Review: Entrepreneurship: The Ultimate White Privilege?

Jordan Weissman in the Atlantic wrote a piece called: “Entrepreneurship: The Ultimate White Privileged?

It goes like this: “A new study finds that future entrepreneurs score high on measures of teenage delinquency. They’re also disproportionately white, highly educated, and male. Here’s why that might not be a coincidence.”

He cites the “Ross Levine, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, and Yona Rubinstein, a professor at the London School of Economics,  working paper that goes through personality traits, and earnings of entrepreneurs.”

He goes on to state that one of the main points of the study says that the majority of entrepreneurs are white, educated males. This is, without a doubt, is accurate. He defines “entrepreneur” as someone with an independent business with the intention of attracting growth. This is much different than your small business owner of an ethnic descent who owns a small unincorporated shop and probably makes less than the average employee with a salary.

He also says that this very demographic(white males) has a high propensity for risk-taking behavior and they are more likely to get into a lot more trouble with the law and get away with it.

There is one thing that he doesn’t really focus on and a point that is neglected in his review. The majority of entrepreneurs are white, highly educated males because of resources. They can afford to get into trouble, as the article mentions, and pay off a lawyer in the process. They have more money and resources at their disposal. As a white male, you are entitled to privileges that many people, in the case of myself and other minorities, don’t have. I spent many years believing that just hard work and vision could get you what you want but it’s not true. Society puts up their barriers to opportunities if you come from certain demographic or gender backgrounds. You don’t face these problems if you are white, highly educated male and many have yet to realize their privilege. Your economic status and your ethnicity are not the focus as a white male whereas for those from marginalized, underrepresented or minority backgrounds, these factors are put under a lot of scrutiny.

Hence the ridiculous case of a young white man who killed 4 people last week and was let off with only 10 years of probation, claiming that he was a victim of affluenza, which is basically saying he grew up in a rich household and couldn’t predict the consequences of his actions?(like WTF?)

In my personal case, I’ve gotten rejected from jobs based on my name and, many times, on the that fact that I am a practicing Muslim and visibly wear a headscarf, alone.

Here is a study by  Marianne Bertrand and Sendhill Mullainathan exploring this topic in detail called: Are Emily and Greg More Employable Than Lakisha and Jamal? A Field Experiment on Labor Market Discrimination. The study shows how they sent in different resumes to different employers with White sounding names vs African American sounding names. There was a 50% higher call back rate for resumes with White sounding names.

Going back to the study, I wanted to just highlight a very key and important point on behalf of the Muslim and/or Somali community. Entrepreneurship is less of a reserve for white, highly educated males because of risk-taking behavior, but more because of resources.

What do I mean by this?

Resources don’t have to be things, like funding, investments, mentor ships or incubator programs, which are all crucial in the development of the economy and a business for communities of minority backgrounds. Resources also mean people and information. We lack the community leaders willing to discuss entrepreneurship as a solution to economic issues facing our communities. We’ve adopted an industrial mentality started in the West, but now is threatening to take down our own communities because we failed to think for ourselves. Many of our community leaders push the same ideas that many industrial capitalists were pushing in the early 1900 and these ideas have subsequently effected our education system. Our education systems, particularly in North America, have left many youth schooled but uneducated. Not even our Imam and school administrators of Islamic schools have any idea on how to prepare the future generation of students for the 21st century.

If I knew about entrepreneurship–and this was a word I NEVER heard in my community– I would have started sooner in this career path. Even without the resources, I would at least be able to empower myself with information. Like many others, I was doing “entrepreneurship” but it didn’t have a word.


Many of our Islamic schools should be teaching creativity, entrepreneurship and innovation as regular parts of the curriculum. They should be allowing these ideas to flourish. These are going to be some of the key themes governing our socio-economic outlook in the next 5-10 years. The easiest way to introduce these ideas is to first REALIZE that these ideas are necessary. The future of long term employment are over and no longer can we afford to keep educating young children in outdated and irrelevant concepts that are not in alignment with the future realities.

Again, the issue of entrepreneurship being dominated by white males has more to do with the lack of resources, including people and information, in Somali and/or Muslim communities.

In both communities, entrepreneurship is prevalent, which is why everything is so strange. In Islam our Prophet Muhammad was a business man, his first wife, Khadijah, was a powerful businesswoman and come from the wealthiest of all the tribes in Arabia. Also, somalis are naturally entrepreneurial people.

My intention is to hopefully hold a community discussion about this and invite key leaders from the Somali community, Muslim community and economic development community to talk about the economic and developmental outlook for our communities and how we can start increasing these ideas of entrepreneurship, innovation and creativity in our communities.

What do you think? Love to hear your thoughts.


  1. rumpydog January 3, 2014 / 12:22 am

    As a white female raised in a Christian environment, I can tell you that I believe this to be true. It’s all about the comfort zones of those that are already in power. So if the old white dude in power likes to play golf, he takes his young white male protege to play with him, because he’s more comfortable with him. Sure, he won’t SAY that’s what it is, but if you look around, you still see a lot of white men in power, despite there being an ample number of women and people of color who are equally capable.

    • Hodan Ibrahim January 16, 2014 / 4:59 am

      Your comment hits the nail right on the head! There are people as equally competent to do the job but it’s the comfortability and fear of the unknown that’s unfortunately holding back progress.

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