racism is an inherent feeling of prejudice towards someone of a particular race. *inherent*

    • http://butyoureagirl.com adriarichards

      I’d like to step in here and say racism isn’t natural, it’s learned.

  • http://twitter.com/kevindway Kevin Way

    I will continue working to be the change I want to see in the world.  Thanks to all of you who are doing the same.

  • http://alum.mit.edu/www/lamont ilamont

    Brad, how do you feel about agism in the startup world?

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      I find ageism (which I’ll separate from “age discrimination”) very bothersome. It’s rampant within the startup world and a very clear bias with some investors. Ironically, it cuts both ways – too young and inexperiences; too old and not connected to what’s going on. I try hard to be completely age blind in everything I do.

      • James Mitchell

        What is the difference between ageism and age discrimination?

  • Chris Tollman

    I’ve got to be honest here.  I founded a company a few years ago and our investors were Indian.  We had some very horrible experiences with a team working in India and with some local hires who were also Indian.  Equally unfortunate, these hires were nepotistic dictations by our investors.  Sadly, the incompetence I saw across the board of those first Indians I dealt with (and the countless poorly skilled java ‘software engineers’ we interviewed) created a bias in me.  I realize one thing is a big problem of incapable applicants for software jobs, and I also realize now that any investor favoring nepotism over merit is problematic, but I see the same problems in India with corruption in government and an incredibly biased caste system.  So part of me sees much of this as a cultural problem of India.

    The fact that I’m prejudiced upsets me.  Especially because I’ve since met several exceptionally talented Indians.  Acknowledging that I have these prejudices helps avoid them influencing me when focusing on my current work or hires or personal interactions, but my experiences will prevent me from actively seeking support from the Indian community even though my network there is now decently large.  

    Does this make me racist?

    • Vivek Chandrasekhar

      Sad to hear about your experience Chris. I am assuming these were folks were working on an H1 visa and were working for consulting companies. The real reason why such companies ‘only’ hire Indians is because almost all of those consultants land the jobs by inflating their CVs. Local folks will usually not agree to forge credentials because they don’t have to worry about being enslaved by the employer with the promise of green card. Its is sad that the system has never exposed this terrible practice in IT consulting. 

  • BlackBackgrounds.com

    Your background is white… What do you have to say about that?

  • http://petegrif.tumblr.com/ Pete Griffiths

    It’s pathetic that jerks like this survive in any position, much less in positions of authority.  Sadly for them their entitled white male bubble is melting down.  Welcome to the 21st Century.

    The irony of this cretinism is that it is not only morally bankrupt, it is also mind numbingly dumb.  Take 100 candidates for that position you so sorely need filled.  Now throw out 50% because they are women – down to 50.  Next let’s toss homosexuals, that’s another 10% so we’re down to 45.  And then let’s go after anyone with a skin, religion or culture we don’t share – in tech that’s higher than in the population at large because many other cultures place a high value on STEM – so let’s say 50%, thereby reducing the pool to 23.    If we assume that only 5% of the original pool were real prospects you’re stupid bigotry has taken your candidates down to approximately 0.5 people.  Not so great.  Which is precisely what you deserve for being such a dumb ass.

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  • http://profiles.google.com/j.walter.miller James Miller

    Stop doing business with the government.  It’s a morass that lacks competition and harbors mediocrity of all kinds.

    • James Mitchell

      Most companies do not have the luxury of not doing business with the government. There are lots of customers who are a total pain in the ass. In most cases you just suck it up.

    • Mike Greczyn

      I’m struggling to come up with a reason that you couldn’t substitute “fortune 500″ for “government” in your post, and failing. Does the government harbor mediocrity? Yes, along with a degree of excellence that many would find surprising. Obviously, the incident Brad describes is a shameful exception.

  • James Mitchell

    A question for anyone who wants to answer: Many Asians in America started out with a lot of disadvantages. Many arrived with no money and they spoke little if any English. A large number of whites were prejudiced against Asians, in part because Japan’s attack on the U.S. started our involvement in WW II. So why are Asians doing so well? I would argue that some of the reasons include:

    A strong emphasis in Asian society on education

    Focus on “practical” subjects such as STEM. You don’t see a lot of Asians who are art history majors

    Strong family and extended networks

    Higher IQs (on average) than whites. According to Wikipeda (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IQ_and_the_Wealth_of_Nations#National_IQ_estimates), the top seven countries in the world in terms of median IQ are Asian. In Hong Kong, median IQ is 108. That is one-half of a standard deviation. Imagine moving the bell curve one half of a standard deviation to right, that’s a huge advantage.

    In many black neighborhoods, a significant number of families have no father and something like one of our four black males are in prison, have been in prison or will be in prison. In many black neighborhoods, black kids that study hard and get good grades are made fun of by their peers for “acting white.” 

    Fix these kinds of problems and I suspect we will see more blacks succeeding in tech, as well as other industries and professions. How to fix these problems, I have no idea.

    Many current programs identify talented black youths and in effect change their environment by sending them to good prep schools and colleges. This benefits them but at the same time removes many of the most talented youths, in effect a brain drain.

    • Wayne Pankey

      How can you possibly compare the descendants of slaves to Asian immigrants?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1001614194 Alfonso Dupont

    What a repulsively dishonest article. Notice how the author brings up the subject of his Jewishness, claims it is somehow relevant to his story, and then forgets to state how (but of course we know how–he wants to immunize himself from scrutiny before he points fingers at everyone else). Notice how the pretext of the article is (white) American racism, as if Indian racism, Chinese racism, or–and let’s really think carefully about this one–Jewish ethnic chauvinism are not even theoretically possible.

