One year after a former Facebook manager accused the company of having “a black people problem” – failing its black employees by allowing the proliferation of a hostile workplace culture — an anonymous group of tech workers at the social media giant have penned a letter in which they argue that the problem has only metastasized.
“Racism, discrimination, bias, and aggression do not come from the big moments,” they write. “It’s in the small actions that mount up over time and build into a culture where we are only meant to be seen as quotas, but never heard, never acknowledged, never recognized, and never accepted.”
The memo, published last week on Medium, includes descriptions of discrimination and hostility that 12 current and former employees of color, including black and Latinx workers, said they’ve experienced at the company. The writers say the alleged incidents all had witnesses and corroboration.
One Facebook program manager said they were told by two white employees to clean up after their breakfast mess and that when the employee raised the issue their supervisor only said the worker should “dress more professionally”. Other writers said supervisors and colleagues called them aggressive and arrogant for sharing opinions in ways similar to their white colleagues.
“[W]e are sad. Angry. Oppressed. Depressed. And treated every day through the micro and macro aggressions as if we do not belong here,” employees write in the memo.
The employees further alleged they were brushed aside by human resources staff when they asked that the aggressions be addressed.
Facebook did not immediately respond to an email from the Guardian, but in a statement sent to reporters on Friday, Bertie Thomson, Facebook’s vice-president of corporate communications, apologized.
“No one at Facebook, or anywhere, should have to put up with this behavior,” Thomson wrote. “We are sorry. It goes against everything that we stand for as a company. We’re listening and working hard to do better.”
The memo on Medium included screenshots of an app that allows Facebook employees to comment anonymously on issues and colleagues at the site.
“These people make it seem like they work for the KKK,” one staff member reportedly wrote, referring to employees of color and last year’s viral post from Mark Luckie, the former employee who thrust the company’s race relations into the spotlight.
“They should feel privileged that they were diversity hires and got into the company after we lowered our hiring standards. That’s just my opinion, though.” The screenshot is followed by a poll showing that more than 66% of respondents felt that black employees “just complain to get attention”.
The recent letter has garnered buzz, but concerns over race relations at Facebook are long-standing. A 2013 diversity report showed that the companys’s US workforce – in particular its leadership – was dominated by white men, while black and Hispanic employees made up just 2% and 4% of its staff, respectively. Two years later, its percentage of black employees had barely changed.
Luckie, the former Facebook employee, wrote in his 2018 memo that the company’s lack of diversity has led to racially biased content removal and account suspensions. In a claim echoed by this year’s anonymous letter, Luckie wrote that Facebook leadership paid strong lip service to creating equitable policies and building a diverse staff, but doesn’t back up its stated convictions in practice.
“In some buildings, there are more ‘Black Lives Matter’ posters than there are actual black people”, Luckie wrote last year.