Facebook accused of racism and aggression toward workers of color

An anonymous memo was released by a group of black current and former Facebook staff last week. The memo claims that discrimination and bias against black employees at the company is still common.
Thumbs up front sign at Facebook
Facebook is facing fresh accusations of racism against black employees. Photo: daveynin via Flickr

First reported by Medium last week, a new memo has once again raised concerns over the way Facebook treats its black employees.

The memo was timed to coincide with Facebook’s [email protected] event in Menlo Park, California. [email protected] aims to promote inclusion and empowerment, and featured talks from Facebook’s No. 1 and No. 2, Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg.

What exactly does the memo say?

According to The Root, the anonymous memo was co-written by a group of 12 current Facebook employees. Alongside black employees, Latinx and Asian women employees also contributed to the post.

Among the many accusations of ingrained racism at Facebook, one common theme discussed by the memo’s authors is a tendency for black workers to be labelled as ‘hostile’ or ‘aggressive’ by higher ups.

The memo also claims that negative feedback from other employees is then used against black employees in their performance reviews, even when the vast majority of other feedback is positive.

In the memo, the authors write:

“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.”

They then go on to say:

“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.”

A new problem?

Last week’s memo is not the first time Facebook has faced accusations of racism embedded within the organisation.

Last year, a black Facebook employee named Mark Luckie broke the story of his experience of racism and discrimination at Facebook.

Facebook HQ in 2010
Black Facebook employees report being labelled as ‘aggressive’. Photo: Jakob Steinschaden via Flickr

Mark Luckie has since left the company, but his story resonated with many black employees, as well as employees belonging to other minority groups.

In one example of the prejudice he experienced during his time working at Facebook, Mr. Luckie described how he would often be treated like an outsider by other colleagues.

“At least two or three times a day, every day, a colleague at MPK [Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park] 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,” he said.

The authors of the new memo have expressed similar experiences and have praised Mark Luckie for giving more black Facebook employees the courage to speak out.

An issue which isn’t just affecting black Facebook employees

Last year’s post claimed that the black employees aren’t the only victims of the company’s “black people problem”.

Black Facebook users are also subjected to marginalisation and disenfranchisement through inherent biases weaved into the platform.

Facebook HQ, by eston
The new memo was written by current Facebook employees. Photo: Marco Paköeningrat via Flickr

Black Facebook users report having their content taken down after being reported as ‘hate speech’ and also say that their attempts to create safe spaces for discussion are shut down.

This is especially concerning given that African American people are significantly more likely than the rest of the population to communicate with family and friends using the platform.

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