African Americans to Blame for Lack of Color at CES
Black Enterprise Magazine September/October 2018 Issue

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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.

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Marcia Wade Talbert

Marcia is a multimedia content producer focusing on technology at Black Enterprise Magazine. In this capacity she writes and assigns stories to educate readers about social media; digital integration; gadgets, apps, and software for business and professional development; minority tech startups; and careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). In 2012, she received two Salute to Excellence Awards from the National Association of Black Journalists and was recognized by Blacks in Technology (BiT) as one of the Top 10 Black achievers in the tech arena for 2011 at SXSW in Austin, Texas. She has spoken about technology on panels for New York Social Media Week, at The 2012 Rainbow/PUSH Wall Street Summit, as well as at Black Enterprise’s Entrepreneurs Conference and Women of Power Summit. In 2011, chose her as one of 28 People of Color Impacting the Social Web, and through crowdsourcing she was listed as one of BlackWeb2.0's/HP's 50 Most Notable African American Tastemakers in Social Media and Technology for 2010. Since taking on the role of Tech editor in September 2010, she has conceived and produced five cover stories on Technology and/or STEM and countless articles, videos, and slideshows online. Before joining as an interactive general assignment reporter in 2008, she freelanced with Black Enterprise beginning in 2003 while working as the technical editor at Prepared Foods magazine. There she further honed her writing skills and became an authority on food ingredients, including ingredients used in food fortification and enrichment. Meanwhile, her freelancing with Black Enterprise and helped her stay current on issues pertaining to the financial and business welfare of African Americans. As a general reporter for Black Enterprise she attended and reported on the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, where she interviewed Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor and assistant to President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Marcia has a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture with an emphasis in food science from the University of Minnesota, and a Master of Science degree in journalism from Roosevelt University in Chicago. En route to her secondary degree, she served as the editor-in-chief of the Roosevelt University Torch, a weekly, student-run newspaper. An avid photographer and videographer, Marcia is one of several employees at BLACK ENTERPRISE who interned for the publishing company as a college student. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, a food scientist; her seventeen-month-old daughter; and “The Cat”, but still considers Chicago home.