Remember those “Where are the women in design?” type entries that used to be around last year? One of the underlying issues I think that could’ve been discussed, but never happened was the fact that on the web you can still see prejudice and biases at work. I have gone my whole life dealing with breaking down barriers (not as much as some of you I am sure, but more than others) and I always found it interesting the dynamics that occur when nobody really knows who you are.
I think it’s safe to assume that if you write a site such as Whitespace with the ideas that I present along with being the CEO of 9rules, Inc. the assumption is that you are a 30-something white guy. Now I know not everyone has that assumption, but I won’t hesitate to say that the majority of people did about me. Going to SXSW and then the Business Blog Summit was an experience when people see your name tag and then look at you and put 2 and 2 together. Let’s just say that not too many people expected this:
Feel free to make fun of me at DIC.
Nothing too wrong with that pic besides the shirt needs to be ironed, but if you saw this what would you think honestly? Would you trust the guy in that picture with your company? Your website? Your VC money? People have balked on these things not because of my background, but because of my appearance. Really I don’t mind because that is part of society. You are generally more comfortable with people you understand and relate to than people you don’t want your daughter dating.
I created a list of qualities that would possibly make life easier as a CEO and for our company. These qualities will more than likely get some of you crazy mad, but I am looking at life through my eyes, not yours.
- White. Now I’m not saying you have to be white to be successful, I’m just saying it’s one less barrier/hurdle to climb if you are in this industry. Now only if I could rap my life would be much easier (whoops, there I go again, increasing the stereotypes that society has set for us…).
- Older looking. Let’s face it. Based on looks I am pushing 18-19 max. Youth usually means not having experience and to many people experience is key. That is something I don’t worry about because I work for my own company now. However, I am still having troubles convincing the women that I do run a company, have a Masters degree, and can get into R-rated movies.
- Ass kisser. One thing I hate about the “blogosphere” is the ass-kissing that goes on. If you read this site enough you already know that. I don’t mind giving props to someone, but do you ever get tired of reading comments on some sites or entries in another blog and know that the person throwing praise upon a product or service is just spewing bullshit? I have been told that you either love me or hate me, but at least you always know that what you are getting is genuine. We need more genuine people on the web, this isn’t corporate America so stop acting like it.
- CEO speak. I have no problem with communicating with people. My problem is communicating with them in terms that make me “seem” like a CEO/businessperson. In a perfect world I should be able to talk however I wish and have it not effect the way someone looks at me or our company, but unfortunately it doesn’t work that way so this is something I have been working on over the past year.
I haven’t told them, but because I am lacking in these areas there have been times I have considered giving up my position as CEO so that someone more experienced could takeover and possibly lead the company to greener pastures. However, it’s just too much fun to harp on Oliphant for doing nothing, Colin for doing horrible coding, and Rundle for creating the worst designs on the web.
What I love about our team is that before we even started we made a promise to ourselves that if a client didn’t accept us for who we are (we don’t holdback punches over IM or email) then we didn’t want them. We definitely have a dynamic that I never experienced in any other company and it’s even more fun because I know we are the type of people nobody expects anything from.
Blogging has created a wonderful opportunity for many people. I don’t think you should be ashamed of who you are or hide your cultural identity, but at least you have the option to do so. Blogging allowed me to let my words shine through and it wasn’t till at least a year later that I showed a picture of myself. By that time many people had already formed their opinion of me, most of them negative, and after they saw my picture it was kind of like “oh, he’s black, I still hate him”.
*sidenote: Technically I am half white, half black, but white people and black people like to consider me black for some reason…it’s like a Tiger Woods kind of thing. So no Joe I don’t like to be referred to as a “colored person”. Thanks though.
Why did I even write this entry? I’m not sure actually, it just came to me. Maybe I wanted to make people aware that not every company/person enters the race at the same starting line. Maybe it’s because I got ripped on in the comments at this 37sigs entry and I can only assume the guy doesn’t even know me. Maybe it’s because some stranger called me a nigger yesterday and I didn’t even know him (jealousy’s a bitch huh?). It wasn’t the first time and it won’t be the last time. I think I wrote it, as incoherent as it is, because it’s an issue that I have noticed in the past and never really read about anywhere else.
This article isn’t meant to bitch about anything or meant to come across as a sob story. Maybe I am just wondering if it’s even worth trying to knock down the biases that many people have or is it just better dealing with the people who have none?