November 13th, 2011
07:15 PM ET

Share your perspective: Does diversity matter in Silicon Valley?

"Black in America: The New Promised Land - Silicon Valley" follows eight black entrepreneurs immersed in Silicon Valley's startup scene as part of the NewMe Accelerator. Still, the high tech center of the United States is dominated by young males who are mostly white and Asian.

See what @Soledad_OBrien had to say about it while live-tweeting the documentary @blackinamerica, and keep the conversation going with hashtag #blackinamerica. Or, check out Soledad O'Brien's Facebook chat afterward on the CNN Black in America Facebook page.

Share your thoughts in the comments: Why aren't high tech industries more diverse, and does it matter? What can businesses, schools and individuals do to increase diversity in science, engineering, tech and math fields?


Filed under: Black in America • Documentaries • Technology
soundoff (49 Responses)
  1. Youda Conqueror

    Wonderful write-up, I'll bookmark this.

    January 25, 2012 at 9:05 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Ronald Steinberger

    I believe black people are the most foolish race on the planet. I have first hand experience. I am married to a great black woman who can not raise capital because most black won't even invest in each other. These stupid athletes make more money than the gross capita of even developed countries and yet they spend it on stupid chit and on chasing white, asian and latino women. you people really really need to get your act together and stop expecting the white man to give you money. If jews made as much playing ball you better believe we wouldn't be wasting it. how come the Quincy Jones, James Earl Jones...and the rest of very rich blacks are not helping launch the careers of the next set? Again the most foolish race of people...intermarry so that you can get some common sense and get ahead!!!

    November 25, 2011 at 9:50 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Newfamilyguy

    If Blacks really want to succeed drop the term diversity all together. If you could get one non black to tell you what they think they would tell you it means two things. 1 affirmitive action, 2 quotas. Successful, educated people don't need either... however it is a safe guard from those unsophisicated persons who choose not to evaulate the resume without regard to race or any other protected status. I know because as of 1/01/11 I have personally been affected by racism on several occasions. Don't let Politically Correct speech diminish your accomplishments Affirmative action does not mean you didn't earn it. Diversity does not mean they need a black or woman or someone over forty it means that people bring different experience to the table.

    November 21, 2011 at 1:31 am | Report abuse |
  4. Tiffany

    I don't think anyone in this episode played the race card except for the African-American man with the White girlfriend. Some of people left thier children and babies home, but his girlfriend had to tag along? Did anyone catch that?? I'm pretty sure those who made comments that race isn't an issue didn't catch that. If anything, it showed how there is a lack of interest in technology within the black community.

    November 20, 2011 at 12:51 am | Report abuse |
    • Ron

      Well I work for a large firm in Tennessee and I am the Sr. Network Administrator which means that I have plenty of white men who work for me. The issue is not having any interest in technology, so anyone who uses a cell phone has some concept of technology. The issue is having access to real technology and anyone who has a chance to really dig in a learn how it all goes together would be highly impressed. Its not about being a geek, its about loving what you do. I was lucky that I had parents to lead me and motivate to learn, sometimes everyone is not given the same chance as we were. I make no excuses for anyone not applying themselves to do better, but I see it both in the black and white society. Its all about having the chance and people to mentor young people.

      November 21, 2011 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Kgne Tsalate

    The problem as I see it, is that many African Americans that grow up living in harsh conditions have a "I can't do that" mentality. Which in turns means they won't pursue a career in the tech field. I also find that if you want to be successful at anything you do you need to surround yourself with other successful people. This is a problem for many because people generally surround themselves with people who look like them. The outsider will always be the looked at differently rather it be because of their color, weight, or physical disability. The best way to really diversify is to start with those who have the power to accept that good ideas come from the mind.

    November 19, 2011 at 11:52 am | Report abuse |
  6. Don Charlton

    I think CNN should stop portraying black entrepreneurs as hapless victims. We are working on our companies. We know there are more hurdles but to paint such a bleak picture does more damage than good. As a black entrepreneur that graduated from a startup accelerator program and is now running a 14-person, angel and venture-backed startup, I can attest to the fact that build something that matters and you will get attention.

