October 27, 2011
Earlier this evening, there was a race fueled showdown on Twitter, primary participants included industry goliaths Vivek Wadhwa (@wadhwa), Anil Dash (@anildash), and Michael Arrington (@arrington). The events were initially incited by journalist @lyneka‘s coverage of the #blackinamerica panel held in Silicon Valley (SV). The focus of the panel was minority under-representation in Silicon Valley. During the debate, @lyneka tweeted “I’m interested in @arrington‘s opinion of the Indian guy [Wadhwa] that says ‘get the white guy’ at Stanford to sell your idea to SV”. This request for an opinion erupted into a heated, multi-hundred-tweet-filled, mass-represented, full-on showdown.
@Arrington denied accusations of inequality in Silicon Valley and took a stance of meritocracy instead. @Wadhwa quickly rebutted with facts about the percentage of minorities and women holding positions as tech CEOs and drew comparisons from the past thirty years to now. A few minutes later, amongst facts, accusations, rebuttals, and profanities were thrown into the mix by all parties. The rapid-fire tweets set the tone for a classic Las Vegas fight night, very reminiscent of MGM Grand in the Tyson days. Crowd feedback roared as sidelined entrepreneurs and spectators started throwing in their “two cents.” Fierce punches were thrown, including words like “Racist”,”Bigot”,”Bullshit”, and “Ignorance”. Just as the civility reached the bare minimum, @anildash entered the scene.
Bringing something unseen in the rantings of the initial two parties, tact, @anildash approached the situation with the intent to gracefully difuse it. Kindly disagreeing with @arrington, and very discreetly agreeing with @wadhwa, @anildash advocated for acceptance of the existence of inequality in Silicon Valley while dismissing @arrington‘s defensive behavior as instinctual. He then furthermore encouraged discussions to broaden understanding. Amidst this calming, a final blow was thrown. This time by @mona, an entrepreneur on the sidelines, who had at some point embraced, as an opportunity, the fact that women are asked for ‘propositioned favors’ upon seeking Venture Capital funding. Immediate dismissal of these statements ensued by both @wadhwa and @anildash. Finally bringing the showdown to an end, @arrington agreed to followup with @anildash offline, @lyneka tweeted kind words about @wadhwa, and @mona realized the severity of her public gaffe and masked it with sarcasm.
Aside from the fact that this showdown was largely entertaining, there are some lessons to be learned. The first being @anildash has read How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. The second is that minorities still have a hard time breaking into Silicon Valley, even though there are folks out there advocating for the up-and-coming entrepreneurs. As most entrepreneurs already know, being aware is the first step in inciting change, so please be aware of possible roadblocks for minorities, and try to take initiative where ever you see fit (including watching the #BlackInAmerica documentary on CNN).
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