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Facebook removed post by ex-manager who said site 'failed' black people (www.theguardian.com)
219 points by hampelm 5 months ago | hide | past | web | 289 comments | favorite

Being black in this industry really, really sucks. I'm certain that for the vast majority of people I interact with on a daily basis, it doesn't even cross their minds. But living with an unending fear of having your entire self worth immediately judged at the color of your skin is something that no other race lives with in this industry. I have to immediately force myself to be twice as charming, friendly, witty, and intelligent sounding as the equivalent white or Asian person just to be taken seriously. I don't really know that there's any solution to this, it's just something we have to live with.

> I have to immediately force myself to be twice as charming, friendly, witty, and intelligent sounding as the equivalent white or Asian person just to be taken seriously.

I'm of North African descent, born and raised in france and this passage really hit home.

> I don't really know that there's any solution to this, it's just something we have to live with.

Unfortunately there isn't. I don't know much about the American social structure and context, but over here, colonialist views are very much embedded into the collective subconscious, leading to sometimes very despicable behaviour (even though it may not be malicious).

The thing I find the most difficult is to suppress the urge of turning this into a "Us vs Them" thing because reality is much more complex than what we perceive but living with an inner "respectability police officer" can become extremely tiring. All of this to say that I choose to ignore the noise and focus on the positive. At the end of the day, we live in an era where this is how the game is played and we've been dealt a bad hand. I accept it and will do everything I can to help create a world where my children don't have to go through the same things as me.

I will end my comment with a piece of actionable advice anybody in a similar position might benefit from: Make yourself visible. I say this because a lot of the younger kids in my racial group (north west/west africa) don't even consider this industry as a viable career option even though they may have an interest or a strong ability. They just dismiss the possibility entirely. This doesn't mean we have to force our kids to become SWDs/POs/PMs/<insert tech job du jour>s but making yourself visible (via youtube videos, conference talks, going to local schools to introduce your job ...) can have a massive impact in having those kids think "Hey he/she looks like me, maybe I can follow a similar path".

EDIT: added last paragraph

"I don't know much about the American social structure and context, but over here, colonialist views are very much embedded into the collective subconscious, leading to sometimes very despicable behaviour (even though it may not be malicious)."

That pretty well describes the majority of American culture on this issue, as I understand it. There are those who are malicious, but I don't think they are much larger a minority than anywhere else.

Even if it's someone in the industry ? In the same workplace ? I really don't feel that "Us vs them"...

I probably share much more with a Moroccan software engineer than I do with a local white blue collar worker.

Although with the engineers that studied in North africa (which we have a lot of in software), I feel closer to the kind that embraced french lifestyle and obviously plan on aging here, than those who seem to regret their homeland and stick to its traditions and look like they're just cashing in.

But I get it. I'd probably look the same if I had to go live in the US.

I think one model, among other efforts, would be thr BET model. Form SW orgs servjng enterprises (much opportunity) and grow organically. As they earn a reputation other SW dev orgs will begin poaching devs to strengthen their orgs and also help to bring more black Americans into tech in general. Of course that’s not the only path to seek, but it’s one that’s worked for other underrepresrnted populations.

Algerian or Moroccan? Typically North Africans are said to be White, but it never really feels like that when your'e surrounded by whites...and are the odd sheep in the group.

Ibram X Kendi speaks about this in his book "Stamped from The Beginning." The concept is called upward-suasion, and was designed 200 years ago to dispel common myths and stereotypes about blacks at the time. Essentially if you're twice as nice, then white people will accept you as an equal.

Of course, it didnt work. Regardless of how nice and polite W.E.B. Du Bois was, the state department still revoked his passport for his uncomfortable habit of reporting systemic racism in America to European and British intellectuals.

Dont feel like you owe people anything. Be yourself. Speaking as a card-carrying white male who works as an engine mechanic, the thing that makes an industry suck (or anything for that matter) is racists. Rebuilding the drivetrain on a box truck is hard work, but its doubly unpleasant having to listen to some old grease-monkey lecture you on what they think about "the negro."

>>The concept is called upward-suasion

If it was only just that, its actually a lot more that. You have prove that you have un-blackened yourself. Dissociate from your communities, and have renounced the community's ways(so-called).

More like the other side needs to be made to feel you are one among them.

It's a soul crushing exercise. Its undoing of one's identity. And it's very humiliating to undergo all this.

If it makes you feel any better, corporate culture is soul-crushing to anyone with a soul.

Which isn't to devalue your experience - speech patterns in particular are likely an area where you have to code-switch much more drastically than, say, northern whites.

> If it was only just that, its actually a lot more that. You have prove that you have un-blackened yourself. Dissociate from your communities, and have renounced the community's ways(so-called).

You have just described my entire professional life. It feels great to know I'm not alone in this boat. Much empathy for you and what you're going through at the moment.

> Dissociate from your communities, and have renounced the community's ways(so-called)

This is one of the core reasons why I'm seriously considering starting my own company.

That’s awful that you have to go through that.

There is a weird belief, that's particularly American, that if you're not outwardly hateful towards black people, you're not racist. Even the dictionary definition of racism often includes concepts like racial superiority. So I guess a lot of tech folk aren't really that kind of hateful, ignorant racist. But to me, you can be racist if you simply compartmentalize someone else based on their race. It's a conversation that's rarely had, and it's significant.

People can grasp hate, and violence. But they can't really see the effects of simply seeing someone as "other" based on race. And it's everywhere in the US.

It's strange. Americans just don't have deep vocabulary for ethnicity, really. It's all just race.

Yes, but we fundamentally see others for their otherness. I'm not tall, and solid statistics say it's a disadvantage in the corporate world.

You could claim that Black otherness has special characteristics and this being hackernews I would assume good faith and believe you that racism in its non-outward facet is palpable and ethically bad. But that's not what you said -- you said people compartmentalize and that's bad period. That's an interesting kind of misguided.

A lot of white people (disclaimer: I'm white) think in extremely individualist ways about a host of issues. They do not seem willing or capable of thinking at the level of the system/society/culture. They pat themselves on the back because they are polite to individual people of color in their circles while supporting (or not opposing) legislation that harms people of color.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr is spot-on in his frustration with "the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection."

As an individual, its difficult to bear responsibility for racism (whether it be calling out that homeless guy saying the n word, fighting for legislation, having empathy for every story you read on the internet). Its detrimental to a person's mental health and it seems like when someone (most people) is having a hard time reducing life stress, figuring out how to live a good life, build a family, succeed at work, etc. Its exhausting.

And its not just racism, its sexism, classism, homophobia, xenophobia, transphobia, child soldiers in Africa, terrorism abroad, FGM, corruption, homelessness, child abuse, cartel violence, drug epidemics... Seriously impossible to grasp. And moreover, the vast majority of people do not publicly observe offenses at the same rate as people who receive offenses so most of the time its just concerns that one reads off the internet or hears second hand. All this stress and empathy over things that don't even exist in your sights... I know many people will think this is a gross argument, that I am saying to remain ignorant or inactive while people are being oppressed, but at some point you have to just throw your hands up, resolve to do the right thing when you encounter a problem and live your own life.

This problem is something that ted kaczynski wrote about in detail and I think its an even more important problem now with information spreading so quickly, so much call to activism, and even dramatization of issues.

> There is a weird belief, that's particularly American, that if you're not outwardly hateful towards black people, you're not racist.

I think the underlying assumption is that a "racist" is someone who spouts bigotry 24/7, and that racism is black and white (pardon the pun) rather than a spectrum, where even an otherwise "decent" person can act or say something racist on occasion. This is why the common refrain after a person does a thing that is blatantly racist is "I am not racist - everyone who knows me knows this is not who I am" despite the empirical evidence.

This is an excellent point, and one I recently heard explained thoroughly by Robin DiAngelo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=45ey4jgoxeU

It was a smart and funny talk, and I'm now looking forward to reading her book: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07638ZFN1

It is a different experience (especially general life experience) ... but I feel the same way being over 40 years old.

In interviews I got a lot of "culture" questions where younger folks who I went to school with who interviewed at the same place ... reported getting no such questions. It's easy to imagine that is about age.

Another classmate actually had a recruiter straight up say his age was a concern, when he asked her to repeat that, she straight up repeated it apparently having no clue how wrong it was.

Not exactly the same as race, but I feel like I have to prove myself a bit more all the time.

I'm turning 43 in a few months and estimate I have talked to some 50 companies since turning 40, the vast majority I passed on and only perceived one interview where I felt like age discrimination came into play. I landed my prior position just past 40, which was a small startup, and my current at a larger company a few months ago.

I do come off rather young in person, but my resume is clear about my work experience, graduation date and so on. Even with the one case where I suspected age discrimination was at play it was only after the fact when the recruiter said the company passed because they decided to go with someone more 'malleable' (for a sr. role, mind you) where the average engineer was probably about 25 yo.

Not saying it's not an issue, there's many reports out there of people experiencing it, but perhaps it's more restricted to the valley or not quite as common as implied. I say this as someone who was nervous about entering my 40s for this reason alone and have been pleasantly surprised to find it to be a non-issue for myself.

No question about it there is a huge range of companies out there, some it's not an issue for.

Could it be a geographical thing? Every company I've worked at has hired engineers over 50 while ive been there.

