Why Isn’t Open Source A Gateway For Coders Of Color?

Saturday, December 7th, 2013

Why isn’t open source a gateway for coders of color?, NPR naively asks:

You don’t have to know somebody or have a degree in software engineering or get hired to participate in an open-source project. You can jump right in and start writing some code.


But in Haibel’s experience, the open-source world is even whiter and more male than the world of proprietary software. “It’s very clear that the open source community is whiter than the software community as a whole,” she says.

Which is to say: pretty darn white. According to a report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than eight in 10 software developers in 2012 were white. We should note that while white developers were overrepresented, so were Asian-Americans. So it’s not like people of color are not in software development; but blacks and Latinos are significantly underrepresented.

Commenter Ross notes that the “article presents the usual slurry,” but the “comments are faintly heartening,” like this one:

Excuses, excuses, excuses. That is all I see.

I am black. I consider myself a rookie software developer. I focus mostly on mobile computing. I did not attend a higher learning institution to study computer science. Three quarters of my computer skills come from just “messing around” trying to do whatever I want to do at the time. I use superuser and stackoverflow extensively.

There are only 24 hours in a day so we make time for what we care about. My peers spend their free time going to night clubs, watching useless television shows, and chasing endless fashion trends. They only consume. They are the quintessential example of what it is to be a consumer. They are the people that companies aim to have as customers. Many of them have skills but neglect to even attempt to put their skills to work. And when you ask them why, all they have for you is excuses. My race this, my gender that. We are living in an age when it is easier than ever before in human history to use your skills and ideas to positively impact your world. There are a multitude of projects going on around even just in the United States that are audacious and are chocked full of ambition. It amazes me that even with all the curious and indispensable tools of today some people miraculously still feel disenfranchised and dejected. In some cases I have gone as far as telling people EXACTLY what they should do to get started. They did not have to think. They only had to act, and shed their fear of their own potential yet even this was a step too far away from the comfort zone. After considering my experiences, I come to the conclusion that it is perhaps not so ridiculous that the world’s richest 1% owns the vast majority of wealth on the planet.

You cannot free a man’s mind. He must free himself.

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