Facebook black employees complain racism, discrimination getting worse

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SAN FRANCISCO – An anonymous memo alleging Facebook still has a problem with racial bias is circulating inside the company one year after a former employee complained of racism and discrimination there.

The Medium post from 12 current and former employees, first reported by Business Insider, details a number of incidents, suggesting morale has sunk even lower since Mark Luckie published his Facebook post about discrimination on the company’s Silicon Valley campus and on the social media giant’s platform.

Both missives expose the racial fault lines in the mostly white tech industry and how the stubbornly persistent lack of representation and agency of African-Americans inside Facebook directly affects how black people on Facebook and its other platforms are treated.

“We may be smiling. We may post on Instagram with industry influencers and celebrities. We may use the IG ‘Share Black Stories’ filter and be featured on marketing pieces. We may embrace each other and share how happy we are to have the opportunity to work with a company that impacts nearly three billion people,” the anonymous memo says. “On the inside, we are sad. Angry. Oppressed. Depressed. And treated every day through the micro and macro aggressions as if we do not belong here.”

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks to guests at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California, in January 2017. Over a year later, the Facebook co-founder faced a crisis over its handling of a large-scale abuse of its users' personal information.

The timing was awkward for Facebook, which held a summit with hundreds of black employees where CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg talked about “the importance of inclusion and empowerment.” Many of the black employees planned to then attend the Afro Tech conference in Oakland.

Bertie Thomson, vice president of corporate communications, apologized in an emailed statement.

“No one at Facebook, or anywhere, should have to put up with this behavior. We are sorry. It goes against everything that we stand for as a company. We’re listening and working hard to do better,” Thomson said. 

Inside the company, Facebook has made a show of recruiting more diverse talent, but not much has changed over the past year “to ensure that people are recognized, empowered, and overall treated equitably by their managers and peers,” the Medium post says. “In fact, things have gotten worse.”

The 12 current and former black employees offered up a long list of microaggressions, the weight of which they say builds over time.

Two white employees asked a black program manager to clean up after they finished eating breakfast. Other black employees describe a hostile work environment in which people of color are treated as “aggressive, angry and abnormal” and managers focus on negative feedback, criticize how black employees speak in meetings or inform employees they should be more reserved and respectful. On Blind, the app that allows Facebook employees to post anonymous experiences, black employees say they are treated with aggression by their colleagues.



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