Not remotely the same as race.

Or religion or gender or the experience different races have. But a good interesting on topic point.

It's not the same, but it's similar in some ways, so I think it's useful in getting the audience here to consider what it will be like when they start experiencing unconscious bias, and how little they will like it.

First, I'm really sorry that things are the way they are for black people. It's simply enormously sad. And it's not just the tech industry. It happens in other fields too. A really good buddy of mine is a top notch surgeon. He did his undergrad, med school, residency, and then fellowship at Ivy Leagues and Stanford. He's black. During his fellowship, one of the surgeons he worked under would always introduce him to other people at the hospital by always emphasizing his credentials. The catch here is that he only did it with my friend and none of the other fellows. My friend was the only black fellow. The surgeon meant well but he felt the need to assure all the patients that the black doctor is just as good if not better than all the other doctors. Little differences like that is what my friend lives with every day.

When my friend visited me in Silicon Valley he told me it's not that diverse -- at least not in the way we would want diversity to work. He told me that next time I go out to eat, I should look through the windows of all the nice restaurants I walk by and see who the customers are and who the workers are. My friend is right. There are under and upper classes in SV and it's often clustered by race. I never noticed because I'm Asian and I'm in the group that benefited.

All true, except the conclusion that it's directly due to race. It can also be socioeconomic class that creates the correlation, which is also correlated to race.

Not much difference in the end of course, and still a major societal issue. But a different one.

The two issues in America are not in practice totally separable. The relationship is not purely correlative. It's pretty clear in America that white people don't like to see some races "getting above their station" by climbing the class ladder. A pretty clear example are the Tulsa race riots: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tulsa_race_riot

Greenwood was a prosperous black area near Tulsa, doing so well that it was known as "Black Wall Street". White resentment eventually boiled over and 35 blocks were burned to the ground. Hundreds were killed, and it included many horrors, including white people using then-new airplanes to firebomb the neighborhood from above.

If you read Loewen's "Sundown Towns" you can find plenty more incidents where white resentment of black success led to oppression, violence, and sometimes death.

I'm not saying it's because of race -- if I wrote it that way then thanks for the correction. It just happen to correlate strongly with race. I don't know the underlying cause is and your hypothesis is close to my own. I mainly wanted to emphasize my own blindness to this trend because I had benefited from it.

I'm in the same boat. Its easy to just accept folks in roles without thinking about it.

E.g. I'm naturally gregarious, will chat up folks in line at the gas station buying a Coke etc. I noticed one day I didn't chat up anybody that didn't look like me. So I started.

I would like to point out this your perspective, and does not mean it actually relefects reality.

Your feelings are valid but also can be misplaced at the same time. I think it is a poor way to start the day assuming everybody is going to think the worse is you. That may be something a support group or therapy might help with.

I say this comming from a place where I suffered the same issues. And found changing my attitude actually changed how I viewed other people.

Please don't take my reply as a attack on you. I simply feel your reply reflects similar views I had held at one point in life. And I found not worrying and not setting expectations on my peers really helped me to feel at home in situations that made me feel much like you describe.

On the other hand I can't possibly know your entire story from a small bit you shared.

Yes, this really sucks.

While I evaluate people I interact with on a individual level, I often have stereotypes in my head about people I don't directly interact with.

When I see people of color or women in the industry, my first thought is always "ah yes, diversity".

When I see white dudes I think aboit what he does and knows.

> I have to immediately force myself to be twice as charming, friendly, witty, and intelligent sounding as the equivalent white or Asian person just to be taken seriously.

While this may be true, I find the problem you are describing to be much worse for immigrants (of every colour and race) who speak with thick accent. https://qz.com/624335/the-reason-you-discriminate-against-fo...

That's not really the same thing. If you're speaking with an accent thick enough that it's causing difficulty understanding what you are saying, then that's a legitimate communications barrier.

Honest question, is this a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy? You expect to be judged by the color of your skin, so you act constantly in fear of being judged, making your time in the industry "suck" as you put it?

Obviously it would be foolish to think that no one out there is prejudiced, or that there are no systematic problems in certain places, but based on what you said here it sounds like you have not so much encountered these situations personally, rather you have lived in fear of encountering them.

>Honest question, is this a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy? You expect to be judged by the color of your skin, so you act constantly in fear of being judged, making your time in the industry "suck" as you put it?

It may very well be self-fulfilling. But my point is that this issue doesn't exist for white people. You can live with the fear of impostor syndrome and not feeling qualified enough, etc. But your completely unchangeable physical appearance does not contribute to that. Every shortcoming that could possibly exclude you from any job is within your control to fix and work on, whereas we will always be left with this single unpredictable variable no matter what.

So sorry to have left this conversation - my honest comment was flagged for some reason (too flip?)

Here it is again: there are many completely unchangeable physical appearance features that can afflict anyone, not just people of color. The claim that every shortcoming is within your control to fix, is overstated.

I didn't mean to minimize the societal issue addressed; just this hyperbolic comment.

Unless you're a short white person, or god forbid a white woman. White women would love to have even the advantages of a black man (respected or feared instead of marginalized, become president etc)

Please don't take HN threads into flamewar hell.

Especially not when the topic is inflammatory and the discussion has managed to remain civil so far. Then it's vandalism, if not arson.


ummmmmm what?

I think you are missing the forest for the trees

I think JoeAltmaier is right on point. There are way more disadvantageous traits than skin color, and some of them are just as bad. E.g. having low IQ. It's just as unfixable as the skin color is and probably way worse. How about being much older than everyone else? That's quite a bad thing in a workplace, even if you're just as smart and capable. But even traits such as having AIDS, having a scar through one's face or even just having really bad teeth can be unfixable for many people. Then it's correct to ask the question: why would society as a whole place the skin color at the center of its attention?

In my opinion, humans are inherently xenophobic and suspicious of anything that is unfamiliar or an outlier. Evolution shaped us this way. So you cannot eradicate all the pain, fear and suffering caused by xenophobia, not by a long shot. People with negative traits (in other people's eyes) need to learn to live with them, and they do it all the time. I am not by any means arguing for racism, of course. We still need to teach that racism is bad, but at the same time we should ask ourselves: are we blowing this thing out of proportions? If we as a society are already near the point of maximum tolerance, then insisting on further corrective measures (such as so called "affirmative action", i.e. discrimination to groups seen as the oppressors) may make things worse for everyone by raising resentment and heating up the hate as opposed to reducing it.

You might consider that your question is similarly self-fulfilling. Your basic theory here is you know a black man's experience better than he does. How many black people will be willing to honestly share with you what happens to them when this is a depressingly common reaction? Which of course leads you to believe that this isn't a pervasive problem in the US.

If you're interested in moving beyond that, I'd suggest starting with the recent books from DiAngelo [1] and Oluo [2]. Or for a more personal take, the recent memoir from Julie Lythcott-Haims is good at conveying how pervasive this stuff is, and how much pain that causes.

[1] https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07638ZFN1 [2] https://www.amazon.com/dp/B073P53DVL [3] https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01MR92UQN

That is so unfair. I wish there was a way we could get over this shit.

I have a new team member joining us in a couple weeks and he's black. My intent is to try damn hard to completely ignore that fact, without appearing to be ignoring it, if that makes any sense. Where I live is predominantly white, so he definitely will stand out. As far as I can remember, there is exactly one other black employee on the entire floor.

I'm probably just worrying for nothing. We really do have a team of good people and I'm not just saying that.

Believe it or not, one of the worst things that you can do is try to ignore it. Ask any minority why “I don’t even see race, just people” is so infuriating. By ignoring the issue, you are also effectively minimizing or erasing the other person’s experience as not the majority.

Let your coworker come to you as they are. Take them to coffee, get to know them, and ask how you can help them feel welcome and be at their best at work. Sounds like a lot of work and effort on your part, but the burden is on you the majority to earn back the trust broken by lived experience.

This is also not guaranteed to work. You’re fighting against a mindset developed over someone’s lifetime that’s akin to an alarm that you might think is noisy and not tuned properly but has become necessary for this person’s survival and psychological safety because they face threats to those things at a frequency and level you never have to see.

Racism isn’t the act of acknowledging someone’s otherness, it’s letting that otherness drive your interactions with someone and not giving them the opportunity to talk about who they are as a person. Racism is every time you go to lunch, it’s a barbecue place and you don’t invite your coworker because you don’t want them to think you’re stereotyping but you also don’t want to talk to them so you just go without them anyway without asking your coworker if they want to come because it’s easier. Racism isn’t the act of starting the uncomfortable conversations, it’s not giving those conversations a time and place to happen at all.

> the burden is on you the majority to earn back the trust broken by lived experience.

A single person can not be a majority, and claiming someone has a responsibility to treat someone with kid gloves because they are a member of the majority race is pretty extreme. I really have a hard time believing someone actually believes the thoughts expressed in this post. Doing any of this in your workplace is a terrible idea.

>self worth immediately judged at the color of your skin is something that no other race lives with

I beg to differ. In Asia being white is a massive advantage. It's literally the reverse of what you describe. It weirds me out tbh. Sorry you have to deal with the opposite.

