The timing of this article: Black founder who went on epic tweetstorm ahead of YC demo day gets funding couldn’t have been better. It popped up around the time I was preparing to confront the director of an entrepreneurship hub at my school for kicking me and a partner out of the space while we were talking about our start up project. I was told that the space was inappropriate for us. Translation: Who the actual fuck do y’all really think you are kicking it in a space for entrepreneurs when you’re obviously not.
In regards to the article I'm glad this conversation is gaining attention because its my personal experience as a black entrepreneur. I’m having the same, typical issues of racism as I’m applying to funding, and programs. The same ‘Kimani everything’s amazing with the idea, your presentation, and your skills and ability to execute are the best we’ve seen but I just don’t feel like we’re a good fit for you’ That’s basically the part where they can’t detect their own racial bias and think its so awkward and weird that they can’t figure out why they disapprove.
Black entrepreneurs are cognizant of that fact and because of that many of them try to make themselves palatable to the investor/incubator world which is very very white and thats dangerous. Ultimately, not challenging the entrepreneurship world to accept and work on its racism will normalize it.
Eventually the stats, the culture, and the outcomes are going to reflect that racism and some day some annoying whites with a saviour complex are going to noticed and wonder why? and because of the pervasive nature of racism that everyone is under of the influence of they’re actually going to ask, dumbfounded af, ‘the chicken or the egg’ question: Do black entrepreneurs have less success in pursing these opportunities because of racism or are black entrepreneurs just not as skilled (I’m sure these are conversations that are already being had btw).
I’m not gonna wait for the day this crap is so normalized that some jack ass might feel comfortable telling me I would have done better if I dress less like a, insert code for black person here: thug, criminal etc. (they always change with the times). That’s where we’re headed when we don’t name racism.
I’m sure every black entrepreneur, especially young ones that don’t ascribe to notions of respectability, has felt the need to really express that they’re entrepreneurs in entrepreneurship spaces because they know just being there isn’t enough to have that assumed. And like in the case of what happened to me; being kicked out of the entrepreneurship hub at my school I know that it can even come at the risk of our safety.
So I understand and support Black entrepreneurs who don’t step into the ring when it comes to addressing anti-blackness but I like this article a lot because it makes the case for being unapologetically black. It says being true to yourself and your experiences can have positive results.
This article along with great conversations with my mentor really developed the way that I approached the incident that happened to me. It helped me be strong, and also focused on why I was going to address it if I did decide to and what my intentions and desired results were for it.
In the end I don’t believe someone being called out for their racism can ever make up for it because I’m completely against being grateful to white people for treating me like a human being. I will say that the director was apologetic, empathetic, and receptive, sincere and encouraging of the fact that I challenged them on their racism and I think thats a start to something thats a little better than it was before for the next black entrepreneur in that space.
To sum things up it’s impossible to separated being black from being an entrepreneur. It creates challenges that probably no one will write about until this century is over but as the saying goes pressure makes diamonds. Naming racism and making blackness apart of our entrepreneurship is like adding a gold seal to your legacy. Blackness is a badge that says you’re on another level 👊🏿 and when you get your break you’ll be a force ready to FUCK SHIT UP. So to the Black entrepreneur: in every entrepreneurially focused space you occupy you’ve been through 100x more shit that the guy next to you just to be there and that’s apart of the story everyone deserves to hear.