Oh Hey Mike Judge,
As you know, I tweeted my disgust to you about #SiliconValleyHBO’s second episode and my extreme disappointment that the first Black characters you introduced on this show were a Black woman stripper named “Mochachino” and some unnamed, scary Black man who served as her handler and enforcer. Way to go, Mike. I did say I “hate y’all” and I meant it. I wish I were not so disappointed. I wish I could shrug it off and say, “Well, they’re all White, what should I have expected?” but I can’t because that’s simply untrue. Those were not my expectations, despite your whiteness and privileged position.
So, let me back up to the first episode. In fact, let me back up, period.
I’m a Black nerd. I’m not a programmer, software engineer or the type of techie that can be quickly snatched up by one of these startups in Silicon Valley and command my pay. I’m actually an academic and an artist who is also a lover of technology, a social entrepreneur, a playwright, comedy writer and performing artist. Yeah, I know it may sound like a bit much but my ancestors are awesome and my cultural inheritance is great, so I have no choice but to be the same. Anyway… I do know a lot of Black techies like that. And they’re awesome.
Because many of us are disrupters, just like you. Or so I thought. Speaking of disrupters, I cheered and live-tweeted and instagramed Mindy Kaling’s appearance at SXSW 2014 but had to immediately reply to her last night with my frustration about “Silicon Valley” after she cheered for everyone to watch it.
I’m mad because I laughed out loud when I watched the first episode of “Silicon Valley” on HBO. I recognized and related to the entire culture just from being around folks, from the stories I’ve heard and the conferences I attend. My favorite experience was going to an American Express-sponsored Jay Z concert for the first time at SXSW 2013 (because I certainly could not afford his tickets otherwise) and a quick-flash exchange between myself and a gentleman who worked at Goldman Sachs. We both had on our SXSW badges. My pupils must have dilated a bit too much when I noticed his workplace because even in the midst of all of Jay Z’s swagger and this dude’s enthusiasm, he quickly crossed his arms and hid his badge from me. I still laugh about that moment. In fact, I’m laughing now. It’s pure comedy.
Which brings me back to you and your team. I wrote that I “hate y’all” because I was in disbelief (though I should not have been) that you would traffic in and perpetuate such deep stereotypes about Black people in a sitcom whose entire purpose is to make fun of, point and laugh at, undermine and, in your words, “shit on” the ridiculous culture of Silicon Valley. You did no such thing with those characters. The Black characters were mere props in a standard, racist, white American imagination and neither did anything to move the plot forward. I’m so disgusted and angry because during the first episode when the ethnic breakdown of the startup dream team was introduced, it was spot-on in terms of its accuracy—a handful of hippy-ish white guys, the necessary Indian or Asian and, yep, no women, no Black people, nobody else. Spot on. And when Peter yelled out “Who ate my fucking quinoa?!,” towards the end of the show, I howled. I was with you. Even in a show that showcased a bunch of white dudes in the beginning, I knew we were together. I knew we were going to disrupt. I knew you were going to start some shit and I was here for it.
Until episode two.
So let me be clear. I know Silicon Valley is white. Super white. Whiter than the whitest white, white on rice, white. Silicon Valley is so white and so male, people of color and women barely show up in the stats, except for the necessary Indian and Asian techies. Black people barely show up on the radar at all. Indeed, in the write-ups of the show, you all said you did your research. You went to TechCrunch Disrupt, you hung out in Silicon Valley, you even have a techie on your team to make sure all the tech stuff is correct and appropriate. I’m sure that there’s even accuracy in the usage of Black strippers in Silicon Valley because as we all know, that’s one of the reasons why Harlem was En Vogue. I get it.
But what you were supposed to do was disrupt. Your job, in your stated arts activism, in your advocacy is to introduce the Black nerd disrupter. It’s his/her time. That was supposed to be your first Black character, in a show about Silicon Valley. And as an artist, I don’t even want to be the one to dictate how you should have done that because you said you did your research. Right? So, surely, somebody, anybody from your team saw, “Black in America: The New Promise Land – Silicon Valley,” right? I mean, Wayne Sutton gave you the plot line right there. Your Black character, the Black nerd in Silicon Valley who’s a part of another startup and may be joining a new team, is supposed to be walking home and get stopped by the cops because him walking with khakis, an iphone and a bookbag is supposed to be that open declaration that he should be stopped by the cops. After the encounter and he’s let go, your camera is supposed to pan across the landscape, zero in on his face as he mutters to himself that he “doesn’t need street cred, he needs startup cred.” Enter the laugh track… and scene.
Mike, you retweeted this last week. Do you agree with it or nah?
I don’t really “hate y’all” but then again, I do. You ruined your show for me and I’m only 40 minutes in, for goodness sakes. You’re probably not a racist, Mike Judge. Nor is probably anyone on your team. But the fact that you wrote that, the fact that you all approved it, then produced it and cast it and shot it and aired it, tells me that you’re all suspect now. What you did was racist. As hell. One of the reasons why I’m writing my book, “The Bombastic Brilliance of Black Twitter” is because the question as to “Where does Black genius live?” is rarely, if ever, answered in the United States. Indeed, as Sheree R. Thomas taught us in “Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora,” we have to go into intergalactic space to find it. We are from the future.
I just thought you knew that; and you would incorporate it into your comedy made to disrupt the hilarious, contradictory, comfy, white, so-called liberal, hipster capitalism we’ve all come to know and love (or hate) as Silicon Valley.
But you didn’t. And I am both mad and sad about it.
I just expect more from you hackers and creatives who seem so smart on the one hand and so dumb on the other. Please do better with your platform.
In the meantime, I’m going to keep on writing my own comedy and writing about “me,” writing about us because that is what Langston Hughes would want me to do.
p.s. Shonda Rhimes is a disrupter in Television. Take some notes.
p.p.s. Because, Denzel Washington on Hollywood Racism in Comedy, that’s why.
About Dr. Goddess:
Dr. Goddess is a Scholar, Artist, Activist, Techie and Intergalactic Traveler who was recently featured in an Associated Press Story on the power of #BlackTwitter, which was reprinted in the New York Times. She gave a solo presentation at SXSW 2012 on “The Bombastic Brilliance of Black Twitter,” which is the title of her upcoming book. Follow her on Twitter @drgoddess.