I've never worked with another black engineer and have only worked closely with another black person on a team (PM) over 10 yrs. That being said I wouldn't say the industry sucks, especially compared to other industries. The majority of people I work with are intelligent so that's step 1 in regards to people being able to reason beyond basic stereotypes and attitudes. I appreciate being a representative of sorts even if it's unfair. I have worked with some conservative types who have moved to tech centers from less diverse areas and take the opportunity to explain certain things to them logically and for the most part they understand. Professionally I usually get glowing feedback and reviews and at times I have suspected it's because expectations were lower (imposter syndrome). All I can do is try to represent myself the best that I can

I have unfortunately twice been involved in hiring decisions where we had interviewed very qualified black engineers who were good culture/team fits, but the company decided to go with a different candidate because someone else on the team 'got along with that other candidate better'. Both times that other candidate didn't work out (like, they were straight up terrible people to work with). It's frustrating and I can't imagine how frustrating it is on the other side of the table.

Unfortunately it cuts both ways. I’ve been in hiring meetings where people from underrepresented backgrounds applied but really didn’t have the required skills, they got hired anyway because the company wanted to feel good about hiring diversity, and then the people really struggled down the line - in one case the person got fired, in another case quit.

I don’t know how we get there but we eventually need to just get over skin color. When we interact with other people we generally don’t even notice or think about what color eyes or what their nose shape is. We should be able to get to that point regarding all aspects of physical appearance.

I agree with you, and you're not alone in this. The amount of hatred and condescension I hear from American developers towards anyone from India, is frankly startling. I'm sure a lot of this stems from prior bad experiences, and part of it stems from outsourcing fears. But it's still saddening that so many otherwise good people see nothing wrong with casual stereotyping.

One thing to keep in mind is that there is a big difference between Indian developers who work for outsourcing firms in India and Indian developers who work directly for American firms here in the States.

I've personally worked with a lot of great Indian developers (H1Bs, naturalized U.S. citizens, and native born U.S. citizens). I've never worked with an Indian outsourcing firm, but I've also never heard anything good about them from people who have.

I get where you're coming from and there may even be some statistical truth to what you're saying. But that's still no excuse for stereotyping and rude behavior. I would much rather live in a world where people are judged as individuals, and not the demographic group they belong to.

And for those white people about to be skeptical, let me say as a fellow white person that you are unlikely to see this. Partly because it's often subtle, and partly because many obvious examples won't happen around you.

In fact, let me tell a story. I was once working at a large, successful tech company as a manager. One of my interns was black. Super sharp, very personable, in an ivy league college, and, as will become relevant, a very sharp dresser. The average white male developer wore a t-shirt and a hoodie; he wore nice, stylish collared shirts. Every day he looked good.

Between our area and the nearest kitchenette was an elevator lobby. One day, he gets up to get more coffee, walks into the elevator lobby, goes to the other side, and realizes he left his badge on his desk. He is now trapped.

Now I had done that exact same thing more than once. What happened to me? Well, I waited around for somebody to walk by, tapped on the door, and said, "So sorry, I just left my badge on my desk." They'd smile in recognition, say something pleasant, and wave me in.

What happened to him in the same situation? He got the third degree. Who was he? Who did he work for? What did he work on? How long had he worked there? Etc, etc. It was clear the (white) guy he was talking to was suspicious that he didn't belong there, that he was not the programmer intern he said he was.

When he got back to his desk he looked distressed. I, not wanting my interns to be unhappy, pried a bit. He told me the story, leaving out any details on the person. He was confident it was unconscious bias; he didn't think his fellow programmer meant harm and didn't want to get him in trouble. But still, it bothered him. Even in this supposedly very cerebral, very liberal place, people immediately saw him as not belonging.

That of course wouldn't have happened if he'd had me with him. Because if I, a white person, were treating him as if he belonged, then he would have been seen as belonging there by the other white people.

Now as a good corporate citizen I (with his permission) mentioned this to HR. I thought they'd want to know that an unconscious bias incident had happened. No names, nobody getting in trouble. Just letting them know so they could tally it and, if the numbers warranted, give more training on unconscious bias. Not just for interviews, which we already had, but more generally.

I quickly got a reply back from a high-up HR lawyer, who was entirely defensive. Their main point was that surely this (anonymous) white person couldn't have meant anything by it, that there was no legal problem here. Well duh, I used the words "unconscious bias", so of course I knew there was nothing meant by it. I just wanted them to take it seriously, because actual harm had been done. But they gave me the brush-off.

Happily, I also talked to the black employee resource group, who jumped on it. The intern ended up feeling heard and that the incident was taken seriously. Which was a relief to me. But it made me aware how often this sort of nonsense happened, and how rarely the harm it does to my black colleagues gets taken at all seriously.

> I quickly got a reply back from a high-up HR lawyer, who was entirely defensive.

This is a conflict between separate attempts to solve the problem.

On the one hand there is yours -- if we report this when it happens then having the information will aid in solving the problem.

On the other hand, there are laws creating liability for companies that discriminate against employees. Someone could use records like this against the company in court, so you are creating undesirable liability for the company by reporting it.

This is a common problem. If you allow plaintiffs to use a company's records against them, they either stop keeping them or the record keeping becomes a compliance issue driven by lawyers concerned with corporate liability, which then takes precedence over other concerns like using the information to meticulously measure and resolve issues.

Nobody likes to admit that trade offs like this exist, but it takes admitting that they do to get to the point of being able to evaluate which method is more effective and choosing between them.

> Someone could use records like this against the company in court, so you are creating undesirable liability for the company by reporting it.

Fortunately there is a win-win solution to this - unconscious bias training! Minority employee and manager's lives get a little easier, company shows that it cares and made corrective/CYA action, any employee who discriminates on race will clearly be doing it against company policy. Pretending like it didn't happen is the worst policy, IMO, because it gives an impression of condoning such behaviour, which creates more liability.

>Fortunately there is a win-win solution to this - unconscious bias training!

It's not a win if unconscious bias training doesn't actually work. I have yet to see it change the behavior of racist people. Do you have any papers that show that it works?

So far it just seems like a way for a company to cover their ass via a PR stunt that disrupts a bunch of employees' days.

It's a win because the company will have an actual policy in place, compared to burying heads in sand and discouraging people from reporting "unpleasantness".

> So far it just seems like a way for a company to cover their ass via a PR stunt that disrupts a bunch of employees' days.

Quick question - do you feel the same about sexual harassment training? I think it's good for every employee to be clear on the common baseline on what behavior the company deems unacceptable and the consequences thereof.

Let's detach this from racism for a moment, and hypothesize on ethics. A number of companies have/had issues with staff members virtually stalking users. Would you rather colleagues not report such incidents for fear of creating legal liability? Should the companies not have a policy against this and offer training on ethical handling of user data? No amount of company training will cure an engineer's creepiness, but drawing lines in the sand is important - it might prevent creepy behavior while they are on the clock - even if it may look like its CYA.

Doing that in response to reporting doesn't do anything for the company's incentive to discourage reporting -- now it's even less desirable because they have to pay for something.

Things that come from a CYA perspective are compromised. The motivation is to check a box at the lowest available cost, which is not the recipe for competence. It's not hard to screw something like that up and end up training people to consciously consider race when making decisions.

There is legitimately a trade off between honestly convincing people to care about something and passing laws requiring them to appear to care about it under penalty of financial liability.

Avoiding lawsuits by hiding the facts is in no way an attempt to solve the problem.

Oh, wait. Maybe we're talking about different problems. My problem is my intern having a bad experience due to unconscious racial bias. What problem are you trying to solve?

Way to miss the point.

Lawyers exist to mitigate legal risks, not to solve racism. The parent was just pointing out that anything documented that admits racism occurred creates legal liability. The triggered the lawyers defense mechanisms where they need to clearly document that there was no discrimination in the legal sense.

So the point is that there needs to be a way to report unconscious bias events for data points that don't put the company at legal risk just by having them on record.

I didn't "miss" the point. I'm challenging it. I don't believe that sweeping the actual problem -- racial bias -- under the rug is in any way "attempts to solve the problem".

This is equivalent to "solving" software defects by refusing to record the bug because somebody is scared of a quality lawsuit. It not only doesn't help, it is very likely to make the problem worse.

> Avoiding lawsuits by hiding the facts is in no way an attempt to solve the problem.

That's why it's a conflict. The map is not the territory. If you give them an incentive to reduce reports of discrimination, they will have an incentive to reduce reports of discrimination. Which interferes with other methods that require meticulous reporting.

How did you determine it was racist bias, you said he dressed differently, why couldn't it have been that? I don't know how we can tell here if it's your racial bias assuming the "white guy" wouldn't let in a "black guy" as opposed to the "t-shirt wearing programmer wouldn't let in the over-dressed guy" because their uniform didn't fit.

Perhaps you could do an experiment!

He was not "over-dressed". He was well dressed. (If your theory is that a young black guy in a t-shirt and hoodie would have been less likely to trigger unconscious bias, let's just say I'm skeptical.)

Absent fMRI recordings from the elevator lobby, I of course cannot prove that it was unconscious racial bias. But we can't prove most things in life with that level of evidence. Nevertheless, we have to operate in a complex and dynamic world. This is my best interpretation of events. It was also the best interpretation of the person present, of my boss, and of several other people in the company I discussed this with.