    Let’s also pretend that some anecdote about a customer has any real import outside of the individuals involved–it proves, in Feld’s incredibly lazy mind, that racism is alive and well in America! Of course the statement is intended as a sweeping condemnation, which is part of the shell game here. Does Feld back up that statement with facts to match? No, he only brought up a single dubious anecdote. Homework is something he’s not interested in doing at this time.

    But there’s another conversation to have, which is that perhaps it’s not very bright to pitch people in intense competition with each other–say by importing millions of immigrants to undercut Americans’ wages–and then not expect them to divide along predictable ethnic boundaries. What is Feld’s stance on immigration? I think I can guess–and I can also guess the tired bromides he’ll use to defend that stance. He’s nothing if not a very conventional, very predictable mind.

    • James Mitchell

      Brad’s stance is immigration is fairly well known. Just Google Feld start-up visa. Here is one link:

      http://www.feld.com/wp/archives/tag/startup-visa

      Your personal attacks reflect negatively on you, rather than him. If you disagree with what he is saying, fine, argue against his ideas. But there is no reason to attack him personally.

    • Wayne Pankey

      Although you have a valid point or two, I have to agree with James on this one -the personal attacks are unwarranted.

    • Guest

      You seem to forget that America has always been “importing” immigrants – going back to the period even before your ancestors came (unless you are a native american – question is, how far do you need to go to be called a native). And it is a fact of life – will be even more in future – that population will be global. We need to learn to live with it, learn to accept others, be tolerant etc etc, instead of repeating the mistakes of some of our ancestors, with their wrong attitude of racism and intolerance.

  • Vivek Chandrasekhar

    Brad: Sad to hear about the incident. I often stay away from these touchy topics but I’d love to add my two cents here. When I was living in NJ and working in NYC a couple years  back, I used to go to a Fortune 500 company based out of NJ to implement software. There was a gentleman there who would never acknowledge my presence or look in my eyes when I talked. I didn’t quite get it then, but perhaps its gotta do something with the way I look. Worse yet, in a separate incident , I was sitting in a Dunkin Donuts store in NJ one day and a guy sitting in  the table next to mine would tell his friend ‘ That M******F***** has taken my table’. They were not looking at me but given that there was no one else in the store, I imagine perhaps that statement was for my ears . 

    Nevertheless, I feel the US and Canada are one of the most tolerant societies out there. I have lived and worked in Asia, Africa, North America and I am reasonably sure that most incidents that happen here are out of a lack of familiarity with the new ‘type’ of person. To compound the problem , shows like Lou Dobbs Tonight have exacerbated the public perception . In many cases, it is also a cultural disconnect rather than hatred purely because of skin color or ethnicity. For example, degrees of courtesy and civility in day to day transactions between people are vastly different in developed countries and developing countries . I have often wondered why countries that admit a lot of immigrants do not make it mandatory for new immigrants to go through a cultural sensitization program soon after they arrive. That way, they will be better attuned to the cultural nuances.

    P.S: I always thought you were originally from Colorado and that you decided to return there after many years in Boston. It’l be interesting to hear why you decided to settle in Colorado with no seemingly strong reasons like family or college connections .

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      Thanks for the thoughtful comments. And thanks for the nudge to write about how I ended up in Colorado.

  • Anonymous

    Let’s get one thing out of the way first: there is no such thing as “reverse racism” unless you are (racistly) looking at the world as “white”. Making any assumption/decision based on race alone is racism. Period.

    That being said why would we think otherwise? You don’t think that racist people get into position of authority, perhaps hiding it until they can express it? I find that, usually, it doesn’t come out until you give someone authority, then you get to see what they do with it. So this doesn’t surprise me at all. I can tell you (I am in tech…a CTO in fact) that I’ve seen it all the time, especially with H1B people or any “foreign” software people, as we’ve fanned the flames of “their taking our jobs” in the idiotic popular press. In fact, if I couldn’t hire these people, the jobs would go unfilled because I can never seem to find the right number of people I need at the right levels among “American” applicants. This fact seems lost on the Fox News types, and as often as I’ve tried to explain it (or the wisdom of using off-shore teams to follow the clock and be more responsive to customer needs) I can never seem to get through. So I’ve given up trying.

    But I can tell you one thing. If this were brought to my attention I would be having a meeting with this person and, trust me, it would be constructed to get exactly what I wanted to know about what he was doing. Then he would be dismissed or find himself out in cold with the distinct message that he should quit if I didn’t have official documentation to back up the allegation. Either way he would be taught a lesson if he chose to accept it.

  • http://jeunellesthirdeyeview.posterous.com Jeunelle Foster

    I Fear Nothing. No matter where you go in life, there are gonna be people who like and dislike you. You just continue to provide the best service that you can and do not add to the mess of racism. Fighting against the grain is a waste of time and energy. Quit fighting with these people. Preserve yourself and do not allow them to drain your energy levels. Instead pour your energy into your work and any “trained eye” will see your struggle, respect and admire you for your humbleness and perseverance. This is the way of the warrior who stands in faithfulness and truth.

  • Mike Greczyn

    As a former military officer, all I can do is hope that at minimum, the “customer” was a contractor and/or civilian employee at the military installation and not somebody actually wearing the uniform.  Not that it makes the situation any more palatable, but I would *hope* that anyone in the service of this country has the presence of mind to remember the US Tenth Cav, the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, the 332nd Fighter Group and so on.  This shouldn’t have happened.

  • James Mitchell

    Michael Arrington responded to many of his critics in this post:

    http://uncrunched.com/2011/11/02/racism-the-game/

    In this post, he is critical of the author of this blog.

    I do agree with Arrington in that it seems clear to me that the Arrington approach will do much far to increase minority participation in tech than the Feld/Suster/Wilson approach. Until we objectively and rationally discuss all of the reasons why non-Asian minorities (and women) are not succeeding in tech, we are not likely to make much progress.

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