Let’s all make one resolution for 2022: We will not get angry when someone tells us their opinion. Agree, disagree, egregious, ridiculous, disgusting, silly, whatever, even social media opinions are valid. You do not have to agree, but let’s give our fellow adults the good old American privilege to be heard without being met with rancor.
Instead, when you hear an opinion that you do not agree with, be glad you heard it. Think of it as a gift that will pay unseen dividends because now you can operate more effectively, using new, useful information you did not have before.
I’m speaking of venture capitalist and entrepreneur Joe Lonsdale’s latest PR snafu. According to a TechCrunch article published Monday, last week, Lonsdale tweeted a response to someone else’s tweet that venture capitalists are racist:
“A real view: average black culture needs to step it up and stop having as many kids born out of wedlock (statistical indicator of underperformance) / who don’t value education or spend as much time on homework,” wrote Lonsdale in the now-deleted series of tweets.”
I’m not sure why being born on the “right” side of the blanket should automatically exempt one from racism in the venture capital space. And I admit to scratching my head over this random negativity and the sweeping generalization suggesting that having unmarried parents means you don’t value education. But this unnecessary foolishness immediately brought disdain from a number of high-profile names like Yahoo founder Jerry Yang, and actor Leonardo DiCaprio.
TechCrunch received additional context from Lonsdale via email saying “that he was “jumping on a flight” but that “somebody edited a screenshot and took a tweet totally out of context in order to cause outrage.” He further added that “the people attacking me have political motivations. You will note they are almost entirely on the far left and prefer divisive attacks vs working towards positive solutions together.”
He said: “I commented how past racism likely caused issues with some cultures today that we need to discuss and address, and given how terrible some of the things these communities experienced in the past were – red lining, Jim Crow, and so many terrible past issues – it isn’t necessarily fair to blame 100% of problems today on racism.”
I really don’t know if this is accurate. The original, problematic tweets have been deleted, but the rebuttal/defense sounds like BS. It sounds like, I got my hand slapped for being stupid, so let me backtrack in an attempt to clean up my mess. He went on to remind of the millions of dollars he’s invested in Black founders, and to say that he doesn’t expect to get a fair hearing. As it’s apparently all media’s job these days to kick up fuss and sensationalize everything.
Now, that I can say is categorically untrue. It has always been the media’s job to create sensation. That’s not a new thing. But when you’re making statements like his, how tough is it? Simply reporting the facts, a la you said this, is sufficient, no? Further, media outlets like TechCrunch don’t really deal in sensational journalism. It’s why I retweet their content regularly. From what I can see, they consistently offer fair, balanced, fact-driven articles in their tech-centric lane.
We also have to consider the fact that Lonsdale has a track record for saying silly things. The TechCrunch piece said “more recently, he called “any man in an important position who takes 6 months of leave for a newborn…a loser.”
But the point is not whether he meant what he said, or if he was right or wrong. I can’t help but wonder, why are we not low key happy he shared his truth? Isn’t it better to know who someone is, and to be able to interact — or choose not to interact — with them based on a full picture of who they are and what they believe in?
We should probably thank him. At least, Black founders looking for investment in the current uber competitive fundraising market should. Now, they know what to expect. They can operate, source, etc. from a more enlightened perspective that might save them time, effort, and ultimately use this knowledge to win by seeking out more suitable venture capital support.
“Lightship Capital GP Brian Brackeen meanwhile said in a tweet that …“there is no shame in being him in SF. The culture there is to accept people like him. Diversity in tech can’t improve until we diversify the geography,” TechCrunch reported.
That’s sad, but that information, while not new, is also a kind of power. As there are new VC options outside Silicon Valley that Black founders can source.
For now, Lonsdale is still busy backtracking and doing the dance to try and prove he’s not a racist, but I’ll end my first first blog of 2022, and my first blog in awhile, by saying this:
When someone tells you who they are, listen. Then act accordingly. Fussing on social media is useless. Don’t waste your time and energy being angry. Instead, be grateful you know the truth.
Now, if people refused to fund his business ventures that would be an appropriate response. That’s something the media should rush to report. Everyone busily hoping on the beat up Joe train might be better served to direct a critical eye to the people who continue to do business with him.