>It was also the best interpretation ... //

I guess my point is we're talking about unconscious bias, and your story seems like it could be an example of just that. If it's unconscious you wouldn't know -- we can assume something is racist that really isn't.

If we can't know, how can we approach these situations and be sure we're without bias; particularly if we want to call others out for their [apparent] unwarranted biases.

An example, a neighbour is a bit discomfiting to me, my wife refuses to be alone in his presence, but he's Polish; so is she xenophobic, or is he a jerk (or both I guess). He's the only Pole in our street, an outside observer could easily conclude she was being xenophobic.

>He was not "over-dressed". He was well dressed.

Well-dressed is "over-dressed" if everyone else is wearing t-shirts.

Not at all. First, I didn't say everyone else was wearing t-shirts; I only talked about the average developer. Second, I clearly said it was a large tech company, where you will get a range of styles. Third, "well-dressed" is a term relative to the context.

For what it's worth, I have Indian ethnicity and dress sharp often and no one's ever questioned me about anything like that. And I lock myself out of places all the time.

How do you know that the white person had "unconscious bias"? Did you talk to that person or do you have some kind of telepathic mind reading powers? Is it maybe possible that you were well known in your firm and that the intern was not so much, and therefore under more scrutiny.

I agree it could have been conscious bias. But it was definitely bias. A) I was not well known, B) the company (and the floor) is way to large for not recognizing somebody to novel, and C) I asked several of my colleagues who had been their longer if it had ever happened to them.

Now it's my turn to ask a question: why was it your immediate reflex to (rudely and dismissively) justify a situation that you know nothing about?

>Now it's my turn to ask a question: why was it your immediate reflex to (rudely and dismissively) justify a situation that you know nothing about?

Because your story, as told, leaves that pretty massive gap. A supervisor in charge of interns being recognized vs the temporary intern not being recognized is the occam's razor answer that also popped into my head as well. The fact that you didn't offer any evidence as part of the story to explain why the obvious answer wasn't the answer does raise the question of whether or not that had occurred to you.

That might be a reason to ask. It's definitely not a reason to assume that I'm a liar or a fool.

I don't think i was rude. If you think i was, i assure you it was unintended. But i do think you were rude to the person in your story whom you declared biased one way or another without talking to them. I only know about the situation from what you have written here on a public forum where scrutiny from other people is expected. And i only did what you did, and that is speculate (although much less negative), since your story reads like fiction to me.

> I don't think i was rude.

Oh, so "do you have some kind of telepathic mind reading powers" was a sincere query as to my abilities? Because in your experience it is a common thing that actually happens?

> since your story reads like fiction to me

Ah, this is another example of your politeness? Saying that it seems like a long-time participant posting under his real-world identity is just making things up? You will have to tell me more about which etiquette manual is telling you that assuming somebody is a liar is the friendly thing to do.

I can say that I've had countless interactions over my life exactly as you've described, which is why I've essentially resigned to accepting it. It's a much, much larger societal issue than just the tech industry or even American culture in general. It stems from 400 years of subjugation, oppression, and vilification of an entire race by the global capitalist system to support slavery and colonization, creating a deeply ingrained sense that "black === bad" in all things. The famous baby doll experiment used in Brown v. Board of Education is a perfect example of what I mean here [0].

I'm not sure that reporting individual incidents of this to an HR department and causing resentment and division between people over these things is really worthwhile. It's just a fact of life as much as any other overarching, long running cultural tradition. Things are changing, but it's simply a generational issue that we are left with the legacy of institutionalized racism, purposely designed to legitimize industrial scale human exploitation.

[0] https://www.history.com/news/brown-v-board-of-education-doll...

Yeah, I totally agree that this is a multigenerational problem. And I totally get why you're resigned to it. It isn't your job to clean up a problem created by white people, and you having to do that work is just another burden of racism.

But personally, I plan to raise a ruckus like this whenever I get the chance. MLK made a strong argument for creating a "constructive tension" [1]. It was his theory that the necessary changes don't just happen, but require the discomfort of the people with the power to fix things. If my intern had wanted to let things lie, I certainly would have. But since he was ok with me reporting it, I saw it as my duty. To society certainly, but also to the company. They had a serious diversity effort and worked hard to give interns a good experience. I would have been negligent had I let an unconscious mistake from one employee undermine that.

Plus, as a white dude, it's easier for me to advocate for these changes. Not only because of my default privilege, but because I'm seen as a disinterested party. I never get accused of "playing the race card" or "misandry" when I come out against some racist or sexist nonsense. So I hope more white people will put their shoulders to the wheel here.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Letter_from_Birmingham_Jail

Imagine that instead of black person, there would be some other visually distinct person. Say, white person in football uniform. Or asian woman in kimono. Or disabled person in the electric scooter.

They would likely get the same "third degree" treatment. Why? Is it because global capitalism does not like football uniforms?

The more likely reason is that while one may not know every person in the company, they have a general idea of what the company composition is. One likely knows that this particular company does not have a lot of disabled people, or people who wear football uniforms, or black people. So anyone who does not fit the common profile will get more scrutiny.

This of course leaves the question of why isn't a black person common in the software company. I don't know an answer to that. Anecdotally, this starts at high school, if not earlier -- there were no black people in my high school calculus class for example, despite the school having ~25% of black students.

One, I think your using a throwaway account is telling.

Two, I think your analogy is ridiculous. He was dressed perfectly well for the environment.

Three, he was not "visually distinct"; the skin albedo of African-Americans is of a similar range to South Asians. He was racially distinct.

Four, if you don't have any idea why there are fewer black people in high status jobs in America, let me suggest you read some history and sociology. This is a well-studied topic. Just in this thread I've mentioned four different books, any one of which would be a good starting point for you.

Thanks you for having a conversation with me. I grew up in ex-USSR country which had very little race variance, and the first time I interacted with black/indian/asian person was when I enrolled in the American high school. I got all the standard explanation about the race, and I had some questions and counter-arguments, but it was pretty clear that one is not supposed to talk about it in public.

> Three, he was not "visually distinct"; the skin albedo of African-Americans is of a similar range to South Asians. He was racially distinct.

Are you saying that people who are racially distinct are not also visually distinct? I do not think this is the case. Skin albedo is not the only important thing, people also look a the face, so face features matter too.

Or are you saying that someone who is visually distinct, but not racially unusual, would not get special treatment? For example, imagine that you worked in the company for a long time, and never saw a man in wheelchair. Suddenly, there is a man in wheelchair asking to be let in. Would you let him in? Or would you ask him some questions to make sure he really works there?

> Four, if you don't have any idea why there are fewer black people in high status jobs in America, ...

I am much more interested why there were no black people in my high school calculus class (and similarly, disproportionately few black people in my college computer science classes) -- because it is pretty clear to me that if you did not take calculus in high school, the chances of you becoming a programmer are very slim.

I just googled and found this article: http://www.jbhe.com/features/49_college_admissions-test.html . That article, says the reasons are racist teachers, black parents, other black students, black neighborhoods, racist guidance counselors. As someone who is not teaching children in any capacity, I am not sure how can I help there. Sure, I can read the books so I feel more guilty -- but I am not sure how will it help to get more black students into the calculus classes.

This same "subconscious bias" would happen in any mostly homogeneous fields. When a field is mostly homogeneous, standing out draws attention to yourself. I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing.

I could envision a similar scenario happening to the well-dressed white NBA player who forgot his badge and the staff of the practice gym are questioning if he really works there vs. tall black dude with hoodie and sweatband who gets let in right away because he doesn't look out of the ordinary.

Or males in the nursing. Or females in construction. The list goes on.

No, it probably wouldn't. One, he didn't get "attention". He got suspicion and aggressive questioning. Two, in the US there is easily demonstrable bias against black people. If you are interested, I recommend going to Harvard's Project Implicit, taking some of their tests, and reading the research results. And the bias extends well beyond the visual; it's enough to have a black name, as is shown by the classic paper: "Are Emily and Greg More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal? A Field Experiment on Labor Market Discrimination" https://www.nber.org/papers/w9873

If you don't mind, I have a couple of questions at the bottom.

This is from what is said to be the post in question, cached here: https://outline.com/RVSLKq

"On a personal note, 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. The frequency is even higher when walking through Classic campus or Building 20. 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."

So I'm a pretty typical privileged white guy working for Facebook at MPK. I care about diversity, and more importantly, I acknowledge these kinds of problem, even without knowing most of the details.

This just blows me away: "...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..."

So first, I'll just ask: does this mirror your experience?

Can you talk more about that?

What can I do to help my peers not be physically afraid of black people??

Thanks for your attention.

I accepted that life is unfair, the solution to this is what you already said, try to be more powerful, smarter, stronger, 'better' than them, in other words, force them to respect me. That's the only solution. Likewise, I admit I to sometime discriminate or being racist to other people. For these people, same solution, they have to force me to respect them.

>>something that no other race lives with in this industry.

As a brown muslim from India, let me tell you its the same with a lot of other people as well.

You get burned on language, color, race, nationality and religion end. Its like you tick all the check boxes on a racists checklist.

This - everyone judges everyone. It's not an American thing. It's not a black/white thing. It's a "Humans are judgmental pricks without fail" thing.

I think it's disingenuous to say "only my people REALLY suffer. You suffer... but not like we suffer".

