In the U.S., it’s as if laws and regulations only apply to people of color — and when people of color bend them, they lose their lives. When white tech CEOs bend the laws at massive scale, they’re rewarded with billions of dollars and prestige.
“You know how Silicon Valley advocates an Uber-esque model where everybody is an entrepreneur, disrupting markets while the law lags behind?” Anil Dash, a prominent figure and diversity advocate in the tech industry, posted on Twitter earlier today. In a follow-up tweet, he wrote, “Realize that #EricGarner & #AltonSterling were brutally killed for being black while selling (cigarettes & CDs) cheap consumer products.”
Last night, two Baton Rouge, Louisiana police officers fatally shot Alton Sterling, a 37-year-old black man whose left arm was pinned down, according to a video captured by a bystander. Sterling’s right arm was not visible in the video. In the video, two officers are seen holding down Sterling and later someone can be heard saying, “He’s got a gun! Gun!” Shortly after, the video shows an officer pulling out a gun. You can’t see the shots fired, but you do hear them. Sterling was pronounced dead on the scene from multiple gunshot wounds to the chest and back.
Police were initially responding to a tip from an anonymous 911 caller that a man in a red shirt was selling CDs outside a convenience store and pointed a gun at someone, according to the Baton Rouge Police Department.
Dash drew a compelling connection between how Uber and Airbnb’s businesses — both run by white men — are predicated on breaking the law and asking for forgiveness. They’re rewarded with billions of dollars in valuations, while Sterling and Eric Garner lose their lives for selling CDs and cigarettes, respectively.
“#AltonSterling & #EricGarner were killed by cops for bending the law to far lesser degree than execs at AirBNB & Uber. Billions vs bullets,” Dash tweeted. That “billions vs bullets” comment really jumped out at me. It pretty much sums up what racism, anti-blackness and white privilege looks like.
Dash later clarified that his “point on this thread is to call voices in the tech community [he’s] part of to speak up against violently antiblack systems.”
Other people in the tech industry have chimed in today, like Shervin Pishevar, executive chairman of Hyperloop One and founder at Sherpa Capital, and Tiffani Ashley Bell of The Human Utility, formerly known as Detroit Water Project, who engaged in a back-and-forth on Twitter about developing tools to combat police brutality and anti-blackness. It started when Pishevar tweeted an idea for a tech solution that could potentially save lives from police brutality.
Pishevar also said that “we should use all tools and techniques to stamp out these murderous rates of brutality and fight anti-blackness,” and that he has already started doing some work around this. I’ve reached out to Pishevar and will update this story when I get more details.