There Were Not Enough Blacks at CES & It’s Our Own Fault

'Black parents are raising a generation of financially and educationally underpowered wimps, who've become experts at mastering the inconsequential'

While walking among the 2,700 technology companies and hundreds of thousands of participants at the 2011 International Consumer Electronics Show two weeks ago, it became evident to me that there were very few African-Americans in the crowd. The majority of blacks I met at the event did not actively work as creative engineers or computer scientists for any of the companies. Most worked as journalists or bloggers reporting on the conference or as marketing and sales professionals; and even in those positions, African Americans were few and far between.

I immediately asked myself, “Who is to blame for this apparent lack of black representation at one of the mainstay conferences meant to inform and prepare the world about the technologies that will shape our future?” Unfortunately, the answer seems obvious. At this point in history, we as a community can blame no one but ourselves. The majority of us have become so enamored with consuming technology that we aren’t making a serious effort to be involved in creating and producing it.

If this phenomenon of black invisibility had taken place 10 or 20 years ago, I would be quick to attribute it to racism. And believe me, I do not underestimate the role that subtle, institutional racism still plays in making African- Americans feel out of place and inferior within the halls of academia, in computer science and engineering, or even perhaps on the HR roles at Google and Facebook.

In my opinion, though, the problem is now more so rooted in our parenting. Black parents are raising a generation of financially and educationally underpowered wimps, who’ve become experts at mastering the inconsequential. That may sound harsh, but look at the facts.

How can it be that African American youth spend 50% more time with entertainment media than whites, but the achievement gap between whites and blacks is almost equal to three grade levels. The majority of black students can’t even get to the upper echelons in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers to prove or disprove that racism exists there because most are struggling to pass algebra, biology, and physics in high school.

With the exception of Hispanic and Asian households, African American households spend more money annually on consumer electronics than whites, according to data gathered by the Consumer Electronics Association (And keep this in mind: African American households have the lowest median household income of all races while Asian Americans had the highest). With all the money we spend on consumer electronics you might think we were running gangbusters behind the scenes as computer scientists, software developers, and engineers. Yet, blacks play little to no part in developing the technologies that we love to spend our money on.

Some people think it’s a victory, that African Americans get more use out of their cell phones than any other race. But my colleague Robin Goode asked me the other day, “How can a race of people who have the highest unemployment rate and lower salaries than any other racial group on all levels of education” afford to purchase more cell phones and collect more data charges than the rest of the country. “What [Blacks] are spending is disproportionate to what we are making,” she said.

(Continued on page 2)

Pages: 1 2
ACROSS THE WEB
  • Pingback: There Were Not Enough Blacks at CES & It’s Our Own Fault | AfroBuzz Central

  • http://firstgenerationwhitecollar.com/blog L. Marie Joseph

    There were not enough blacks at CES ….answer=African-American households have the lowest median household income of all races.

    When it comes to conferences, once you add the flight, hotel and other expenses blacks simply do not have the funds. We are consumers and not innovators or investors which means we always lack funds

    I so agree that Black parents are raising a generation of financially and educationally underpowered wimps
    I am an investor that look at angel investing in technology companies Thanks to sites like BE, I’m glad someone is calling this out

    • robert jackson

      I would disagree. Per capita, African Americans attend more conferences than any other group. Between the Black professional organizations (Black lawyers, Black doctors, etc), frats, political gatherings and organizations like the NAACP, Blacks attend a lot of conferences, and often fly First Class and stay in the best hotels. In a few weeks thousands of Black fashionistas will be at the MAGIC fashion show in Vegas, and thousands more Blacks will be at the Vegas International Beauty Show in June. I think more Blacks don’t attend CES because they are unaware such a conference exists. Black Enterprise’s coverage is a good start, and maybe if Steve Harvey, Tom Joyner, Ochocinco and Wendy Williams did their shows live from CES, more Blacks would probably come.

