Michael Arrington is making an ass of himself by spending an inordinate amount of time talking about how other people are calling him racist (when no one credible has done so), explaining why he isn't racist (using an antiquated understanding of racism that's an incredibly low bar), while brushing off real racial inequalities in Silicon Valley (which Arrington is absolutely a part of, even if only passively so).
Before September's AOL/Huffington Post/TechCrunch/CrunchFund editorial fiasco, CNN's Soledad O'Brien asked TechCrunch-founder-turned-venture-capitalist Michael Arrington to give an interview for an upcoming documentary on a minority-focused start-up accelerator called NewMe. The documentary airs on November 13, but advance clips reveal a few juicy quotes from Arrington, including, most notably, "I don't know a single black entrepreneur."
In a blog post titled "Oh Shit, I'm a Racist," Arrington retracted that statement and mentioned Bitcasa, a promising company whose CEO and founder is black, and in which Arrington is an investor. He also explained his own racial visor in histrionic terms: "See, my brain database doesn’t categorize people in terms of skin color. Or hair color. Or sexual orientation. When I queried that database, under stressful circumstances, I got zero results."
His second post on the affair, "Racism: The Game," among other things, compared recent events to a similar debacle in 2010 over women in tech. Using the journalistically-accepted and mathematically-sound transitive property, we can presume that Arrington does not categorize people in terms of gender or sex, either, and that he is outing himself as a pansexual.
But I digress. Arrington's overarching thesis on the racial makeup of Silicon Valley—after addressing his shrill racial insecurity—explains that Silicon Valley is a meritocracy. If you've got ideas and a business model, you'll get funding. And if a minority or a woman fails, it's because the vast majority of startups fail. Nobody has it harder than anybody else.
Hank Williams, an African-American entrepreneur in the tech world, is spot on in his critique of Arrington and Silicon Valley:
The market *makers* operate in a world that is not particularly even-handed. The market makers are the folks that help new young companies and entrepreneurs by providing insight, mentoring, capital, and relationships. And this part of the tech world is driven by all the same types of biases that exist in the non-tech world. And it is *much* harder for even the most talented African Americans in the tech world to gain access to influential, insightful, connected mentors, let alone investors.
Here's my beef. I can't stand it when people who have everything in the world—wealthy, smart, shrewd people like Arrington—don't own up to an obvious shortcoming (here, a failure to understand his own privilege) when wide improvement is needed. Arrington has detracted—and distracted—from an important conversation by seeking pity.