    November 19, 2011 at 12:20 am | Report abuse |
  7. hongrn

    So many immigrants came here and succeeded wildly in his land of opportunities. What is it with black people who are born and raised here, and constantly complain about being left behind? When you join gangs, have kids out of wedlock, drop out of school, you automatically and purposely join the poverty line. Stop freaking blame it on race. Programs like this just perpetuate this BS. How many more years will it take you to stop blaming race????

    November 18, 2011 at 5:44 pm | Report abuse |
  8. fred

    I am tired of "poor me I'm black" lets get over it. Color, race or creed should not even come up in conversation, but since we are on the subject ever look inside a prison, mostly blacks.

    November 16, 2011 at 6:16 am | Report abuse |
    • Ron

      WOW – I bet you thought many days to come up with the prison statement. Yeah, we heard that line before. But on the other hand, if we jailed a race that should be in prison, there would be no room for black people because the entire jail would be filled with wite people.

      November 16, 2011 at 10:10 pm | Report abuse |
      • bonju

        Your statement is stupid Ron. White people are not incarcerated more than blacks. Many black men are in jail for an assortment of reasons and in my opinion they should be dead.

        November 20, 2011 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
      • bonju

        Your black and your name is RON? How come it isn't something like JAIGGAMOMOO?

        November 20, 2011 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
      • Alex

        @Bonju You're an idiot. He's calling white people criminals... Madoff, Abramoff, Cortez, Columbus, Bush, Cheney, etc.

        November 21, 2011 at 1:30 am | Report abuse |
      • Ron

        @bonju – I have received a few comments on my post, so for bonju I will just ignore you. I work as a Sr. Network Administrator for a large firm and for you bonju that means I am the head black man in charge. I have many whites that work for me. I have never, ever used the race card to obtain this position or any other. I have been working hard for 12 years to get where I am and I was not given this position, I damn earned it. I was taught by my parents to work hard everyday and some of the best advice I ever received from my father was: work hard, never lie and never take advice from someone that is not as smart as you. So for the record, I was never given anything to fill a quota.

        November 21, 2011 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ric

      @ bonju I am Not black but, do you hear yourself? "Many black men are in jail for an assortment of reasons and in my opinion they should be dead." You are disgusting, folks like you are what is tearing our nation apart, you are anti-American, anti-Christian, anti-human and disgusting, shame on you!

      November 20, 2011 at 8:26 pm | Report abuse |
  9. DonKilluminat201

    Black Wall Street holacaust America 1921. YouTube it it's not in history books.

    November 15, 2011 at 8:04 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Tina

    What is with all the Black in America stories, and all like it? There is so much diversity in America, why is so much (if not nearly all) the focus on blacks? Can we please move on from segregating blacks from the rest of Americans? So they had hardships. Almost all Americans coming to America had hardships of one form or another. Where are the stories on the Chinese, the Romanians, the Italians, the Arabs, the Germans, the Mexicans, and countless others? Enjoy your cultural background. I'm just tired of it being thrown in my face.

    November 15, 2011 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jason

      You are sick of it being thrown in your face which is why it is and should be. Truth is, you are sick of the idea that African-American are in fact intelligent and most of all, WE ARE NOT ANIMALS.

      November 15, 2011 at 8:26 pm | Report abuse |
      • Marie G

        I'm really shocked that many black people are hanging on to the race card...the world is moving on. Please do so too. Slavery was in the the past. Leave it there. America is a melting pot of all these beautiful mixed race women that black men would kill their own moms for...Everyone goes through crap, maybe black people more so than the average person...but let's please move on.thank you

        November 15, 2011 at 8:36 pm | Report abuse |
      • Blkmn

        Ever herd of 1898 riots in Wilmington, NC? Black people tried to move on but some racist didn't like the power structure being in the hands of intelligent blacks so they decided to kill them all and stole their land. The "race card" is the reason you haven't made any true black friends and have a real discussion on race. Try it, it works. Spend a few days with your black friends doing what well all do as Americans and you'll see. Especially talk to a young black man. I'm sure you won't because your own racism eats you alive enabling you to communicate. Spend time with him. Don't choose a hood. just a regular black guy...