  • Joshua

    Josh Submit on Thursday, January 20, 2011 5:39:07 PM:

    I am a19 Year Old Black Male…I Have a iNVENTION Coming Son HopeFullly
    once i get some funds to back up mi Project an get place in the right Space..this product will Profit over 200 billion dollars….

    if you want to Reach me for sum Work hears mi contact Twitter:MartianiAM…Email JosMartianstars@aol.com

    • Sookie Stackhouse

      Great work Joshua. But know that presentation is everything. Please avoid any mention of business, especially that you are seeking sponsorship, while using “text speak”. If you cannot write or spell correctly, it is assumed you cannot read or understand a contract, let alone business. And if your claim is that it will profit $200 billion+ then certainly you have a strong marketing plan to back this up?

    • http://www.milinda-alstonmurrain.biz M. Alstonmurrain

      Joshua, I agree with Sookie Stackhouse. My for hope for you is that you wil obtain the funding needed to continue to develop your invention. You will need a detail plan from the business summary, funding, development, marketing and distribution. The written and oral presentations have to be free of slang and colloquialisms. Show your passion and continue to believe in yourself. Circumvent obstacles. Whatever happens, never, ever quit. Good luck to you Joshua. I wish you much success in your endeavors. May you have an abundant life.

  • Lisa Andrews

    Hooray to you for this report!! We as Black Folks have gotten behind again.
    I’m so frustrated in telling my 35 and 31 year old men its time to stop the
    dumb stuff and get serious abt. Life and your place in it. What can we do
    to get our young people involved?? I’m really scared at hat the future will bring for
    our people

  • Mariah

    I also believe it stems from a majority of our youth wanting to be entertainers rather than ceos . We have got to do better!

  • Brylan Leviston

    This was a really informative article. I am a 23yo Grad student focusing in urban youth development.The school I work at is considered 90% high needs (which means 90% of the schools students are on free or reduced lunch) yet students have smart phones, ipods, psp’s and a gang of expensive tech gadgets. However when it’s time to type a paper in the computer lab, if you can get them to focus for 5mins, you realize they can’t even type on a keyboard! We have to do better, we are getting left behind, & as a young black man, it’s disheartening. I try my best to expose students to the more important aspects of life and looking at the bigger picture, but if parent’s don’t step up to the plate, my 50min class session is sure to be overshadowed by the 15+ hrs spent at home…

  • http://www.lchbusiness.com Lindsey C. Holmes

    This article is phenomenal! I had this very conversation at Minority Media & Telecom Council’s Broadband & Social Justice Summit in DC last night. We have too much to gain to not utilize social media and tech to the fullest of its power. We are an entrepreneurial people, the largest consumers of mobile technology, mainly for our need to multitask with busy careers, single parent homes (another issue), etc and must find a way to or have a desire to use technology to our advantage. We must be an empowered people. Technology is what empowers. Thank you!

  • pdiane

    Although I agree with some of what you are saying, blaming parents is so not the solution to our students not participating in this event. Truth be told, Black students nor parents are educated to this event on a grandscale if at all. Are you going to schools and churches telling folks about htis event or are you standing on the sidelines like Bill Cosby blaming parents.

    I am an educator and I teach math to mostly Black Students. I stress our history of our genius in science and math and actually, being the inventors of these subjects. Do you do that, do you know that? Most of our children are taught by white teachers who could care less to tell them about their history and informing them about events like this. I suggest you run a campaign to go to schools where most Black children are taught, go to parent meetings at those schools, at least tell them about this event. So when you get on a site like this you will be able to tell us what exactly you did to educate Black parents and students about this event. Last but not least, talk about how many Black students you took to this event. Then I will agree with your conclusions.

  • Carter

    I don’t think a STEM education is as valued as it used to be. I work in a technical area of a major software company and have noticed that similar firms are doing whatever they can to outsource jobs to countries like India, China, and South Korea.  They are running towards that cheaper (STEM-educated) labor forces available in those countries at a significant pace because it is the most profitable option available.  Outside of cutting edge research, I predict that the US demand for engineers, programmers, and the like will only shrink in the future.  Why pay an Americans (black, white, or other) more than 70K a year for the same work that can be done in India for half that? As the most recent recession proves, corporations are only loyal to the bottom lines. They are not patriots.  African-Americans should focus our efforts on developing skills the will lead to entrepreneurial success at the local level.  The US does not need another company focused selling tablet computers. I’d suggest that we invest our efforts into industries such as health maintenance, K – 12 education enhancement, and infrastructure construction.

