Of Course HBO Greenlit “Confederate” Because White Guys Get Funding For Every Idea (Even Bad Ones)
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Confederate — the upcoming HBO series from Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss that rewrites history to depict an America where the Confederate states successfully seceded — might actually end up being a good show. I don’t have much faith that it actually will be. This series is a re-imagining of America’s relationship with race, racism, slavery, class, and how each affects the micro, day-to-day minutiae of our existences, our national, cultural, and racial zeitgeists, and our existential understandings of what it means to be “White” and “Black” and “American.” These are canyonesque concepts for anyone to wrestle with — even those who’ve specifically devoted their social, political, professional, and academic lives to studying, examining, deconstructing, and making art about race. And there’s nothing in either Benioff’s or Weiss’s backgrounds or careers that suggests they’re equipped to do so. But, to (mis)quote Calvin Candie, a character from another big-budget re-imagining of slavery, they have my curiosity and my attention. And they might surprise me.
What hasn’t surprised me is that an idea this ambitious from two people who don’t seem to have any real experience with the nuanced and explosive subject matter is getting greenlighted. Because these two people are White men. And White men get their ambitious, insane, reckless, and inane ideas funded all of the fucking time. They get money for TV shows and movies no one will watch. Investments in start-ups no one asked for. Funding for apps no one will use. Loans for restaurants no one will eat at. Grants for condominium complexes no one will live in. Capital for websites no one will visit. Deals for books no one will read.
Women start companies at twice the rate of men, yet women comprise only 16% of tech founders. According to a study by First Round Capital, founding teams including a woman outperform their all-male peers by 63%, but female CEOs get only 2.7% of all venture funding, while women of color get virtually none: 0.2%.
The fact that black women are educated and entrepreneurial yet so underfunded is a confluence of broadening thoughts of diversity, use of technology, and economic policy. The Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 increased limits for tax write-offs for startups, such as the ability to deduct cell phone bills and depreciation, and health care costs. This was great news for black women, who tend to be younger when they found their companies, have more debt, and less access to capital. Black women have greater difficulty receiving funding from investors and creditors, and difficulty securing lending due to racial bias.
But tax write-offs don’t make up for the funding gap. When black women are funded, they get the short end of the stick, with the average raise round totaling just $36,000. Compare that figure to the composite of the average white male startup founder, who banks an average of $1.3 million in funding. The secondary problem with not receiving mainstream large VC funding? Scaling.
While the focus here is Black women in tech, this standard transcends fields. It exists in media and entertainment. In real estate and academia. In for-profit businesses and non-profit organizations. Forget about getting into the door. We — and “we” in this context is “anyone who isn’t a White male” — need to produce all types of evidence and receipts and successes in order to just get an email reply. While White men are allowed to fail. Repeatedly. And given more leeway to dream up new and random-ass shit because they know if they keep getting shots at the dartboard, they’ll eventually hit the target. Which results in a self-fulfilling circle jerk where White dudes get the money because investors trust them more than anyone else because White dudes’ successes are more spectacular because White dudes get more chances to be spectacular because White dudes get the money because investors trust them more than anyone else.
Still, maybe Confederate will surprise us. Who knows? But I do know that if it crashes and burns, Benioff and Weiss will get another chance. And another chance after that chance. And another chance after that chance. And another…