Facebook's recent antics have tested the faith of its users; wireless carriers are posting massive profits (no doubt, due in large part to Blacks and Latinos out-indexing each month in expenditures); statistical reports demonstrate "surprising" facts that young, hip users of color are also out-indexing in Twitter usage; there are emerging reports of questionable practices concerning how companies like Apple strip Africa's coltan mineral for its power-products; New York Magazine did not include a single digital female entrepreneur of color in its recent issue lauding start-ups-to-watch; and there is a profound lack of diversity inside most Silicon Valley offices, as recently reported in the San Jose Mercury News. Given all of this, legendary rap artist Chuck D and I decided to press pause a minute, look at the elephant in the room and chop it up a bit about today's pop-tech situation as it pertains both to diverse users of digital tech and digital entrepreneurs of color.
Here are the highlights from my talk with Chuck D.
If I had to say one way or the other I'd say that most tech-related companies today are pretty arrogant. It's almost like revenge of the nerds.
Do they see an importance in reaching out to diverse markets in this country? For me, it's like they've decided "buy it/use it or don't", it doesn't really matter that Black Americans spend millions on these gadgets and stuff and tons of time (on their social platforms). Who cares about statistics? They know we're going to buy/use these tech products, phones and more; so it seems they could care less.
And the way it's all set up; it's encouraged to be like another appendage and (for those platforms that have a monthly invoice for usage) don't miss a payment; then it gets gangsta.
The only way I see more diversity happening both inside of these companies and with their strategies is for a collective push to happen like in Montgomery, Alabama back in the day. But I'm really wondering how likely that is to happen. So many people are apathetic these days. In fact, technology may even encourage it. While there's the social aspect of what's happening, a lot of the trends in technology actually reinforce individualism, to me. It's all about self-promotion on these social pages. It's like 'I'm good', so there is not a lot of focus on the whole. But it's funny. You never know what can happen. Just look at the volcano in Iceland. It affected so many people at once that the airline companies actually had the European Union changing up policy because they all pushed back at once. It was like, 'Wait a minute. We're losing too much money. Something has got change up.' So I say you never know.
But here's the thing, there's also just a lot of dumb people now in our society. For example, so many Black males disengage from school at a very early age (not necessarily at fault of their own). Larger business knows it so they're like, 'yeah, here's something for your dumb a**: a new phone, a new game.' It's like everyone's got a Wii, but they have no idea how it works. That's, like, the big secret. Why aren't more young people trying to figure that out and more?
But yeah, these tech companies definitely should have more accountability with the (balance of dollars and deals) -- especially at the high tech level when we start talking about chips that scan for pancreatic cancer or something, let alone just making sure you get your (recording artist) Nicki Minaj download (LOL).
We really need to look at what's happening because for me, hip hop is technology -- from the two turntables and a microphone it's all about the combination of technology to express a lifestyle and creative vision. So for me, it was just a natural transition to get deeper into this tech game. I started early because for me it symbolized freedom and independence in an industry that was not really offering that. I thought, 'This is great.' That's one of the reason's why Public Enemy has the position of having the first-ever hip hop site from years and years ago.
Now it's about expanding. That's why I started SlamJamz.com. It's all about the creativity. We also work to provide avenues to other creatives of color. We've also scaled back the original budget for the Sellaband.com concept and are looking forward to the release of a new Public Enemy album soon. I also started hiphopgoods.com to provide an avenue for female MC's to have a greater platform because that's really been lacking lately.
It's really all about trying to get an edge in something you know is right."
And while Chuck D and others both create and consume, flooding the tech industry with their hard-earned dollars, trend-setting entertainment content and surpassing frequency usage (the latter, which will no doubt impact digital advertising dollars to be reaped by various companies); the question will remain -- just when, how and if a good portion of this sleeping giant demographic will awake one day and perhaps boisterously demand deeper business inclusion and consumer recognition as this new digital frontier expands with each and every click?
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