    • Michael

      I respectfully disagree. The jobs you are referring to are not the high level jobs but the jobs that are low level STEM jobs(perhaps tech support L1, L2 and QA and etc and low level programming). And even all of those jobs are not being outsourced. The key is not to just get a degree but to get the skills to be able to be a CREATOR not an employee! You want to INNOVATE and change the world! Trust me the world is not without great riches, wealth and whatever you want if you aim for what you want! People do not listen to that talk; people be an ENTREPRENUER,(In an Employee role or CEO)INNOVATOR and place your CREATIVITY in the world through your knowledge and imagination that is what it is about!

      Cheers!

  • http://www.blacksintechnology.net Greg Greenlee

    Do they mean underrepresented as an audience or as vendors? I understand the need to be well informed with the latest technology out there and social media branding, but overall those two things lead us nowhere. We are still consumers and until we realize that we must be innovators, inventors, etc we will continue to fall behind. Let’s end the mentality that it is cool to have this gadget or be on this social media site  and begin nurturing the mentality that it’s cooler to create or invent that gadget or site. 

  • http://booksofsoul.com Eric Brasley

    I have always admired our authors who can spend hours, if not lifetimes, producing their works. Where there is an interest and a focus, there is always a way.  But, the way can be deterred if the educational opportunities are not there.  Parents should not only require more from their children but should also require more from their schools and government.  Cuts in education and rising tuition will not provide that step up the corporate or entrepreneurial ladder even if we provide the encouragement at home.

  • Jane Eyre

    To the commenter who mentioned Bill Cosby, I must inform you that he is hardly “standing on the sidelines.” Bill Cosby is giving millions of dollars to colleges and has endowed professorships at at least one institute of higher learning. Moreover, Bill Cosby provides scholarships to struggling students who would otherwise be hard-pressed to continue their college education. And he goes much further–he takes students out to dinner and makes himself available to talk to; in short, he develops relationships with them. Bill Cosby is someone who gives back to the black community and encourages our young black men. He is investing in our future with his dollars and his emotional energy and time. Bill Cosby is someone we should all strive to emulate.

    • http://www.vipmediamessenger.com James

      Great Article!!! The most important entity that we have in the world is media. Every day we ingest various forms of it for information, entertainment, education, etc. The main way that it is disseminated is digitally. Access to it is as easy as pressing a button on our mobile phones. People that will never meet you have an opinion on you based on what they see of others that look like you. I agree with the article we can no longer use excuses. The digital landscape is wide open. If we continue to be consumers we will continue to let others chart our course. In Today’s media world big conglomerates are monopolizing the media. For example Viacom a media company owns, BET (not black owned any more), MTV, Nickelodeon ,Spike TV, VH1, TV Land, Paramount Pictures, Comedy Central, to name a few. Just think of the minds that that they have impact on just of the networks I named. With the recent approval of Comcast’s purchase of NBC it is going to get worse. Essence Magazine isn’t even black owned anymore. To get involved we don’t need billions of dollars just passion, creative thinking and ingenuity. I as a media, communications company owner am doing my part (www.vipmediamessenger.com). We really have to take our stake in this digital revolution or we will forever be left behind.

