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"Racial Discrimination at Facebook Is Real," Writes a Former Employee
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"Racial Discrimination at Facebook Is Real," Writes a Former Employee

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“Facebook has a black people problem,” says Mark Luckie, a former manager at the social network's headquarters in Menlo Park, California.

Luckie joined Facebook about a year ago. “I was really excited. Facebook is an amazing company that reaches a lot of people,” he said in an interview with The Washington Post. “I didn’t plan to leave.”

He saw his job at Facebook as an opportunity to make difference in the lives of black people on the influential social network.

But life at Facebook was not as rosy as he had imagined. Within a year, seeing the discrimination that black people and people of color faced at Facebook and the way black people were being treated on the social media platform, he became disillusioned. Describing a culture in which loud support for ethnic minorities clashes with their actual treatment, he said he eventually "lost the will to advocate on behalf of Facebook" and no longer wished to be a part of it.

So, he decided to quit. And quit he did even without a job lined up, such was his disenchantment with the company.

But the activist within him could not simply quit. He had to do something. He had to put in the last effort. He knew he could not go without raising a voice against the discrimination. So, on his last day at work, he wrote an exit memo. He shared it with the company and then published it as a public post so that the entire world could read and know the dark realities that Facebook hides behind the saintly façade that it puts up in front of the world.

"I wish I didn't have to write it. I was determined to stay there and build," Luckie told USA TODAY in an interview Tuesday. "I had to write what all the black employees are saying and feeling and we don’t feel empowered to speak up about."

"Racial discrimination at Facebook is real," wrote Luckie. "In my time at the company, I’ve heard far too many stories from black employees of a colleague or manager calling them 'hostile' or 'aggressive"' for simply sharing their thoughts in a manner not dissimilar from their non-black team members. 

"Too many black employees can recount stories of being aggressively accosted by campus security beyond what was necessary. At least two or three times a day, every day, a colleague will look directly at me and tap or hold their wallet or shove their hands down their pocket to clutch it tightly until I pass.”

"To feel like an oddity at your own place of employment because of the color of your skin while passing posters reminding you to be your authentic self feels in itself inauthentic."

Commenting on the social network platform he said, “Black people are finding that their attempts to create ‘safe spaces’ on Facebook for conversation among themselves are being derailed by the platform itself. Non-black people are reporting what are meant to be positive efforts as hate speech, despite them often not violating Facebook’s terms of service. Their content is removed without noticeAccounts are suspended indefinitely.”

While he graciously admits that the number of black employees has increased from 2% in 2016 to 4% in 2018, he sarcastically adds, “In some buildings, there are more ‘Black Lives Matter’ posters than there are actual black people. Facebook can’t claim that it is connecting communities if those communities aren’t represented proportionately in its staffing.”

Luckie, however, reserves his most pointed critiques for the company’s leadership for failing to provide resources for underrepresented people. He argues that the company is “failing its black employees and its black users,” by excluding them from events and the important work that guides Facebook’s service.

Another former Facebook employee who left the company recently and is also a minority told CNBC that Luckie's note was "unfortunately not surprising."

"Facebook touts diversity and inclusion as though it's a marketing opportunity, and perhaps it is genuinely meaningful to them on its face," the former employee told CNBC. "But when it comes to tactical, day-to-day integration of their stock 'unconscious bias' training, it proves to still be a group of exceedingly privileged white people making similarly biased and discriminatory choices as other white leaders in the industry."

Luckie ends his memo with ten recommendations, all of which sound very logical yet surprisingly they are not part of the company’s inclusion playbook. However, he feels that what the company really needs is a human commitment to do the work.

“It will take an effort at all levels for Facebook to improve its relationship with diverse communities,” he says. “The future of the platform depends on it.”

The exit memo comes at a tough time for Facebook as the company is already under fire for a variety of other serious reasons, such as: for failing to halt propaganda and hate speech on the site; for not being able to understand its role in fueling genocide in Myanmar; for failing to prevent the massive hack of over 50 millions accounts;  for partnering with the war-mongering IRI and NED; for promoting sexual grooming of teenage girls as young as 13; for sharing user information with Chinese companies which the US intelligence had flagged as national security threats.

Read the full memo here.

Author: Pradeep Banerjee