        November 16, 2011 at 1:11 am | Report abuse |
      • fact

        The problem is you're doing the same thing everyone else is, paying attention to the wrong people. There are a million hard working black people in this world waiting for their presence to be acknowledged. The same goes for a million white ones trying to get past a culture with a jaded past. And just remember for every one moron with a new foodstamp joke there's ten more on your side...

        November 16, 2011 at 8:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ron

      It probably would not be thrown in your face if it didn't HAPPEN

      November 16, 2011 at 10:12 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Chad

    The whole "Black In America" series is total bull. Give me a break.

    November 15, 2011 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Horsecents

      Take the bull by the horn Chad. What's your beef?

      November 15, 2011 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Chad


    November 15, 2011 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • calvin

      cry baby, why why why, have you ever been ran down by black calling you whity

      November 16, 2011 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Observer

    Diversity is important EVERYWHERE in every industry, business and sphere of public life. The interesting debate about Silicon Valley is that it focuses on including racial minority MALES, while continuing to sanction the exclusion of FEMALES of any race from Silicon Valley opportunities. Are we back to the "girls aren't good at science and math" arguments? Shouldn't diversity in Silicon Valley include equal opportunities for females in hi tech?

    November 15, 2011 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Misha

    Can this political correctness come to an end please? I mean is it my races fault, the white race, that many African Americans have no culture for higher learning? I'm sorry but MLK was killed 50-60 years ago, that is more than enough to quit blaming the white race for all your problems.

    "Black In America" seems more like an attempt at subtle racism, I'm getting the vibe that all those people were "supposedly" abused by the white/asian race (Which were also abused, but guess what, they are far more successful than whites now; I wonder why). In other words : Soledad Obrien is a racist.

    November 15, 2011 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dude-Wayne

      @Misha....i concur 100%, WHY does it have to be a COLOR thing? i mean REALLY??!!??? if we dont get what we want it must be because we are BLACK/YOUNG/WHITE/ASIAN/HISPANIC...not because we didnt put in the TIME and ENERGY and actually WORK for a goal...heaven forbid...dont ask me to WORK for anything.....just give me everything and on a silver platter...NEWSFLASH-if you want it, work for it--if something gets in your way, run over/around it-–no one OWES you anything

      November 15, 2011 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • calvin

      say all that to the jew anything that go wrong what do they say

      November 16, 2011 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • calvin

      say all that to the jews anything that go wrong what do they say

      November 16, 2011 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
  15. djeez 2010

    these blacks think they got it made and forget where they came from they don't give back to there community they should.

    November 15, 2011 at 4:13 am | Report abuse |
    • Alex

      Ask your poverty pimp preachers to give back to the community. And try pressing the period key every now and then. It's between the comma and the question mark key.

      November 21, 2011 at 1:28 am | Report abuse |
  16. Pauline

    I would have liked for Soledad to have a more diverse point of view represented in the special. Profiling the NewMe group was interesting but featuring successful black or Hispanic entrepreneurs and executives and discussing how they made it would have given a more holistic story. I spoke at the Congressional Black Caucus on the same topic with other successful executives and entrepreneurs and although there are few they do exist. utside of the Tech entrepreneur in his 40's and the MIT graduate within the NewMe Group no other founder had much experience running anything or had corporate experience. There is a misperception that Zuckerberg is the norm for a founder and that is simply not true. The average tech entrepreneur is 35-44 and was an executive before starting a company. Consequently I am not surprised that very few of the NewMe group received financing. Soledad should have also spent some time discussing the pipeline to tech entrepreneurship which includes proficiency in STEM disciplines. There are "leaks" in the pipeline for minority entrepreneurship in Tech as only 3-5% of engineer degrees are awarded to blacks or Hispanics each year compared to more than half of all degrees are earned by Whites and Asians. I know it is difficult to cover all of this in an hour but perhaps our posts can encourage a Part 2:)!