  • Alton King

    As a black civil engineer, I’m always pushing the youth of my family to pursue careers in STEM. And during Black History Month, I participate in career events at local schols here in DC. Go figure, National Engineer’s Week is during (the end of) February too!! The article title definitely caught my eye. It is an oversimplification to say that parenting alone or is even the primary source of low black participation at the CES. It is a multi-variate situation with many and far greater actors. None bigger is the fact that US companies rather off-shore and out-source IT skilled positions external to the US. Even overlooking this fact, you get to the second biggest driver which is capital. Tech companies require excessive amounts of capital (funding, R&D, equipment, people, and other resources). Still more, look at the ownership of these companies. Unless they are coming from outside of the US, minority ownership is nascent at best. If you shift the focus to just attendees, then it could be a matter of interest. Black professionals have other events to go to, I personally attend biotech/medtech, healthcare, green building, and sustainability conferences so the CES is not even in my consideration set. I strongly support the “cut the power” as that was just a given in my parents’ household (father & mother). Their ability to help me was to simply do their best as they were from the age of sharecroppers. I came very late in life for them (I’m 37 now). Expectations of excellent grades should not have ever slipped and that could be its own discussion. My brothers had black teachers until integration came and only in their high school years did they ever have white teachers in K-12. I on the other hand only had black substitute teachers throughout my K-12. It is important to note the lack of black presence at CES, yet our youth should have focus on STEM and the ability to create their own companies. Going to work for someone is should be temporary at best. The explusion of STEM focused jobs, mainly IT has been permanent and there is no turnaround in sight. I fully agree with earlier comments that the focus should be on healthcare (the entire continuum I might add), construction and infrastructure development. Maybe even far more important is preparing all of our youth that all of us must become life-long learners as it does not stop with terminal degrees or even associate ones too.

  • F.W. Lee

    I agree with the author’s assessment of the situation involving the community. As a kid, my mom (with her old school southern way of parenting) stressed that if whites kids can get A’s and B’s, then you should be able to, no excuses. She also stressed reading, comprehension, writing and oral communication (I thank her for dragging me kicking and screaming to the speech therapy class to correct my speaking deficiencies) as the foundation of learning. Math and science followed, but she established the foundation for me to constantly raise my own bar of excellence by constantly seeking challenging ventures. Both of my parents practiced fiscal discipline in which their money and brains spoke volumes in the community. Unfortunately, many black Americans have slacked off due to the mentality that being educated and well-rounded is being an uncle tom. Meanwhile, blacks from other regions of the world, Asians, Hispanics are blowing us out of the water. We need to get back to basics and fundamentals and stressed boldness in academic, professional and civic excellence over the bland, typical and tired get-rich route of sports, entertainment and buffonery. Regarding STEM, why does everyone keep talking about science and math when the real focus should be on reading, writing, comprehension and oral communication. What is the point of mastering math and sciences when an individual cannot read the problem, comprehend what they read, and verbalize/write out the solution in a clear and concise manner. Yes, math and the sciences are important, but they do not mean a thing if the basic foundations of reading, writing, comprehension and communication are not stressed. An individual may have a degree from MIT and UC Berkeley, but it does mean anything if he/she can address an appropriate audience in clear and concise language nontechnical individuals can understand. There needs to be a renewed efforts with concrete results to address the reading, comprehension and (oral and written) communication deficiency that exists in this country. I have seen too many students lacked the above mentioned skills and then wonder why they are behind. In addition, their are many foreign students who have the math and sciences down cold, lack the fundamental reading, comprehension and (oral and written) communication skills needed to think outside the box or becoming an effective leader. Unfortunately, these key points (and basic foundation to learning) appear to fallen on deaf ears in our education system, political system and American society.

    • F.W. Lee

      REPRINT with corrections – I should really practice what I preach about the writing aspect.

      I agree with the author’s assessment of the situation involving the community. As a kid, my mom (with her old school southern way of parenting) stressed that if white kids can get A’s and B’s, then you should be able to, no excuses. She also stressed reading, comprehension, writing and oral communication (I thank her for dragging me kicking and screaming to the speech therapy class to correct my speaking deficiencies) as the foundation of learning. Math and science followed, but she established the foundation for me to constantly raise my own bar of excellence by constantly seeking challenging ventures. Both of my parents practiced fiscal discipline in which their money and brains spoke volumes in the community. Unfortunately, many black Americans have slacked off due to the mentality that being educated and well rounded is being an uncle tom. Meanwhile, blacks from other regions of the world, Asians, Hispanics are blowing us out of the water. We need to get back to basics and fundamentals and stressed boldness in academic, professional and civic excellence over the bland, typical and tired get-rich route of sports, entertainment and buffoonery. Regarding STEM, why does everyone keep talking about science and math when the real focus should be on reading, writing, comprehension and oral communication? What is the point of mastering math and sciences when an individual cannot read the problem, comprehend what they read, and verbalize/write out the solution in a clear and concise manner. Yes, math and the sciences are important, but they do not mean a thing if the basic foundations of reading, writing, comprehension and communication are not stressed. An individual may have a degree from MIT and UC Berkeley, but it does mean anything if he/she can address an appropriate audience in clear and concise language nontechnical individuals can understand. There needs to be a renewed effort with concrete results to address the reading, comprehension and (oral and written) communication deficiency that exists in this country. I have seen too many students lacked the above-mentioned skills and then wonder why they are behind. In addition, their are many foreign students who have the math and sciences down cold, lack the fundamental reading, comprehension and (oral and written) communication skills needed to think outside the box or becoming an effective leader. Unfortunately, these key points (and basic foundation to learning) appear to fallen on deaf ears in our education system, political system and American society.

