Playing on a Langston Hughes poem – what happens to a black founder who is ousted? Are they forgotten, like words on the tip of your tongue? Or worshiped as a deity and then cast into the sun?
The topic is often tricky to think about and layered in his research, as the reasons for starting a black founder are shrouded in unknown intent:
A black founder could have seriously screwed up – but is the retribution fair? Is it harder than what their white counterparts would have received?
A black founder could face an accusation – but was it suffused with microaggressive anger?
Would things have developed as they did if the founder was white?
Any time a black founder is removed from or criticized at their company, concerns arise about figuring out what happened. This makes such conversations difficult.
“It is in our best interest to act with the understanding that our mistakes cost more, hurt more and are rarely forgiven.” Oladosu Teyibo, Founder, Analog Teams
For example, last week the news came out that Kimberly Bryant, the founder of Black Girls Code, has been fired from the organization she has built for decades. The reception was mixed. Founders who spoke to gotechbusiness.com agreed that the employees who claimed Bryant had committed misconduct were right to speak out; they also said the BGC board was too quick to impeach Bryant and denied her a fair trial.
“Two things can be true at the same time” Minda Harts, an equality and inclusion consultant, told gotechbusiness.com about the BGC situation. “Everyone involved deserved better.”
Aside from Bryant, there have been a few high-profile cases of black founders being expelled from their organizations. Marceau Michel was recently removed from his venture capital fund Black Founders Matter for matters undisclosed. Brian Brackeen was kicked out of his company Kairos in 2018, with the board calling “intentional misconduct.” Other founding situations have flown under the radar; many are still too afraid to speak out.
What is known is that when black founders are lost, the entire community suffers.