By Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr.
The nation’s digital technology and social media companies are helping to transform how people throughout the world communicate and do business. In the process, Silicon Valley has become more than a geographical headquarter for digital and social media companies. It’s where cutting edge technological research is being conducted.
There are, however, some glaring contradictions and serious disparity issues involving some of the most financially profitable social media companies in the world. They are the issues of economic inequality and inequity. The companies lead the world in technology but ranks at the bottom when it comes to workforce inclusiveness and overall economic fairness toward Black Americans and Latino Americans.
Recent research on tech and social media company workforce diversity in America revealed that Black Americans are over indexed when it comes to high tech and social media products and services. But that’s not reflected in the workforce. For example, of Yahoo, Google, Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, and eBay each hired Black Americans at a rate of only 2 percent or less. The boards of many of these tech and social media companies are even whiter –some with no Black board members or top executives.
At a time when the U.S. economy is recovering, this is not the time for racial exclusion, inequality, and economic disparities concerning race. Doing business with Black-owned businesses must also be included in the remedies that now have to be planned and implemented to rectify this terrible and devastating retrenchment of civil rights and economic equality.
We resolutely agree with the frontline advocacy and effective leadership of Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. and the Rainbow PUSH Coalition on these issues. In a timely televised interview on the Bloomberg Business Channel, Jackson asserted, “Patterns of real racial segregation are in Silicon Valley. The evidence is that we over index in purchasing their products. But when it comes to employment….. There is evidence of a pattern of racial exclusion. Their profits are soaring, yet the disparities abound. eBay does not have a Black or a Latino on their board. Inclusion must be intentional. There is no job in Silicon Valley that a Black or a Latino could not hold. I hope EOC will go to Silicon Valley and conduct hearings. We intend to have a fair equitable relationship.”
We all are aware that our long struggle for freedom, justice and equality is today still very much needed. In fact, due to Black American and Latino American large percentage participation in social media that ranges from 30 percent to 40 percent, we have an obligation to speak out and stand up to show our support for equality. Central to the goal of establishing the “Beloved Community,” as articulated by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. years ago, was the prerequisite of attaining economic justice for all.
There is no question that Jesse Jackson is on the right road at the right time to challenge Silicon Valley. We should all join in this important movement for equality, fairness and justice. Too often some of us sit idly by on the sidelines of history as spectators while social change unfolds. We should all support the Rainbow PUSH Coalition’s leadership on this matter. This is a struggle that we must win. The benefits will help immeasurably to advance to cause of economic empowerment of our families and communities throughout the nation.
Social media should exemplify social change and equal justice. Racial disparity and economic inequality contradicts the very notion of “social media.” Racial segregation was wrong years ago and it is still wrong, evil and sinful today.
In an article in the August 5, 2014 edition of Crains headlined, “Jesse Jackson has Silicon Valley’s number,” The civil rights leader concluded, “The country’s moving toward tech — it’s the fastest-growing, most lucrative opportunity….. The biggest growth engine is social media…. We’re being left behind. The deplorable statistics in tech had to be confronted. Now is the time to challenge the industry.”
Yes, now is the time! Let’s organize and mobilize. Let’s raise more public awareness about these inequalities. Silicon Valley should not be permitted to remain being a valley of prosperous inequity. Let’s challenge and transform Silicon Valley into a valley where “Justice will roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”
Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. is the Interim President and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) and can be reached for national advertisement sales and partnership proposals at: firstname.lastname@example.org; and for lectures and other professional consultations at: http://drbenjaminfchavisjr.wix.com/drbfc.