      • Alton King

        I would say communication challenges for those in STEM careers are more reflective of personality traits than subpar educational preparation. The focus on STEM is based on the presumption that a student is obtaining the requisite skills (imo) in your aforementioned areas – reading, writing, comms, and comprehension. One cannot excel in STEM without the basics. In fairness, communicative skills take time; few master it by the time they finish any school including my wife’s alma mater of Horace Mann. English is largely taught from an expository point of view. Little is done to address the varied audiences – research, engineering, business, science, academia, PR, etc. What is going to help our youth today as well as the adults like ourselves is that we must fully embrace life-long learning. I’ve written action memos to US ambassadors, letters to ministerial leaders in foreign countries, venture capitalists for funding request, been a panelist at difference conferences, and so forth. No way can all of these skills be obtained through the end of high school let alone college. Truly exceptional students will do so, but the educational conundrum is about teaching/empowering the masses and not a “select” few. The premise of the absence of black people at CES is a complex web of apparent and underlying factors which must be broken down into actionable pieces of change. Yes, parents play an important role. Yet our country is a consumerist nation and society has placed the worth of an individual exclusively based on what they have materially and not what they do with or in their lives. And the CES is a manifestation of this reality. You are what you buy … not how you make a difference

  • Wave

    Great article! paints a sad but adequate picture of the state of today’s black youth.

  • http://www.cminyc.com Brian Jones

    When we voted for “change,” it seems that everybody forgot that we have to take up the gauntlet for ourselves and personally make the change we want to see.

    That is
    why I regularly speak to young people about my career, work life and expectations around what it means to be an intern at CMI. Working with AHRC New York City, CMI endeavors to give back to the community by exposing young people, who have the internal drive, to reach their highest potential through work experience at CMI.

    AHRC New York City, a family governed organization, is dedicated to enhancing the lives of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families.

    AHRC programs are designed to prepare students with cognitive and developmental disabilities for adult life through higher education and campus life, career exploration and preparation, self-awareness, personal improvement, community participation and socialization.

  • http://www.huesconsulting.com Adrienne Graham

    Marcia, excellent article and observation. 

    I have a question. Why is it whenever we speak of anything having to do with innovation, professional development, continuing education, conferences etc, the default answer always comes back to money? There is always a chorus about “we don’t have access…we don’t have the money….we can’t afford it”. Enough already! You make time and find the funds for things you want and that includes professional development. We’ll shell out money for the latest iPhone, stand in line for days for a WII to get a $10 discount at Walmart, scrounge up money to go to a JayZ concert, lease the newest slickest Lexus. But when it comes to something that is educational, we cry broke 

    If you want to be successful you have to invest. You don’t get a Masters degree for free. You don’t get to sit in the middle of ground breaking innovative conferences like CES for free. We have to do better. I just read a long drawn out conversation on Facebook on all the reasons why Black Enterprise should lower their price for the Women of Power Summit. It was disturbing. You keep a broke mindset, you remain broke. Black people absolutely DO have the money and access to technology. We just need to show out more for these types of events and bring something to the table. 

    My three cents worth.

  • Shaun

    Marcia, excellent article. This is a topic that needs to be front and center. People make time (and money) for what they find to be important. Thanks for sounding the drumbeat!

  • Pingback: The HBCU Debate: Are Black Colleges & Universities Still Needed? | AfroBuzz Central

  • Pingback: The HBCU Debate: Are Black Colleges & Universities Still Needed? | Black Enterprise