CNN’s Solidad O’Brien Calls Out Michael Arrington On Black Entrepreneurs

2014-10-30 12:11:39
CNN’s Solidad O’Brien Calls Out Michael Arrington On Black Entrepreneurs
Thursday, October 30, 2014, 12:11:42 PM

At first this blogger was just going to leave the whole issue of TechCrunch Founder Michael Arrington’s statement that he “Didn’t know any black entrepreneurs” alone at one blog post.

But after a series of emails, a video follow-up, the one above, was in order. And to really hammer home the point that what Michael said, and I think he knows this now, was hurtful to black entrepreneurs like me, who he does know.

Now, if you’re just reading this for the first time, here’s a brief recap of my last blog post on this:

Last week, a bit of a row ensued when Tech Crunch Founder Michael Arrington appeared on a segment of a CNN special on black entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley, and, under questioning by Soledad O’Brien, said “I don’t know a single black entrepreneur.”

This blogger got wind of Michael’s comments because a friend, Marco Brown, a fellow black entrepreneur who started and still runs retirement software maker Flex Soft. Marco sent a message to me via Linkedin, asking for my comments.

I had to admit I was pretty shocked that Michael said that on television. As a person who’s not a close friend of Arrington’s but does know him, and has for a few years now, I wondered what he’d been smoking that day.

And here’s the video of Michael’s statement:

Again, that hurt.

And it did because, as I stated before, the first business card I gave to Michael was not for Zennie62.com, but for Sports Business Simulations. I’m also listed at CrunchBase as CEO of my company, and that’s part of Michael’s Internet system – or what once belonged to him.

And I’ve made a number of vlogs and interviews with Michael and at TechCrunch, including this one after TC Disrupt In New York City in 2010:

So when Arrington made that statement I was taken aback. Then I read his blog UNCRUNCHED, and learned that, according to Michael, CNN never mentioned that they were going to talk about black entrepreneurs.

So I had a measure of sympathy for MA until I learned from Solidad O’Brien that CNN did sent an email explaining that the television production would be about black entrepreneurs!

Here’s Solidad:

In his blog Arrington says CNN “went to great lengths to hide the topic of the interview.” He posts an early e-mail from one of my producers asking him for a general interview about the tech industry. He omits the second e-mail we sent four days before the interview that spells out that the documentary is about a “group of entrepreneurs we are following who are participating in the NewMe accelerator. The first accelerator of its kind set up specifically for entrepreneurs of color. Their inspiring stories will be the focus of this CNN Black in America documentary.”

I didn’t ambush Arrington and I don’t think he’s a racist. He’s a realist.

Ouch. That doesn’t help Michael’s cause at all and the Google News feed isn’t kind to him. But rather than reach for what someone else said, I’ll stick to my own point of view.

As I said in the video, I don’t think Michael’s racist, but he does have some issue to work on. Moreover, MA may be a symbol of Silicon Valley’s overall problem with black Americans. It’s grounded in a sad racial perception that, when it’s exhibited, only show that some people are still just not very smart in that area.

It’s seen in the social gatherings and parties where you’d be hard – pressed to find anyone black. But it’s also evident in the number of blacks who don’t think to move in the direction of tech, and so expect to be “found” by someone in Silicon Valley, rather than presenting themselves as company owners.

But the hard truth is really beyond what Solidad said, and rests in the fact that there are a lot of blacks in tech. Many of my friends – Marco, Keith, Fred, Curtis, Wade – are all in tech in some way. Fred and Keith are information tech guys, and more the norm. And it’s a norm that may shine more light on the issue.

We’re talking about the tech startup community in the San Francisco Bay Area, not America. The real picture is that established tech companies have a number of black employees. But its where we go from talking about employees to entrepreneurs that the drop-off starts. That must be made clear, and it has not been to date.

The lack of black tech entrepreneurs comes from a lack of friends who are tech entrepreneurs, coupled with the other problem of fewer blacks who can be angel investors to other blacks in tech because of the overall lower level of wealth in the African American community.

The “blacks lack education” issue is way overblown and also a bit stupid when you think about it in the context of just sheer numbers of blacks who have degrees in math and science (not percentage of the whole of graduates, but just pure numbers of all blacks, which are actually large as a whole).

And Michael’s preferential treatment claim is crap. The only preferential treatment blacks get from Silicon Valley is when they’re rappers like MC Hammer or Wil.I.am or Chamillionaire.

Love the brothers; just speaking the truth.

All of that combined leads to the problem we’re talking about.

Michael’s Not Done

I’m afraid to say that Michael’s got a lot of explaining to do regarding that email CNN’s O’Brien presented. Why cover that up? What’s the point of it?

Stay tuned.


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    Zennie Abraham is the founder of Zennie62Media which consists of http://www.zennie62blog.com and a multimedia blog news aggregator and video network, and 78-blog network, with social media and content development services and consulting. Zennie is a pioneer video blogger, YouTube Partner, social media practitioner, game developer, and pundit. Note: news aggregator content does not reflect the personal views of Mr. Abraham. Visit http://www.youtube.com/user/zennie62 and http://www.tout.com/u/zennie62 - follow on Twitter @zennie62