At the New York screening of the latest “Black in America” installment last night, CNN host Soledad O’Brien told the audience that the documentary is a head-on look at a topic that usually “makes you squirm.”
O’Brien wasn’t exaggerating. Advanced screenings of “The New Promised Land: Inside Silicon Valley,” which follows eight black entrepreneurs (led by Angela Benton, pictured here with O’Brien) as they attempt to launch technology companies in an industry that is overwhelmingly white and male, have set off a recent media firestorm.
In the middle of it is blogger-turned-investor Michael Arrington, who says in the documentary that he does not know a single black entrepreneur in Silicon Valley. (Arrington claims he was “ambushed”; O’Brien responded last week, saying their interview was “pleasant.”)
In a panel discussion after the screening, O’Brien invited Clarence Wooten (pictured), a black entrepreneur who launched his company at a TechCrunch event, to respond. In the documentary, Arrington says Wooten “could have launched a clown show on stage, and I would have put him up there,” a comment that was greeted with jeers from a lively audience at the Tribeca Grill Screening Room.
“When I heard the comment, or read the comment, because I didn’t really see it, I heard it initially on CNN Money — I was shocked,” Wooten said. “Immediately, I called him and I’m like, ‘WTF?’ And Mike told me it was a long interview, and initially he was caught off guard.
“I don’t match the pattern. I don’t look like a young twenty-something who dropped out of Yale when I walk in the door,” Wooten continued. “…If I were to spend a lot of time thinking about, ‘Is it racially biased? Am I being discriminated against?’ I wouldn’t be able to accomplish anything.”
“The New Promised Land: Inside Silicon Valley” airs Sunday night at 8pmET/PT.