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A busload of Googlers trying to get to work this morning were met with a blockade that felt very 2014: For about 40 minutes, a dozen or so protesters immobilized the double-decker bus, stretching out a banner that read, “Save Our Homes” and waving road-sign-style placards proclaiming, “We are the last 3% of black SF” and “End the two-tiered system.” There was also musical accompaniment!

The protest, which regurgitated a string of similar actions two years ago (without, thank goodness, any actual barfing), came just as the tech shuttle program was scheduled to resurface at the Board of Supervisors. At the last minute, three supervisors struck a tentative deal with the Municipal Transportation Agency and tech firms to exend the program for a year while study of its impact on the city continues, as KQED notes.

The protesters’ “End the two-tiered system” sign wouldn’t have been out of place at last night’s Crunchies awards, aka Silicon Valley’s answer to the Oscars. That was the message of several African American women who took the stage, though they used the subtler language of the boardroom and said so without the accompaniment of drums. 

When the chatting platform Slack won the award for fastest-rising startup, the company sent four female engineers of color onstage to collect the trophy. Glittering in their dresses, the foursome formed a very intentional live version of the #ILookLikeAnEngineer hashtag Before leaving the stage, one said, “We are in formation”—invoking Beyoncé’s latest song, “Formation,” which forces black experience to the center even of white audiences’ enjoyment of her music. No black power–style fists here, though. Instead, the group made a self-referential shrug, palms skyward.

The image of those four women onstage, claiming a trophy amid a sea of mostly white, mostly male faces, was more powerful than the scripted barbs of the evening’s host, comedian and Brooklyn Nine-Nine actress Chelsea Peretti. Sample bons mots: “They asked me to speak on the issue of diversity in tech world. Let me float out a kooky idea: hire a non-white host.” And: “The last time I saw this many rich white guys in one room was when I was getting gang-banged at the Rosewood Hotel.” (Comedic pro tip: Pointed jokes about a male-dominated industry can be made more palatable with a little sexual violence humor.)

Slack’s diversity pose was the evening’s most Instagrammable moment for the question of tech and race—plaudits are still bouncing around social media today—and was notable for being both sincere and good PR. (With black engineers making up 7.8 percent of the total, Slack does better than most other tech companies.)

Last night’s Crunchies, the award’s ninth year, introduced a new honor, the awkwardly named Include Diversity award. (It sounds like some sort of sheepishly agreed-to command, as Peretti suggested.) When the winner, Kimberly Bryant of Black Girls Code, took the stage to collect the trophy, it slowly became clear that she was not leaving the stage until she had named and lauded the work of each of the four other nominees. In the room, San Francisco sensed some resignation as the audience realized that the program wasn’t immediately moving on to the next item. As soon as Bryan uttered the phrase “the next black Bill Gates” (the evening’s second callback to “Formation”), the room burst into applause, which Bryant patiently waited out in order to finish her remarks. “All the diversity nominees deserve this award so that there comes a day where we don't need this award,” she said.

It was a small act, Bryant’s polite refusal to heed the event’s informal directive to say a few words and kindly get off the stage. And, with its modicum of social discomfort, it pushed the diversity question off the teleprompter script and into the air in the room. And even, just maybe, onto the Twitter feeds of stranded Google passengers.


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