Any Spiderman fans out there?
Remember last year when Marvel cast Tom Holland as the new Spiderman? We were all a little disappointed, right? I mean, that’s the third Spiderman franchise in the last decade and they had to go with another white man? Even though Holland was great in Captain America: Civil War (that kid knows how to make you laugh), many audience members were justifiably frustrated.
After all, when Spiderman was first written into the comics, it made sense for him to be a nerdy white dude. He was supposed to be an underdog, the little guy, you know the trope. And as a geeky, science nerd he fit the stereotype.
Fast forward through the rise of Silicon Valley, and now the nerdy white dude is the man. White men have taken over the coding industry and asserted their dominance over the world of computer science. That’s why people were frustrated that another white man was playing Spiderman, because geeky white men are no longer the underdogs.
Although the entertainment industry may not yet have learned from its mistakes, the tech industry seems to be catching up. This past Thursday, Google opened a computer lab named Code Next in Oakland, California with the goal of specifically reaching out to latinx and black students. Code Next hopes to work with the Oakland community to encourage computer science education and grow diversity in the predominantly white-male coding world.
Google chose Oakland as the base for this computer lab for a very particular reason: Oakland is the fourth most multicultural city in the United States.
Today’s technology industry is overwhelmingly the domain of white men. Blacks make up only 7% of the industry and Latinos just 8%, likewise, women only compose 30% of the sector. That distinct lack of color can be linked to a lot of different causes: hiring discrimination, institutionalized racism, and on.
Yet one of the main causes that Google emphasizes for this initiative is that 51% of black and 47% of latinx students don’t have computer science classes in their schools. Oakland, on the other hand, hosts a population that is 26% black and 25% latinx. Looks like the perfect place to reverse industry discrimination.
Google has made a concerted effort to engage with the Oakland community in planning Code Next, and will hopefully continue to do so as the program launches. As Errol King of Code Next explained, “We decided from the beginning that we would build with the community, not for the community.” That’s such an important attitude when working with local communities, and especially when working with communities that have historically been marginalized or ignored.
As Code Next grows, Google hopes to launch a second lab in Harlem, New York. Eventually, the plan is to make Code Next into an open-source program that schools and educators across the world can implement.
We can’t wait to see a world where more women and people of color are involved in the computer science industry. It’s a step towards representation that we so direly need. The broader our cultural imagination, the more opportunities for all of us.Diversity in one sector promotes representation, and representation encourages us to push into new fields–that’s something we could all use.
Imagine, in another ten years we could be living in a world where “computer geek” doesn’t just conjure up images of crime-fighting white-superheroes, but pretty much anyone.