Skin color is one part - and the listed parts (language, color, race, nationality, religion) are only the beginning. Sex, sexuality, eye color, hair color, height, weight, etc, etc, etc.

It's going to be a lot of fun in the coming years as people start problematising more and more group classes.

I have to imagine it's more difficult for Indians. You were placed, through no fault of your own, as the enemy of the domestic worker. You were brought in, or outsourced to, for the explicit purpose of suppressing the wages of domestic workers. So this is an additional layer of potential negativity on top of plain old racism/in-group preference/etc that other minorities might face.

You fight against visual stereotypes and hierarchies related to that, which are burned into peoples minds. I don‘t think that it‘s race specific, it happens to everybody in a way. When it comes to computers and tech, people expect nerds, and behaviors associated with that. If you don‘t look like a nerd, people will assume that you joined that profession from a different background, that you didn‘t program as a kid and therefor can‘t match their ideal, or stereotype.

I'm not US based, or in the industry so I don't have any direct experience, but your experience is surprising to hear.

From what I understood there was more a problem with sexism than racism in tech. Also from my understanding Hispanics have also been marginalised (thought maybe not to the same extent).

Id appreciate your thoughts.

Racism is fundamental to virtually every social interaction in the US.

It's not always virulent or violent, but it is always present.

Racism is rampant in virtually every first world country but US's brand of racism gets the most media coverage. Many European countries are extremely racist toward gypsies/romani. When I lived in Italy, the Italians were openly derisive to anyone that looked eastern european, even if they were complete strangers ("careful around those romani down the street, they are all liars and thieves"). Good luck getting a job at an italian-owned business if you are of eastern european decent. Japan is also extremely racist toward non-Japanese people to the point they will only let you live in foreigner-quarantined housing complexes.

I'm not sure why this is getting downvoted. Those skeptical should watch this recent lecture from Dr. Robin DiAngelo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=45ey4jgoxeU

Or they might also read the book the talk was based on: https://www.amazon.com/dp/0807047414

Don't think it's just the US.

I once worked with an otherwise lovely Swedish software engineer, who was constantly spouting anti-Danish "jokes" and insults. It was disconcerting. I wasn't sure whether to stand up for the Danes, tell him a lie that my mother was Danish, or what. Is anti-Danish racism even a thing?

But living with an unending fear of having your entire self worth immediately judged at the color of your skin is something that no other race lives with in this industry

I agree with you in everything but that sentence. Others suffer some pretty painful misconceptions, or worse, are ignored.

How do you know it's racism?

Here's the thing, you don't always necessarily know. But your mind is always doing that extra calculation to figure out what is going on.

"Is this person questioning my credentials because they question everyone's credentials?" "Was that crude comment made because they're just oblivious or because they're actually racist?" "Does this person treat everyone just as poorly, is it something I'm doing, or is it prejudice?"

Having to do that double mental processing can be exhausting if you're in an environment where people are insensitive or outright offensive. Some people handle it better than others but it can take its toll on anyone.

The EEO questions on a job application are my favorite.

Certainly putting white or Asian would never be a detriment, but probably isn't a positive either. It's just neutral, default. I can't lie and say that I'm white or Asian, so should I just leave it blank? Then I'm hiding something. I must be black. Should I fill it out and say that I'm black, and pray to god that doesn't trigger some internal bias in the split second where someone decides to bin my application or not? Either way it's guaranteed to be a negative or a positive, not a neutral meaningless thing as it should.

Ironic because on the mostly white hiring committees I’ve been on, being a woman or black gives huge bonus points. I’m in the med west and that seems to be how it goes around here.

>Ironic because on the mostly white hiring committees I’ve been on, being a woman or black gives huge bonus points. I’m in the med west and that seems to be how it goes around here.

That's basically my whole point. It's always going to be either a positive or a negative, not a neutral meaningless thing like it is for white guys. In your experience it's been positive, but I can't imagine that's always the case.

Why are blacks always put in a position to have to answer this very question?

Because the burden of proof should lie on the person making the claim.

Only if the claim is particularly novel. If you say that your computer failed when the power went out, you'd rightly be irritated if somebody asked you for proof. One is expected to have a certain base level of knowledge before jumping into a discussion.

No it's not. If you claim "my computer doesn't work" and your fixit guy says "yes it does", it is up the person making the claim to show that it doesn't work. Otherwise, no one will take you seriously.

I've been in this industry for going on 20 years now, spent 5 years bouncing around as a consultant and I've personally never worked with a black developer. I can't imagine what it's like for you. Hang in there man, I hope you make it.

I believe you that it sucks. Do you yourself believe that the main reason blacks are unrepresented in the tech industry is racism?

Really? I am British white and I have the opposite problem. In my company, they have gone out of their way to promote non-white people and my achievements and accomplishments have been overlooked. I feel like I have to work at least 2x harder and accomplish more than non-white or non-male people to be given any credit, respect, or the promotions I think I deserve. Once, at a company meeting to discuss recruiting, my direct manager thanked the non-white and non-male, and non-heterosexual people for bringing diversity to the company in front of everyone. No one else was thanked or praised for anything there.

My point is that we can probably all find something to complain about and it irks me that white people are accused of being racist and undeserving in tech roles. I certainly don't feel like I have any sort of privilege; quite the opposite. I suspect this will be downvoted which is proof of my point.

This is the issue that pro "diversity program" people need to come to terms with. If these programs end up causing reverse discrimination, you just end up punishing majority members unjustly.

Knowing that black people have it harder on average is not consoling to someone who got passed over because they didn't fulfill enough diversity check-boxes as another candidate.

It's almost as if you are missing the larger point being made and taking your own experience to be the sum total extent of the entire issue.

There’s only two possibilities.

Either white people are undeserving of tech roles...

Or white people are superior to black people.

You have to pick one or the other. I don’t see a third way to explain an employment gap.

Why do you feel this is? I'm pretty sure the industry skews liberal-to-progressive so I would assume there aren't that many racists in software development.

This is one thing I never understood. Im conservative and race rarely crosses my mind. Having grown up military and been in the military you perform your duties and hang out with a range of people. Not once in my 11 years in the military did I see race brought up. After getting out and being in tech, race is brought up all the time that. Those who 'skew liberal to progressive' have an unnatural obsession with race. Why is that?

As a non-American outside view, my guess is that the socially-left view systemic racism as a big problem, so think about it, talk about it, and advocate policies to combat it. The socially-right believe America's meritocracy instincts are stronger than systemic racism, so don't talk or think about race as much.

It seems like it has more to do with one's views of the relative position of cultural values ("America is pretty good at equality of opportunity" vs. "America has some important systemic challenges around race that compromise equality") rather than level of racism on either side.

Unfortunately that difference seems to get misinterpreted both ways - with one side thinking (and saying) the others are racist because they don't support various race-targeted policies (or talk about systemic racism all the time), and the other side accusing the social-left of creating divides and problems by stoking race issues.

I like your intro to the topic, and how it's nice to both sides. But you're drawing quite the straw man when you say

> one side thinking (and saying) the others are racists because they don't support various race-targeted policies (or talk about systemic racism all the time)

This completely ignores the actual racism that exists, and makes the social left out to be some group of insanely judgemental people that are so furious for reasons as small as "[people don't] talk about systemic racism all the time"

I don't know anyone who's mad about people not talking about systemic racism all the time. But I do know a lot of people who are furious about racism, and they talk about racism much more than "omg can you believe that someone doesn't support Affirmative Action" Or "wow, this person isn't thinking about systemic racism 24/7? How racist of them!"

Yes, people do discuss "race-targeted policies", and people can get judged for not agreeing with them. And although a certain degree of tribalism definitely exists (on both sides), if someone could provide me a good, clear argument against a "race-targeted policy" that also accounts for the issues that policy seeks to fix, then I'd happily agree with them (and not think they were racist). It's a shame so many discussions about those policies end up being arguments over the definition of racism (instead of, you know, how to lessen its extent and effects), and that is the problem with both sides.

When I talk to people who claim race is not a significant issue (I'm in Canada, so it's usually about discussions about indigenous people - that's where Canada concentrates its systemic racism), I always ask them to consider why, if there is no issue, do so many people in that community think that there is an issue? An important facet of systemic racism is that it can be invisible if you're not affected, so you have to listen to those who are affected and not assume your own experience reflects societal reality.

You may agree with that - if you do, I'll turn it around on you and ask - if what I said was a blatant strawman, why does it seem like the majority of the social-right in America think that the social-left automatically consider them racists? That's a message I hear continuously from the American right-leaning press. Either there really is something there; or the media is misrepresenting how the right-leaning community thinks; or the right-leaning community thinks that but are flat-out wrong.

I also hear all three things when discussing systemic racism - it is really there; the media and academics are whipping up a problem where none exists; or the people in question do think there's a problem, but they're wrong and should get on with life.

You seemed to take offense at what I think was a pretty gentle characterization the tribalism seems to dominate discussion nowadays. (Well, offense at my description of one side of it, anyhow.) I think there's a parallel between your response to me and the response many socially-right people have toward systemic racism. I don't think either are helpful to discourse or solutions.

>This completely ignores the actual racism that exists

No it doesn't, but nice way to land into the left stereotype that the poster identified. Both sides can easily believe racism exists but have pretty wide gaps on how it should be addressed.

