Is the Playing Field Level?

Every few weeks, a member of the Xi Xi Chapter of Theta Nu Xi Multicultural Sorority, Inc. tackles a diversity-related topic that interests her and posts her thoughts for the intellectual benefit of all.

Members of the Xi Xi Chapter represent a variety of races, cultures, religions, backgrounds, and lifestyles.  Each woman’s unique voice and perspective push the entire chapter out of its comfort zone and into real understanding of the world around us.  It is only when we recognize and appreciate difference that we gain the ability to critically engage our own worldviews.

Is the Playing Field Level? – Miriam Musco

The American Dream is built on the premise than anyone in our country can succeed if they work hard enough.  While many people whole-heartedly believe this,  the notion was recently challenged within the technology world.  Jamelle Bouie, a black journalist, wrote an essay observing how few writers of color are published in tech magazines or blogs.  The systemic social and economic inequality that underrepresented groups face in America, Bouie argued, translates into an atmosphere in the tech world that is friendlier and more accommodating to white men’s careers than to any other group.


Not everyone was happy with this conclusion, and some took to the internet to voice their dissent.  Jason Calacanis, a white tech entrepreneur, wrote on his blog that “the tech and media worlds are meritocracies” and therefore provide the same opportunities to all writers.  Outlining the hard work he did to push his way to the top, Calacanis argued that effort is equally rewarded and that those who don’t succeed must not be trying enough.


It can be comforting to think this way:  to assume that as long as you do all the right things, you can be sure of success.  But looking into what really happens in America paints a different story.  In 2009, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that the median income for white families was $51,861, while for black families the median income was $32,584.  Inequality is also seen in high school dropout and college completion rates, and all of this indicates that people of different races begin their working lives with vastly different resources.


This is not to discount the value of hard work – certainly, anyone who wants to do well in their careers needs to put in a lot of effort.  But the lack of minority writers in the tech field is just one symptom of the entrenched inequalities that face people of color in many aspects of life.  It is important to remember that success depends on many factors, and that the American Dream doesn’t always work out for everyone.


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