Tag Archives: U.S. Congress

Tech Diversity Still a Struggle

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) payed another visit to Silicon Valley last week with the intent of holding tech companies feet to the fire for more diversity. Apple, PayPal, Twitter, Square, and Airbnb were on the schedule. The CBC has made this trip twice before but this time they expanded the number of members on the trip to include Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY), Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA).

Waters said during a panel discussion at Lyft,  “I’m not urging, I’m not encouraging. I’m about to hit some people across the head with a hammer.” Waters, referred by some CBC members as the “The Enforcer”  said, “I’m talking about some regulation. I’m talking about using the power that our voters have given us to produce legislation and to talk about regulation in these industries that have not been talked about before.”  Waters threat can only be considered valid if the Democrats regain control of the House and Senate in November.

Diversity numbers for tech companies are stagnant at best. But some companies have shown improvement. Uber showed that its corporate workforce (excluding drivers and support contractors) consisted of 2.6 percent black employees in 2018, up from just 1 percent in 2017. Twitter reported having 3.4 percent black employees in 2017, compared to 3 percent in 2016.

But Uber’s Chief Brand Officer, Bozoma Saint John, believes the key to diversity in the tech sector is held by white men. Saint John believes it is up to “white men to look around in their office and say, ‘Oh look, there’s a lot of white men here. Let’s change this.'”

According to CNN Saint John asked; “Why do I, as the black woman, have to fix that?There’s 50 of you, there’s one of me…I want white men to make the noise.” Saint John labeled the idea that diversity problems are rooted in a lack of suitable female and minority job candidates as “bullshit.” She believes the problem lies with hiring practices that favors what is comfortable to those doing the hiring.  In January Uber hired its first Chief Diversity Officer, Bo Young Lee.

The CBC also made other requests of Silicon Valley companies during the visit. In addition to the demand for more diversity the CBC asked that tech companies help fund more affordable housing for communities in need and combat the impact of gentrification. Other legislation the group is also considering includes the Community Reinvestment Act requiring financial institutions to meet the needs of the low-income communities. CBC members are also raising money to assist girls, people of color, and the poor receive STEM educations. 

Breaking It Down

Although I applaud the efforts of the CBC to improve diversity I don’t believe this is the right way to do it. Threats are not going to change a lot in this situation. Especially threats that are toothless unless the Democrats flip Congress.

If blacks and people of color are to make gains in tech employment we need to focus on creating a rich pipeline of candidates. Yes, there are plenty of talented black software engineers and project managers in the job market. But we need to incorporate Silicon Valley companies into the education process. I would urge Rep. Waters to introduce legislation that would benefit tech companies who invest in black campuses as teachers. Encourage them to create programs that move a talented student of color progressively from the classroom to an internship and eventually full time employment. Find a way to gently conjole these companies into recruiting and training capable candidates for jobs that may not have considered.

My anger with this issue, and I have said this before, is that major sports companies can go into the worst schools in the nation and select the next great linebacker or point guard. But tech companies ignore this business model. Its right before their eyes and yet they remain blind. Rep. Waters, if you read this, that is where you need to be. Don’t threaten them but show them the way.

 

 

 

Websites that Empower Black Voters

Get Yo Black Ass Out and VoteElection season is here and on November 4th African-Americans are again offered the priceless opportunity to vote and flex our political muscles. And in this upcoming election cycle that is exactly what we need to do. The black vote is the key to Democrats holding the Senate.

According to a Washington Post report President Obama received a dire warning about the upcoming mid-term elections. A political pollster predicted  “crushing Democratic losses across the country” if the party did not do more to get black voters to the polls.

“African-American surge voters came out in force in 2008 and 2012, but they are not well positioned to do so again in 2014,” Cornell Belcher, the pollster, wrote in the memo, dated Oct. 1. “In fact, over half aren’t even sure when the midterm elections are taking place.”

“Anybody who looks at the data realizes that if the black vote, and the brown vote, doesn’t turn out, we can’t win. It’s just that simple,” said Representative Marcia L. Fudge of Ohio, the chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, referring to African-American and Latino voters. “If we don’t turn out, we cannot hold the Senate.”

“It’s pretty clear that the black vote can, and does, decide elections.” 

According to the U.S. Census Bureau black voter turnout has surpassed that of white voters. African-Americans were the only race or ethnic group who’s turn out at the polls increased in 2012. Most of the increase was in the Midwest and Southeastern U.S. At the same time the number of white voters declined for the first time since 1996 despite an increase in the population.

Pew Black VoteResearch by the Pew Research Center showed that black people are turning out in greater numbers and this is not linked to a population increase. Pew Research also revealed that the black voter turn out had nothing to do with black candidates or President Obama. “Unlike other minority groups whose increasing electoral muscle has been driven mainly by population growth, black’s rising share of the vote in the past four presidential elections has been the result of rising turnout rates,” the report stated.

Even though black people have made great political progress over the last 50 years we still have the problem of fighting voter apathy. President Obama was asked about the efforts to restrict the voting rights of minorities. According to a report published on the TheHill.com President Obama believes that it’s voter apathy not voter ID efforts that is the greatest hindrance to minority voting.