>if someone could provide me a good, clear argument against a "race-targeted policy" that also accounts for the issues that policy seeks to fix, then I'd happily agree with them (and not think they were racist).

Sure, any policies that give preference to a race that create an "equality of outcome" instead of "equality of opportunity" environment are just trying to offset racism with more racism and are inflaming divides.

Example: Stanford choosing black students over equally (or even more qualified) Asian students due to race-targeted diversity policies. This leads to Asian students doubting the black students are as qualified as them, which leaves a lot of pressure on black students to prove they are there for the right reasons.

"Skew liberal to progressive" here. I've heard friends of mine who are black talk about things like being followed around at a grocery store. I remember when Eric Garner was killed, a lot of my friends who are black didn't want to talk at all in school, and felt incredibly anxious. I also remember that shortly after those discussions where I learned of that anxiety, several of those people were in a class with me where the teacher brought up Eric Garner and put the 3 black people in the class on spotlight - she wasn't even trying to be malicious, she actually wanted to learn things, but I'm sure you can imagine how that made those 3 people feel. A lot of things are easy to just "not see" yet they happen quite often, and that is why the "unnatural obsession" exists for me at least. When you see the amount of racism that exists and can easily go unnoticed by you, you see the world in a different way. It's almost like finding out about the NSA and how little privacy we all have these days.

I vividly remember the time I went to In-N-Out with a group, and took a seat at a table after ordering, but the group ended up moving to a different table. I asked the person who wanted to move the group "Why do you want us to sit over there?" She said nothing, but lifted her hand up and pointed a finger, and I looked over and there wasn't anything wrong. But there was a group of black people there. This was a time when racism was clear as day and right in front of me. But hearing many stories of racism from my friends who are black is a different feeling - instead of feeling like there's an isolated incident, I see how common it is, and how easy it is to just not see it. And that's scary. Scarier than the NSA and Facebook, because instead of losing privacy, people are actively harmed and you can easily not even see or hear about it

I had mostly the same experience as you, race was only really talked about during annual training sessions. I think the obsession with race in 'progressive' fields and communities comes from the current college atmosphere. My wife started teaching English 101 at a college this year, and the curriculum she got from the school is very focused on race. It's supposed to be an introductory English class, but all the assignments are about gentrification, racial identity, etc. The first day of class she was supposed to show them a video of a black girl doing free-form poetry where she talks about how white people are holding her down because of how she talks. The department head said they give them these "spicy" topics to write about so they'll be more interested in the class. It seems like professors and students look back on the individuals fighting for civil rights and decided that they want to fight for something, so they've become hyper focused on race.

That is wild. Why is the girl doing free-form poetry being held down? I would have interpreted that as being the way she decided to approach the subject.

>Why is the girl doing free-form poetry being held down?

The poetry is about her being held down by the way she talks. The poetry isn't the thing holding her down.

People have an "unnatural obsession with race" because they want to fix race issues they believe exist in our society. It is not really difficult to understand.

You make a gross assumption about his perspective aligning his views on what is wrong with the world with the views of liberal individuals.

When you empathize with him and understand that he comes from a different background you can begin to understand why he expresses difficulty in understanding.

I am brown, i never really hear race discussed much in my social circles in a comedic theme, not a racism theme.

There's another data point.

My poiny is that people are diverse, have different perspectives, and having an open mind facilitates dialogue

I agree with your point about empathy, but I disagree with the idea that a "gross assumption" was made. jriot was talking about an "unnatural obsession with race" and asking why it exists, and the person who replied to it succinctly explained why. It was a "question and answer" dialog. Regardless of jriot's perspective, the reply was still correct and probably informative (because it answers a question that was asked)

I was watching the Ken Burns documentary on the Vietnam War and I recall one of white vet (from the marines I think) remembered something to the tune of "it didn't matter what color your skin was, we were all the same out there" meanwhile some of the black vets had clear memories of racism in the ranks and how they dealt with it. One guy said he told people "say what you want to say about me, but say it from where I can't hear you" and another said he recalled a black soldier blowing up his white officer's house (or room, can't remember the exact terminology).

As a black guy from a military family (though I wasn't in the military myself) my folks for the most part told me they tended to deal with racism quickly and quietly by pulling someone off to the side and either explaining what was wrong to them or fighting them (I have uncles that did one or the other). I think that is kind of how you have to deal with it as well as a lot of other problems in the military because of social pressures towards cohesion. I say this to say that maybe you didn't see it as much when you served because you never did anything to warrant a stern conversation or confrontation yourself and your fellow soldiers or sailors nipped it in the bud before it became a problem within ranks. But that's just my speculating because, again, I've never been in the military, but my uncles, cousins, and great grandfather were and talked about their experiences.

I don't know. I'm British and classical liberal/mildly conservative so I can't relate to it myself. The overt racism I was contrasting with was more the far right, most of my friends are politically similar to me and they don't care about race either.

To someone who grew up in a place where “race was never brought up” I’m not surprised that you see any discussion of race as an “unnatural obsession”, putting aside the comedy that you think you’re fit to judge what’s natural. This is the first subject of race on HN that I have seem this week, maybe this month. It’s not like the front page has more than 1 thread on the topic every day.

I grew up on island in Alaska where 40% were first generation immigrants from the Philippines. We all hung out, played sports together, traveled, graduated high school, joined the military, and now are raising our families. Maybe they received prejudice but at the same time those of who were military children weren't accepted as part of the community, seen as outsiders and treated as such. As kids we bonded and formed stronger relations with those around us and didn't let it affect us.

>>This is one thing I never understood. Im conservative and race rarely crosses my mind.

I agree. And it probably explains phenomena like this: https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2018/11/30/white-liber...

Liberals I think are a little bit more critical, knowing they exist in a society that is systemically racist in a lot of ways, are willing to look at their thoughts and behaviors in an effort to try and figure out ways that they might be unintentionally or subtly racist.

Hey, don't lump us older liberals in with them. Liberalism in the US used to be about workers' rights and making sure everybody got their fair share. The swing to identity politics is mystifying to us too.

Race, and racism, is everywhere (note: this does not mean "everyone is racist"). It's kind of absurd to say that it wouldn't be an issue if liberals stopped talking about it - I suspect if you did a survey of minorities they would very, very strongly disagree with that sentiment.

You may not see it, others may not see it, but that's why people talk about unconscious bias a lot. You're just not attuned to it. The posts in this thread alone should indicate to you that there are common experiences you aren't aware of.

I agree that racism exists.

I agree that unconscious bias exists.

I agree that work needs to be done to smooth race relations and unconscious bias.

That said, I think it's worth considering whether constantly talking about race is doing the job of smoothing race relations, or alienating others to the cause.

> You're just not attuned to it.

"Confirmation bias is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one's preexisting beliefs or hypotheses." (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confirmation_bias)

If you look hard enough for anything, you will find it ... whether it's there or not.

Surely you can use that quote to dismiss absolutely everything? If you see it, it's confirmation bias. If you don't, it doesn't exist.

Because superficial political flag waving doesn't mean anything?

I see a lot of the progressive flag waving in tech as "protesting too much." Here's an almost exclusively white male industry whose main pay check today is mass surveillance and manipulation. It's based in a city with a cost of living so high that only six-figure professionals can afford to live there in anything more than a bunk bed. Helps to cover it with a lot of faux-progressive window dressing.

I grew up in the Midwest and lived in the South for a while. I know people from many different regions and walks of life. The most ardent, ideological, committed racists I've ever encountered are all in tech. Tech circles are the only place I've had multiple people try to evangelize me with what amounts to neo-Nazi ideology. Even putting those extreme cases aside I don't really see tech as very progressive. It's certainly not progressive in deed, and that's what matters.

This is such a weird time politically. Politics is increasingly bullshit and the more irrelevant it becomes the more emotional and combative people become about it.

Hard to have a serious conversation when an industry that is one third minority [asian] hyperboles into almost exclusively white.

Even harder when the almost exclusively male industry has an above average gender equality ratio compared to other industries. So few people realize that the norm in gender segregation is around 80:20 on the average, and only about 10% of the population of say Sweden work in a industry that has a minimum of 40% men and 40% women.

Interesting fact: Google recently became majority non-white.

> The most ardent, ideological, committed racists I've ever encountered are all in tech. Tech circles are the only place I've had multiple people try to evangelize me with what amounts to neo-Nazi ideology.

Are you sure that's accurate? It's well known that tech circles have a left-leaning social ideology, particularly in the bay area.

Yes, it's accurate. The alt-right came out of tech circles: gamers, 4chan, etc. If you want some search terms start with Steve Bannon, IGE, weev, Vox Popoli, and Gamergate, and follow those rabbit holes until you hit acronyms like "HBD" and "NRx." The entire neo-fascist movement orbits tech. The majority of its intellectual leaders are tech people or people with significant involvement in the tech world.

Hell a lot of it incubated right here on HN before the de-facto policy became to flag/shadowban that stuff. Go back to HN circa 2010-2011 and the site's full of it. I'm pretty convinced that if the admins hadn't banned that stuff HN would be a highbrow 4chan /pol by now, since everyone else would have bailed when it got increasingly hard-core.

