The presence of African Americans in the technology world is almost nonexistent. I’ve heard a number of excuses and reasons for this; my favorite is “If they can’t eat it or wear it, they don’t want it”. The irony in all this has to be the source of this quote. I’m not African American, but I am of African descent and that seemed to be the only thing I have in common with the woman that stated this comment. Most importantly, she has brought some clarity to many unanswered questions.
I’ve been told by several “black experts” (African Americans) to “dumb down my vocabulary” so I can attract the black clients. Unbelievable! Perhaps, but this is the south and the culture is a bit different. I am not new to the bizarre and borderline lunatics, I seem to gravitate to throughout my travels. What I do find it quite disturbing, is being in the same room with a person that has such a low self-opinion of them-self and others.
Is this self degradation or “keeping it real”. I can’t call it, and to be completely honest I have ran out of suggestions, and theories on this issue. What I am sure about are my experiences. In the last three years, I’ve been accused of stealing an African American woman’s website. In all actuality, her domain registration and hosting plan had expired and she had no idea how to fix this. She relied on some other individual to handle these issues and somehow she overlooked that part. I tried to explain to her that even though she bought the domain name, it is not complete hers and it will expire. This was too much for her to grasp, she kept talking about it as if it were a pair of shoes. The fact that she automatically blamed me was a huge disappointment. Never mind the fact that all I did was show her some demo’s of what I can do for her on my laptop. She called and apologized a few days later, but the damage was done.
Other situations were not that exciting or bizarre; one woman at Kinko’s had the hardest time understanding that I can develop and launch a website for her. For some reason she kept going back to graphic design and for a while I couldn’t understand why. Barbershops were even more difficult, they made it seem like having a web presence is the most ridiculous thing they have ever heard. At one location, every barber in the establishment has a laptop running and is logged into facebook or twitter. In spite of that, a website the place of business is pointless to them. After a while, it was apparent that I was wasting my time. The only paying customers I have are not African Americans, so why even bother. However, I am incredibly stubborn and refuse to give up, which led to some less interesting and comical experiences.
The “eat it or wear it” comment, which led to me writing this post set off a chain reaction. It all began to make sense; the woman in Kinko’s, the psycho with the expired domain, and the rest of them must suffer from the same illness (self degradation) or they are all mildly insane. It never crossed my mind to think otherwise, after all they are business owners and you have to retain intelligence and ingenuity to get that far. However, their thought process has been polluted to some extent and it is most likely due to the exploited side of “The Black Experience” the media loves to focus on. The idea of me being able to develop and launch a website for the woman in Kinko’s was probably too much to even fathom. The pitch about being able to access her website with a phone probably certified me as a liar and a crook. On the flipside of that coin, some people are really up to no good. They will say and do anything for a petty gain. Would you risk a business relationship with a lot of upside over a couple of dollars? I wouldn’t, but I have met quite a few that would, and to all of these self hating, defeatist attitude embracing, petty thinkers – in the words of Bill Withers “I wish you well”. The light will eventually shine on you one day…