Candi Castleberry Singleton

My Twitter. My Facebook.

So often you hear African Americans make this proclamation about these and other social media that we over index in. We can’t live without them.

To wit:

  • 55 percent of Black millennials spend an hour or more daily on social networking sites; 11 percent higher than the total millennial population
  • 29 percent of Black millennials say they spend three or more hours daily on social media; that’s 44 percent higher than that of the total millennial population
  • 64 percent of Black millennials agree that they expect the quality of video on their mobile phone to be as good as that of their TV; that’s 21 percent higher than the total millennial population

Nielson came out with these numbers last year, numbers that painfully hammered home how things you profess your love for simply don’t always love you back. The tech industry loves Black folks just as long as they are consuming it, clicking on it and purchasing from it. But don’t give too much consideration to achieving upward mobility from it because, well, so far the industry’s not having it.

Google’s 2017 diversity report revealed that change in hiring practices continue to move at a glacial pace. Ninety-one percent of Google’s employees are White or Asian. The Silicon Valley giant reached out to White women in 2016 as well, making them 21 percent of their hires, including new Vice President of Diversity Danielle Brown.

Brown held the same title at Intel and, well, let’s just say that no one is going to confuse her with Branch Rickey. In her last year in that role, African Americans made up 2.5 percent of the work force, so expecting her to usher in rolling change at Google, where the African-American workforce has flatlined at 2 percent since 2013, is probably unrealistic.

This is reminiscent of the way things moved in print journalism, that dying industry which for years masqueraded as a beacon of objectivity but for decades has given little more than lip service to creating the required multicultural workforce to cover a melting pot America. When White journalists, out of realistic fear for life and limb, were unable to cover the riot-torn streets of Watts, Detroit and Newark following the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968, the percentage of Black journalists at newspapers was just 5 percent. And when the Columbia Journalism Review and the American Society of News Editors revisited this in 2015 they found the new number, 4.78 percent, to be even worse.

This is why I’m mildly elated to share with you two names that you should have heard of but likely didn’t while staring at your smartphone.

In May, Apple tapped Denise Young Smith as its first vice president of diversity and inclusion. An African-American woman, Smith, who has been at Apple since 1997 and worked her way up the ladder, most recently held the position of vice president of global talent and human resources. She is a lifer. She has an intimate understanding of what works and what does not, and she reports directly to Apple CEO Tim Cook, arguably the most influential person across the industry.

Apple had been without a director of inclusion since Jeffrey Siminoff, who is White, left for Twitter in 2015. Siminoff left his post at Twitter in March of this year after the social media giant’s diversity report revealed that Whites and Asians represent nearly 90 percent of Twitter’s workforce. Meanwhile, Blacks and Hispanics combined make up just 7 percent of the tech force. Leadership roles in the company were even more microscopic, with Blacks holding just 2 percent of those positions.

It became apparent to all that Twitter had problems back in 2015 when Leslie Miley was laid off. As he walked out the door, the only Black engineering manager in the company at the time, Miley was told by the Senior Vice President of Engineering Alex Roetter that “diversity is important, but we won’t lower the bar.”

And this is why last week’s hiring of Candi Castleberry Singleton as Twitter’s VP of diversity has been universally greeted with optimism by those tired of excuses similar to Roetter’s that have been issued ad nauseam for generations. She led diversity at Motorola, and she also led the Global Inclusion Center of Expertise at Sun Microsystems. Like Smith, she has skin — Brown skin — in the game.

Installing White women in these high-powered diversity positions usually helps White women and White women only. They do absolutely nothing to increase opportunities for “others.” In case you’re not aware, you become a statistical “other” when your relevance is viewed as negligible.

Hopefully, Smith and Singleton can start turning this around. Hopefully, expressions like “my Facebook” and “my Twitter” will one day represent more than unrequited feelings.

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