“Most of these laws are not preventing the overwhelming majority of folks who don’t vote from voting,” Obama said during an interview with Rev. Al Sharpton. “Most people do have an ID. Most people do have a driver’s license. Most people can get to the polls. It may not be as convenient, it may be a little more difficult.”

The President went on to say; “The bottom line is, if less than half of our folks vote, these laws aren’t preventing the other half from not voting,” Obama said. “The reason we don’t vote is because people have been fed this notion that somehow it’s not going to make a difference. And it makes a huge difference.”

But being politically active requires more than just voting. Black people need to pay closer attention to what is happening in Washington D.C. as well as locally. Not only do we need to vote but hold our representatives accountable for their actions. It makes a difference in every aspect of African-American life.

There are many online resources for empowering the black voter. These sites get our message to our elected representative as well as monitor what that person is doing, how they vote and who is putting money in their coffers; black representatives as well as white.

In May of this year the AACR reported on a new website named Countable.us. Click here to see that report. Countable.us is a powerful website that monitors the bills currently working their way through Congress. Once you register the site will show you your representative if you don’t know who they are. Countable.us  will give you a short synopsis of the bill, the argument for and against, what it is is designed to do and who is sponsoring it. Countable.us gives black voters the chance to vote “YEA” or “NAY” on the bill and send that information directly to your elected representative via email. You can also find your elected representative by going to the U.S. House of Representatives website and entering your zip code.

Like all voters African-Americans have the right to see our elected representative. These people are there to represent you and they are obligated to at least acknowledge your view. So black people speak up. Its easy to get face-to-face with these politicians. You can get a lobby visit which is a meeting where you express to your elected representative  how you feel about about a certain issue or bill. And you don’t have to go to Washington either. Members of Congress may have one or more offices in their congressional district depending on its size. Your representative may not be there often but there are permanent staff members at each office with whom you can meet.  Elected representatives often visit their home districts during Congressional recess and often hold town hall meetings and office visits during this time. For more detailed information about meeting your elected representative visit the ACLU website.

Black voters have the right to know is who is putting money into the coffers of our elected representative. Lets be real; money equals access. If you want an elected representative to really hear you you need to speak in dollars and vote. It’s the reality of our democracy. You can get a good idea who is spending money and influencing your representative by visiting the OpenSecrets.org website. All the money that comes into political campaigns must be reported. You can see who gave what to whom just by searching that person’s name at the Federal Elections Commission website.

Other websites that expose the influence of money in politics include Maplight.org and Campaignmoney.com.

MapLight Big Social Logo 3

So who is your representative listening to? You can see who influences your representative and his campaign by visiting the SunlightFoundation.org website. This site offer a listing of websites that can help you track every dime your representatives takes in. The information is also available from the Federal Election Commission.

Another great site for black voters is Corporations.org. This website will reveal the campaign contributions and voting record of your elected representatives. As black people we don’t automatically trust politicians not even the black ones. That’s being real about it. So if you want to know who gave your representative money and how that money affected his or her vote then check this site. You can can see your representative’s voting record there. Govtrack.us is another site that allows you to see your representatives voting record. This site is up to to date and will show you the last major vote and who voted how. You can search votes by your district by entering your zip code.

Other sites that allow you to track and research your representatives voting record include;

Washington Post U.S. Congress Votes Database

The Library of Congress Thomas Roll Call Votes

OpenCongress.org

Elected members of Congress are held to a higher standard. Even the most junior member of Congress holds an immense amount of power and influence. But are these people trustworthy? Not always and that is why politicians are seen in such a negative light especially by black voters. All voters, not just African-Americans, need to know who is misbehaving in Washington. There are websites for that as well. You can see what representatives were, or are currently, being investigated for ethics violations by doing a little research at the Citizens for Responsible and Ethics in Washington or CREW website. Right now this site reveals on its homepage 17 members of Congress that are currently under investigation. The list contains 10 Republicans and 7 Democrats and some pretty well known names like former Republican presidential candidate Michelle Bachmann and Democrat Bobby Rush, civil rights activist and former Black Panther. By clicking any of the names you can get a synopsis of the charges and who is doing the investigating.  You can also see the latest legal filings by CREW aimed at members of Congress.

Other site that keep track of Congressional investigations include;

OpenCongress.orgGovtrack logo

Office of Congressional Ethics

House Committee on Ethics

Govtrack.us

 

The bottom line is you need to “Get Yo Black Ass Out and Vote!” Black votes count! It’s really too important to ignore when you see what is happening to black people everyday. Think about what we go through even to this day. We have a black President but is that really enough? We see how he is treated and dis-respected almost everyday. Part of the blame lies with us. What politician would dare do and say the things they have said about the President of The United States if they truly respected black voters? We are not asking  to be treated special just fairly. And the only way to get fair treatment and respect as citizens is to vote. Do you need to be reminded of the beatings and murders that took place so black people could vote? So why don’t you “Get Yo Black Ass Out and Vote!”?