It brings me great pain and disappointment to once again address the inappropriate behavior of the Silicon Valley Organization (SVO).
After the blatantly racist attack ad, which served to perpetuate fear of African Americans and low-income families, the NAACP had hoped to see the SVO “do the right thing.” However, their idea of the right thing is grossly skewed if they believe that bringing up a Black man to speak at their press conference will erase all of the organization’s wrongdoing.
In the book “Invisible Man,” Ralph Ellison calls attention to the legacy of dual agency Black leaders such as Booker T. Washington and tokenism’s subversiveness. Today’s troubling case of tokenism is Board Chair Glenn Perkins, who said on behalf of the SVO, “something wrong was done, but it’s time for us to go forward and fix it.”
Time to move forward? His restaging of this trauma reminds us of the frightening reality that Black identity discourse is also fraught with psychological danger: guilt, anxiety, fear, shame and alienation.
To quote from the great Toni Morrison, “Listen, baby, people do funny things. Specially us. The cards are stacked against us, and just trying to stay in the game, stay alive and in the game, makes us do funny things. Things we cannot help. Things that make us hurt one another.”
And hurt the community is indeed when we see a person of color speak in defense of an organization that has brought deep pain throughout Silicon Valley.
In the 19th century, the most photographed man was Frederick Douglass. William Edward Burghardt DuBois and Douglass knew that Black images had the power to sway the American consciousness, and they used pictures to showcase our race’s achievements.
The tradition continues today as society applauds people of color’s success but ignores the systemic racism oppressing them. As a result, the Black elite is an obstacle towards Black liberation.
I would hope Perkins, a Harvard educated Black man, would be aware of what has been called the “bad is Black” effect, a race-based hypothesis that suggests people have negative views of darker-skinned images. These views are damaging and manifest in microaggressions against people of color.
Dr. Christina Friedlaender defines microaggressions as “subtle yet harmful forms of discriminatory behavior experienced by members of oppressed groups.” Her research contributes to numerous other studies that support this race-based hypothesis. Further, it shows how disgusting the SVO’s attack ad was by selecting an image to equate Black people as deviant and dangerous members of our society.
There is a corporate culture of racial insensitivity and possible racial bias within the Silicon Valley Organization. It has a culture that is toxic and undervalues the contributions of African Americans. There is a pattern of disrespectful and discriminatory behavior from the Silicon Valley Organization.
Our open letter to the boards of directors of the SVO, California Apartment Association and Santa Clara County Association of Realtors said: “We did not get here because of one racist image. We have not become this divided as a community and as a nation through only a few isolated actions. We are here because people in power have persistently and routinely denied the needs, welfare and security of communities of color. In doing so, they have caused generations of harm and suffering. As a community, we have still never fully engaged in the process of truth-telling and reconciliation to heal from our racist past and racist present. We are more than willing to hold public hearings to investigate the implicit bias trainer’s recent findings.”
To our dismay, the Silicon Valley Organization did not listen to us. Their internal investigation took less than a week, cut out the community from the process and held no one accountable.
The SVO demonstrates their organization is a place for “DINO” heterodox Democrats and does nothing for small businesses or nonprofits who make up its membership. For them to send out Perkins and think that will be enough is a grave miscalculation.
We expected to meet with SVO leaders to air these grievances and to spur corrective action and have yet to do so. Their failure to adequately address and handle this controversy only shows that they are transactional and don’t want to build authentic relationships with Silicon Valley communities.
The open wounds that SVO has caused are deep, and it will take more than bandages or Perkins to heal the hurt rippling throughout the Bay Area. We demand action and call for the resignation of Eddie Troung and Madison Nguyen.
Jethroe Moore is president of the San Jose/Silicon Valley branch of the NAACP.