On Wednesday, LinkedIn hosted a town hall on racial justice after police killed George Floyd. The forum should be an opportunity for employees to come together and discuss how they can support each other. Instead, the conversation suddenly became hostile as people used the video chat's anonymous comment function to defend racist feelings and question the effectiveness of the protests. The comments were first reported by The Daily Beast; The Verge independently confirmed it.
"Blacks kill blacks at 50 times the rate that white kills blacks," wrote one employee. “Usually it's the result of gang violence in the city center. Where's the outcry? Another staff member said, "As a non-minority, I feel like I should feel guilty about my skin color. I feel like I should let someone less qualified fill my position. Is that okay? It seems like I'm a prisoner of my birth. Martin Luther King Jr. wouldn't have wanted that for anyone. "
The meeting, which took place on the video conference platform BlueJeans, was called "standing together". It should give LinkedIn employees worldwide the opportunity to discuss inclusion and allies. Rosanna Durruthy, the company's Vice President for Diversity, spoke to a group of employees about their prejudice experiences and discussed how their employees could be better allies.
This part of the forum went as planned – staff told The Verge that they were moved by the vulnerability of the panelists and had learned from the stories they shared. However, the chat feature on BlueJeans told a different story. There, employees submitted comments and questions, some of which were openly racist.
An employee from Fiji said: "It is not just a" white "problem to be solved. "Blacks" have a responsibility to help white people, to help them. "He went on to say," More blacks are killed by black men than white bulls. Why is that? I am very familiar with the disadvantages of modern society that blacks are only because of the color of their skin, especially in the United States, it is a travesty. But the travesty cannot be used as an excuse to continue being a victim. The black community still has a way to find peace within itself. None of these gangs or territorial nonsense cancels the reputation add some bad apples to the whole group. "
An employee who saw the note was stunned. "Everyone had continuous access to black community literature to better understand what they were going through," she said. “For me, his comments were not only ignorant, but also an effort not to even try to understand them. You choose to live under your rock. "
Some of the comments also seemed to undermine the actual conversation that many employees wanted to have – one that focused on the epidemic of police violence against blacks. “I think granting racial group privileges to others is a zero-sum game. Any thoughts on hurting others while granting privileges with the rose name diversity? Asked an employee.
"It's no surprise that there is racism in a company that is 48 percent white," a recent employee told The Verge. “But the point that troubled me the most was that this was an event in response to the protests sponsored by our black employee resource group. That is why it was so insensitive for them to insert these comments here. "
The situation at LinkedIn comes at a time when technology companies across Silicon Valley are grappling with what it means to promote a truly inclusive environment. While Amazon and Google CEOs publicly support the Black Lives Matter movement, critics have pointed out that their tools are often used by law enforcement agencies.
On Thursday, CEO Ryan Roslansky sent a note to employees addressing the "pain and frustration they experienced with horrific comments in the Q&A". He then shared the note publicly on LinkedIn. Roslansky admitted that it was a mistake to allow employees to share comments anonymously, and said the company would not allow it to happen again. He added: "We are not and will not be a company or platform where racism or hateful speech is allowed."
On the same day, a white employee contacted the Fijian employee – the one who said that this was not just a "white" problem – to discuss why the words were harmful. He didn't want the burden on his black colleagues and said the two had a productive conversation. He knew that the comments for many of his colleagues were difficult to read, but he still found the forum worthwhile.
“It was a very challenging and sometimes uncomfortable meeting. But I think it was necessary, ”he said. "The only way we could have improved was to be in control of the comments."