    November 14, 2011 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • SAS

      I'm with you Pauline. I'm a retired, almost 55 year old Black man. Born & raised in NYC.
      OK, not typical, but besides sitting besides by my Mother as a child (programer with Sperry), I learned FORTAN, BAL, etc in High School (graduate 1975), and before graduating college (CS DEGREE) was employeed as a Systems Programmer for Major Medical Center. With the 100's of K's of $'s in salary over the past 25 plus years I was able to send my child (who sat on my lap) to a Computer Science specialty college (paid with cash) and before 25 he and classmates (. . . living in greater Seattle area) have already launched X-Box Live games. A number of my Black & Latin American plus Eastern European staffer have similar stories.
      You reap what you sow. Oh, yeah . . . full disclosure, my father was an EE.
      The pipeline.

      November 15, 2011 at 8:11 am | Report abuse |
      • calvin

        some of us just don't have the means

        November 16, 2011 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
  17. Dave

    Here we go. You gotta be sharp, have great Ideas and be able to persuade finance people with good rhetoric and presentations. If you can't put your ideas across, they are not going to be accepted and , more importantly, no $'s. SiO2 Valley is full of people who thought they had great ideas, but never got to the market. If rejected, one must put aside old prejudices and inhibitions and go to the market directly. If the product is good, it will fly if not, no matter your race, it just ain't gonna make it You'll never get anywhere in the Valley working for the man! Strike out on your own.

    November 14, 2011 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kevin

      I have to say your 100% correct. I also love the fact that you pointed out "going to the market directly". That is the same advice I gave to Tiffani, developer of https://pencilyou.in.
      I thought her idea is great and practical. There is a market for her idea, up scale beauty salons and high end fashion. Her idea is well suited for that market. I told her that maybe she should go to that market instead of trying to get funding form someone from Silicon Valley.
      I love your "SiO2" reference, smart!!!

      November 14, 2011 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
  18. Rennie

    Having worked and lived in Silicon Valley (I still work here) I can actually say that Silicon Valley is very diverse. There are a large number of Asians that work here mostly from the Indian Subcontinent and the Far East. I am black and I don't feel like a minority because everyone out here in California is a minority. As a matter of fact, as of a few years ago, white people became the largest minority in California and the Silicon Valley.

    November 14, 2011 at 10:48 am | Report abuse |
    • calvin

      so, you telling me that this story isn't true?

      November 16, 2011 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
  19. Marie G

    Benita it's really sad that you actually believe that someone will reuse to hire yo because of your color. Maybe you need to look at your skills, maybe you're just not good enough. It's 2012...you need to get out of that thinking and mindset. I am a black woman in technology and have never ever had a problem getting a job, if you're honest with yourself you'll realize maybe you're just not good enough and look to develop an area where you're good. NO ONE wants average.

    November 14, 2011 at 8:52 am | Report abuse |
  20. Benita

    Not only does it matter, it is a controversy and employers use this as a hiring criteria. If you are black, you are out. Simply stated. I am also a female. I have a database of recruiters who can't place me because of the color of my skin. I am skilled, educated and an entrepreneur. The doors are closed for me.

    November 14, 2011 at 8:42 am | Report abuse |
    • Marie G

      Benita it's really sad that you actually believe that someone will refuse to hire you because of your color. Maybe you need to look at your skills, sounds to me like you're just not good enough. It's 2012...you need to get out of that thinking and mindset. I am a black woman in technology and have never ever had a problem getting a job, if you're honest with yourself you'll realize maybe you're just not good enough and look to develop an area where you're good. NO ONE wants average.

      November 14, 2011 at 8:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Kia

      I agree with you 100% Benita. I have been an electrical engineer for over 10 years and I have seen the black engineer set up and framed and removed from his/her over 100 times.

      November 14, 2011 at 11:58 am | Report abuse |
      • Marie G

        Really? I guess I've been lucky. If this is true it's really sad...my goddness

        November 14, 2011 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
      • calvin

        not to be funny, maybe it's your credit, because mines is mess up from college, but I'm still trying to get it together

        November 16, 2011 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pauline

      I am a black women in Tech and have been very successful. I believe the industry is quite young and could benefit from diversity training. A lot of tech startups are so early stage that they recruit from their own network and if you are not within a connected network it is hard to break in. There are several meet up organizations such as Women 2.0, Online Advertising Professionals and many others that you can leverage for job opportunities, network and grow your base of contacts. I believe it is less about color and more about making the right connections and learning how to play the game.

      November 14, 2011 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |