A dispatch from Terminus
I interviewed today with an Atlanta startup founded by one of the nation's premier African-American entrepreneurs, a Morehouse Man with a GT PhD. This is his sixth Atlanta-based company, all of which either chug along successfully or have been acquired. All have a higher percentage of blacks in engineering than Google, or indeed any other major tech company. The exciting and vivacious single-room office I toured today was at least one-third people of color.
This is perhaps to be expected in the city responsible for more African-American PhDs and engineering graduates than any other, a city which has elected black mayors since 1973, the birth and resting place of Martin Luther King Jr., the home of Morehouse aka "Black Harvard" and Spelman aka "Black Wellesley", the city that shows up as my first hit for a Google search of "African American Mecca".
It's also rumored to influence hip-hop. Just a bit.
Google talks endlessly about diversity, and spends millions of dollars on the cause. My NYC office lends its prodigiously expensive square feet to Black Girls Code. We attempt to hook the recruiting pipeline up to HBCUs. We tweet about social justice and blog about the very real problem of racial inequality in America. Noble endeavors, all. It's too bad that they're not taking place where black people actually, you know, live.
According to census.gov's data as of 2016, Mountain View is 2% black. In 2010, the Bay Area Census Project recorded 1,468 blacks in MTV. I saw more black people than that crossing Peachtree Street today. census.gov reports, as of 2010, blacks making up 25.1% of NYC, 9.6% of Los Angeles, and 6.1% of famously liberal San Francisco. census.gov does not provide data for Dublin or Zürich, but we can make some reasonable assumptions about those other largest Google offices, n'est-ce pas? And let's be honest -- I doubt much of that 25.1% of NYC is centered around Chelsea.
Atlanta's a bit down from 67% in 1990, but 54% ain't so bad.
In one of the most reasonably-priced major cities of America, a ten-minute walk from one of the world's top ten engineering schools, Google has an office. It's one floor. There are no mass outings to the Fox Theatre, let alone Broadway. Food is served from 1200 to 1330, though mainly gone by 1300. Let it be noted that this food includes traditional African-American fare, something I've seen in other Google offices only during special events celebrating our self-congratulating focus on diversity. There are more black people in this office than I've seen in our NYC building, unless one counts custodial staff. There are three engineers, one of whom is black. That doesn't seem like many, except that I know precisely one black engineer on my entire ninth floor of Google NYC.
There were once dozens of SWEs and SREs in this office, humming along, cranking out GWT, nerd shit etc. Google decided to close Atlanta engineering, and they mainly went as a group to Square. A recent diversity-themed TGIF explicitly mentioned the importance of recruiting Atlanta; it's too bad we won't go all the way and actually hire ATLiens.
Madison? Sure. Pittsburgh? Gotta stick CMU's robotics department somewhere! Ann Arbor? Go Blue! Atlanta? Nah. Larry, what did we do to you?
Believe it or not, some of us like it here. California doesn't have seasons, and people talk to crystals, and the fried chicken sucks. Manhattan won't let you have a yard to grill in, and you have to hunt trees like rare Pokémon, and what the fuck is that smell? It's godawfully hot, admittedly, but we don't screw around with our air conditioning, and there's plenty of room for pools. We can make effective use of the second-person (gender neutral!) plural "y'all" without being assumed mentally deficient, youz guys. Our families, people, and heritages are here, and no, by heritage I'm not talking about that goddamned flag.
If I help this company sell, it'll seed a half-dozen new black tech entrepreneurs. They'll go on to hire plenty more black engineers, and do it in Atlanta.
At Google, I'll be encouraged to take annual Bias-Busting training, gathering with other privileged honkeys to encourage one another's virtuous respect of black coworkers we don't have.
I'll then make money for Californian white people who don't think the South merits a lousy engineering office.
--nlb atlanta 2016-07-14