I've encountered casual racist attitudes elsewhere, but tech circles are the only places I've found significant numbers of true believers in the Bell Curve and people who think a single number (IQ) quantifies the worth of a human being. It's also, like I said, the only place I've had people try to evangelize me to hard-core fascist ideology.

There's a world of difference between having casual negative attitudes toward other races because your family held them when you grew up and having an explicit ideological belief system that advocates racism, totalitarianism, and hyper-elitism. It's the difference between an un-examined bias and an examined, affirmed bias. I've found the former in places like Ohio and North Carolina. I've found the latter primarily in tech.

It does surprise me to find these views in tech. It surprises me because tech is all about changing the way things are, so I wouldn't expect to find total commitment and capitulation to the naturalistic fallacy. But here it is.

It's anecdotal, but the one company I worked with in the south which had a very conservative, christian, "family" culture was the most diverse team I've ever had the pleasure of working with. My team consisted of 2 black developers, 1 asian female, 3 indian females, 2 indian males and 3 white males(including me). There was never a hint of racism or sexism, we all came together for the mission of the company, and we all loved the different foods, experiences and perspectives we brought to the table.

OTOH, I have been with a couple companies and seen racism and sexism in the form of jokes and comments that were done in poor taste, but it was just a group of white/asian progressive males so no harm? Again, all anecdotal. I'm sure other people have had complete opposite experiences, and thats to be expected. Racism is not always about hate or politics, it can show its self through ignorance and unfamiliarity.

I've been a lurker for almost the entirety of HN. I created an account just to post this because I believe politics, especially political stereotyping has no business on HN. I would hate to see this forum burned out like Reddit.

The face people put on publicly vs their inner monologue can be vastly different. Words and actions can and do regularly diverge.

Human psychology and social interaction is infinitely complex and murky.

It is disappointing to see what appears on the surface to be a legitimate question downvoted simply because it may not be worded in the best way. The fact that our industry skews to the left (for the US definition of the term) is a fact, and while the assumption that left != racist is wrong, that doesn't warrant downvotes in my opinion.

Cheers, it was a legit question as I'm curious as to OPs experience and would think that the industry eschews racism, but at the same time here is a comment from someone who says they have experienced racism so wanted to know more.

Oh man. Being liberal doesn't by default make you perfectly non-discriminatory.

I mean, no one on earth is perfectly non discriminatory. But liberal to progressive people at least hold the idea that it is a moral imperative not to discriminate and at least try not to. Of course people will always face a certain level of subconscious discrimination from others, but the way OP described their experience made it seem like they were the target of overt / willing discrimination and I wanted to know what they had experienced to make them feel that way.

>But liberal to progressive people at least hold the idea that it is a moral imperative not to discriminate and at least try not to.

Someone has lied to you about the differences between liberals and conservatives. A non-negligible portion of the left think more discrimination is the answer to discrimination.

Nah dude I know it

The funniest thing is that people calling themselves liberal are often racist (towards white and sometimes asian people). I'm an immigrant from a poor Eastern European country where salaries and quality of life are lower than in many South American countries, and I'm constantly judged based on my skin colour.

Oh their are plenty of racists in software development don't be fooled by the lip service companies dole out.

Because it's well-documented.

I mean, really you only have to look at the knee-jerk defensiveness against the idea that there could possibly be any racism in Silicon Valley on this Silicon Valley-centric website every time something like this is posted, to come to the conclusion that there might just be a problem.

No community is THIS defensive about something that's a non-issue.

> No community is THIS defensive about something that's a non-issue.

Yes, surely protesting their innocence is strong evidence that they are, in fact, guilty as charged. /s

You have a point that it might/could probably be an indicator that something's being repressed- but you can't just jump to conclusions about what that is.

It's not like, once in every blue moon, someone says 'tech has a race problem'- people say things like that all the time. So, even if it was a non-issue, the fact lots of people are saying it's an issue makes it an issue for people in tech, for obvious reasons (nobody likes being called evil.) Maybe people are defensive because they do see racism and ignore it- but maybe people are defensive because lots of people say there's racism they're ignoring, and what those people say can affect their jobs. Whether there's a race problem or not, there's a race problem.

Apache Kafkatrapping

> No community is THIS defensive about something that's a non-issue.

When did you stop beating your wife?

The day before I met her.

Hence why I was asking the question...

I wouldn't say that the industry leans left, I'd say the industry more of leans to this murky libertarian brogressive sort of amalgamation where people end up saying one thing and doing another when their bottom line is at stake. See Google.

"Create internal systems for employees to anonymously report microaggressions. "

This is the 'happy path' to ideological totalitarianism, and it's a scary statement.

In the UC system, it is now considered a 'micro aggression' to make the statement 'America is a Meritocracy'. Why? Because it doesn't necessarily reflect the fact that for some people it's harder than others. Surely - there's a lot to be debated about the statement. But that it cannot be said, or is even considered problematic is utterly Orwellian.

The author makes the case of 'undue or overly harsh' criticism of Black employees? Unfortunately, this is a difficult thing to measure, and if FB turns into a 'government office' - it simply won't be possible to give even a fair assessment without the fear or being labelled a racist.

I'm actually quite sensitive to aphxtron's comment above about the insecurities of being black in tech, and there is work to do ... but I think the intersectional / authoritarian approach, especially those whereby we 'assume racism' is wrong.

I don't think the Colin Kaepernick approach is going to work on this, I think it's just going to take a while.

The chap who came up with the term "meritocracy" actually did it in a dystopian novel:


A recent comment by the author, Michael Dunlop Young:

"It is good sense to appoint individual people to jobs on their merit. It is the opposite when those who are judged to have merit of a particular kind harden into a new social class without room in it for others."

What does the last sentence mean, exactly? The word meritocracy doesn't refer to an actual formalised class system, anywhere or in any time in history. This appears to a flawed attempt to seem balanced - meritocracy is good when it means appointing people based on merit (which is what it always means) and bad when it means this thing that doesn't actually exist.

Trying to ban the word meritocracy like they did at GitHub is just the result of certain sorts of people (who loudly claim to be totally not racist or sexist at all) secretly believing that formalised hiring and promotion processes, which is what they usually mean by the word meritocracy, will exclude their chosen favourite minorities.

The commenter points out that the cynicism towards the term 'meritocracy' is actually a part of the very birth of the term into the English language, which is a very good point.

'Meritocracy' possibly creates another class based system, just defined in the terms of whoever is responsible for defining what 'merit' is.

I believe that in general 'meritocracy' is a good thing, I don't think we should be fundamentally cynical about it ... but the OP's comment is definitely relevant.

Note that I'm not cynical about the concept of meritocracy - just how the term is used.

This is a very thoughtful comment and I don't think it should be downvoted.

I particularly appreciate last quote it's utterly relevant in the Valley.

I can't comment on the Valley, not having spent a huge amount of time there, but here in the UK I tend to find that anyone using the term "meritocracy" seriously tends to use it in a rather self justifying way "we are a meritocracy, I have been successful, therefore I have merit therefore I deserve all the rewards I can get".

However, I do welcome the type of meritocracy where people like Aneurin Bevan can go on to influence our lives in such a positive way:


[He started work down a mine at 13 and went on to found the NHS].

Also, on the military side it used to be possible for someone to rise from private soldier to Chief of the Imperial General Staff - something, even with a far smaller military, would be impossible today - a point made by the military historian Richard Holmes.


Most corporate systems are highly meritocratic, and high school dropouts who have no skills or ability are not rising to the top.

The military is a completely alternative universe, and by the way many commissioned soldiers do make the jump to the officer class.

> In the UC system, it is now considered a 'micro aggression' to make the statement 'America is a Meritocracy'. Why? Because it doesn't necessarily reflect the fact that for some people it's harder than others

Alternate character interpretation: the phrase "meritocracy" has turned into a dogwhistle for white supremacists and as such its use effectively reifies a white-supremacist position whether you mean to do so or not. As another example: I do not think that the overwheming majority of folks who use the term "gypped" have a problem with Romani, nut there is history and context to that too and you can't ignore it. Or, if you'd like a more amplified example, consider what the phrase "blood and soil" actually refers to.

It's not "Orwellian" to say "hey, that shit hurts people, be conscious of how your actions affect other people." It's polite.

Intellectually, I see your point.

But pragmatically, it is Orwellian to suggest the phrase 'America is a Meritocracy' is tantamount to 'White Supremacism' or even that it is remotely an 'impolite' term.

", be conscious of how your actions affect other people."

No, it's not our job to not ever say anything that might possibly offend someone somewhere, because someone will always be offended.

This is not about 'being polite'.

It is 'polite' to not use foul language, to make assumptions about people, or to not say things that would offend most people, or are definitely going to offend a small groups.

It is not reasonable to control language to a point wherein speech is restricted because of the mere possibility that someone, somewhere, might be mildly offended.

I think you've made my case for me, because if it is 'not polite' to say 'America is a meritocracy' - then most speech is literally not polite and subject to the arbitrary whims of authoritarian overlords.

Just yesterday the CBC, Rogers and Bell (Canadian Gov. Broadcaster and equivalent of AT&T and Verizon) just banned the #1 most popular Christmas song 'Baby it's cold outside' - because of the innuendo about a man pressing a woman to stay with him. Contrast that with the fact that there are zillions of songs with overt, vicious, bigoted, violent and sexist terminology played all day long and you can see immediately the arbitrary and ideological nature to which these things apply.

