First let me start with the description of the event that I, aka “the minority,” just attended:
“ThePLUG Daily (make sure to subscribe) presents Charlotte’s first interactive event designed to immerse black tech entrepreneurs, professionals, and enthusiasts in the Queen City’s local startup ecosystem. This new monthly after-work event connects you with Charlotte’s most notable innovators and business leaders over drinks and appetizers while getting a sneak-peak at new products and an opportunity to share your area of expertise.”
Next, let me offer up a few disclaimers:
- I’m well aware that this event does not need, nor is seeking, validation from a random white dude whatsoever.
- Tito’s Vodka was one of the sponsors (I wrote this immediately upon getting back to my office after the event so pardon the tone…)
- Said random white dude’s writing about said event may have un-implied/privileged undertones despite the many clichés of his whole background and existence, i.e. growing up in an “urban environment” and having lots of black friends, etc.
Ok, now after that unfortunate introduction that hopefully in the future won’t even need to be written prior to such subjects because race won’t even be a factor in life whatsoever, let’s get to the key point of all this: random white dude attended the #BlkTechClt event and had his mind blown.
First of all, not like I’m surprised by this at all, but I saw a truly passionate and capable community of brilliant minds, both young and old, male and female, all coming together to empower and encourage one another to do whatever it takes to succeed. There were lawyers, bankers, financial professionals, coders, scholars, hobbyists, dreamers, artists, and just about every type of person you can imagine together sharing ideas, plans, business models, and projects they were working on and receiving feedback, insights, and suggestions from genuinely interested parties. It was an electrifying atmosphere.
Secondly, not only did I experience the reversed perspective of what it must (is? could?) be like being a minority attending a typical professional networking event, but I also noted that I was likely the only one that even noticed, or at least mentioned, the fact that I wasn’t black. Even though everyone embraced me without a second’s thought, the shear self-consciousness of constantly wondering, “Do these people not like me/ do they think I don’t belong/are they wondering why I’m here because I’m white/different” led to a perpetual awkwardness that forced me to bring it up and try to explain myself (note: this is never a good idea) even though I spent a great deal of time growing up in similar scenarios.
To say it was a cultural experience/awakening is an understatement. Because of my background, I tend to try and emphasize that race isn’t an issue to me personally whatsoever. Now I see however, that on the other side that “luxury” or perhaps “ignorance” isn’t even allowed to exist. Those subconscious thoughts stick with you ALWAYS, and are constantly nagging underneath the surface.
Lastly, I made some incredible contacts with potential clients, referral sources, and strategic partners. I would be so lucky to get a chance to work with and collaborate with some of these entrepreneurs that are destined for greatness. I can now only hope that my whiteness doesn’t keep me from consideration (ironic how the tables are turning isn’t it?) and that the new era of diverse businesses begins to thrive.