A small, totalitarian group of 'thought nannies' decided that a very popular, and frankly innocuous song, might possibly suggest or offend someone, somewhere - and so it was banned.

Yes - let's be polite ... but utterly arbitrary and normative speech that might be contentious in intellectual circles ... does not constitute racism, insensitivity, or 'impolite' speech.

> It's not "Orwellian" to say "hey, that shit hurts people, be conscious of how your actions affect other people." It's polite.

I think it is Orwellian to declare certain words or phrases "dog whistles" and suppress their usage based on that.

Please explain why identifying the work of white supremacists and similar pustules as their work, and suggesting that decent people should not help them make that work A Thing, is "Orwellian". And to be clear: we know that white supremacists insert these phrases into the public discourse to help strengthen their position through normalization. We know that because they say so. We have the receipts, from Lee Atwater to 4chan galaxy-brain chatter.

If you don't want to be thought of as a white supremacist, it's remarkably easy not to parrot their phrases. And nobody's even saying you can't do it if you want to die on that hill. But actions have consequences, don't they?

I have been addicted to 4chan for 10 years now, /pol/ since inception, and this is the first I hear of meritocracy being white supremacy.

/pol/ in particular gets a lot of fun from getting progressives to jump at shadows ("It's ok to be white", and that unsuccessful campaign to turn a lone black dot into a symbol of white supremacy). The "O.K. symbol as white supremacist" also came from them I think, and the intent was to get progressives to seem crazy for flipping out at something so innocuous.

Maybe because we don't let a fringe group unilaterally redefine key English words?

And maybe because when people use a word we don't automatically assume the worst intent unless there is evidence to support it?

"Please explain why identifying the work of white supremacists and similar pustules as their work, and suggesting that decent people should not help them make that work "

That's really easy.

The statement 'America is a meritocracy' is not remotely a phrase or statement supporting White Supremacy.

The fact any reasonable person would try to put such an innocuous statement in the camp of 'White Supremacy' makes me afraid.

> The statement 'America is a meritocracy' is not remotely a phrase or statement supporting White Supremacy.

It could be if you insist that it's a meritocracy in the face of all the evidence that it is overwhelmingly biased towards white people.

(It could equally just be an ignorant statement from a blistering ignorant fool who hasn't done any thinking, mind.)

We cannot have open/honest discussion or make progress if we are too concerned with making sure no one gets their feelings hurt.

There has never been a successful human rights movement that was polite and didn't offend.

The truth can be very painful to accept, which is why we often subconsciously avoid it and shun such discussions

> I don't think the Colin Kaepernick approach is going to work on this, I think it's just going to take a while.

Did you mean "do" rather than "don't"? If not, I'm not sure how to interpret that statement.

The first 3 comments in this thread "The Left is eating itself." "Good thing they shielded me from that post. I don't know if I could have taken reading that." ">ex manager >manager why would their opinion be at all relevant"

That pretty much sums up the state of the dialog in the industry and it's pretty sad that you can't even find thoughtful comments on Hacker News. Regardless of your politics, everyone deserves a fair shake. I'm a black engineer and manager with experience at several tech companies, including Facebook. At every company I've worked for I've heard jokes about African-Americans (overheard, to my face, from managers and ICs alike) and dealt with people assuming I'm a junior engineer at the beginning of every encounter despite the gray hairs lining my chin. At the conclusion of my tech talks and even technical interviews people routinely ask me if I have an engineering background! These things may seem insignificant ("they're just jokes") but we're social creatures want to feel recognized and accepted. That hasn't stopped me from building a career I'm proud of and I don't lose sleep at night. But I'm an outlier in that regard.

The larger subtext of the entire diversity conversation is learning to coexist. It's not about black people, women, the LGBTQ community, or any other single group. It's about a better working environment for everyone indefinitely. Being against that is literally pathological.

Based on the quality of discourse on this site lately, I'm sure many of you will take my words out of context and make broad assumptions about my beliefs. For the sane ones, please reflect on the words I actually wrote.

The first comments are often thoughtless noise because commenters can skip reading or thinking about the article, or typing something more than a one-liner. The thing to do is wait for the thoughtful ones (more of those will appear, but it takes a bit of time) and engage with them.

That's fair and I shouldn't have let that color my opinion of the entire community. But for hot button issues knee jerk reactions do tend to set the tone for conversations, if not dominate them.

Yes, that's really true. I wonder if we might be able to do something about that in software.

You already do. If you refresh the page now, the much more nuanced positions and things have substance have risen to the top and crap has been flagged/downmodded away.

I'm mixed but to most people I appear white. It's usually only black women for some reason that pick up that I'm mixed. My life experience has led me to take advantage of the luxury of passing and keep it a secret that I'm half black. When you're white, people just tend to see "default", then they look for other identifying attributes about you, like your skills. Otherwise you become the black intelligent guy, not just the intelligent guy.

My younger brother is going into the tech industry but has a much darker complexion than me. I'm not sure what to tell him to be honest.

My older brother is an engineer. He is by all appearances black. His approach was similar to mine but to a greater extreme, he disassociated himself from anything resembling black stereotypes in America down to the very music he listens to, the way he dresses, everything. Unfortunately he takes it a step too far and is quite often jokingly(or not, I can't tell) racist himself. He's finding success in his career but I don't know how much of that is due to the way he presents himself or due to his merit.

I have friends that do the same thing, they have a work face and a home face. I try not to think about it. It's very distracting.

I was lucky enough to grow up around black scientists, engineers, and intellectuals. So I have deep self belief and, to me, emulating behaviors of non-blacks (or other genders, or even athletes) feels natural - I just want to be exceptional and I find inspiration everywhere.

To the extent possible, I've always tried to shape my identity based on what feels right for me instead of what's expected of me, even from my own race. With practice, divorcing yourself from other peoples' opinions of you becomes second nature. When you don't adopt that mindset you're allowing other people to write your story, which some people are fine with but I personally find that intolerable. I can definitely relate to feeling like you have to disown part of your identity but I just can't accept that. It happens in many subtle ways we don't think about. For example, when we sense someone else's self doubt if evokes feeling of self doubt, anger, or sadness in ourselves. In reality, other peoples' flawed opinions don't pay my rent so I try to live in reality and disregard ignorance unless it affects the outcomes I care about.

I chose tech (over politics!) because it seemed like more of a meritocracy and, although I've dealt with some race-related challenges, focusing on doing my best work, creating value, and writing my own story has led to pretty good results.

I do still get distracted wondering whether my story would be different if I weren't black - it's tough.

It's interesting, how much this problem is specific to the US. As someone from a small Eastern European state, who hadn't met a single black person during the first 18 years of his life, I had zero negative attitude towards black people when I first met them at the university in the UK. Actually, many of them were like friends.

I recently learned that I went to school with people of all kinds of colour. When I was at school I was genuinely colour blind.

How did I make this discovery?

At a funeral, meeting some of my dad's friends. One couple said 'you must know Marcus' and then proceeded to describe him by colour. That didn't help. But when they said that he did the posters for the school debating society I remembered who this Marcus character was, and quite clearly. It was his eloquence in the aforementioned debating society that I did remember, not his black skin.

There were other parents-of-contemporaries there who had kids that could not have been white. So I then clocked details I did remember - Asian style eyelids without the crease, darker skin tone etc. Seems as if there was more diversity at the school I went to than I can remember. I had assumed everyone was white, but this was definitely not the case.

We did actually have kids being teased for having ginger hair, I can't remember being the one using the shameful gingerist words but I must have been chuckling away though.

I can remember racist words and how there was no association between the words and the persons who were supposed to be derided by such words. I distinctly remember using a derogatory term for people from the Indian sub-continent and my parents correcting me about that. Beatings were allowed in the 1980's... The context of that was a retail establishment where us kids had a name for it that turned out to be quite racist. We didn't know that, we just thought it was the name of the place. The more backward folks in the older generation had 'taught' us this particular word, we didn't know the connotations.

So, think again, are you sure you didn't go to school with any black kids? You could have been genuinely oblivious.

I also wonder why I was so deluded and what the balance has to be between different shades of skin colour for 'them and us' racism to happen. Had our school been 50% black I am sure I would not have had my naive 'everyone was white' memories, but a small percentage of black folks in a white school would have been memorable too.

> So, think again, are you sure you didn't go to school with any black kids? You could have been genuinely oblivious.

Haha, not only I didn't go to school with black kids, but I hadn't seen a single black person on a street until early 2000s in my post-soviet country.

But what does "black" mean in a UK context? It certainly doesn't mean the same as what it means in the US. Or in Australia, for that matter. Different history. Different cultures.

While it is different, they are still discriminated against and perceived negatively. Most "black" people in the UK are descended from afro-Caribbean slaves. They may or may not be recent immigrants to the UK.

Given how even recent white European immigrants to the UK are treated by the general population (see: Brexit), I would expect afro-Caribbean individuals to not be treated much better, and have, anecdotally, heard as much.

The truth of the statement that most "black" people in the UK are descended from ... rather depends on the applicable definition of "black". In particular, people from the Indian subcontinent are sometimes referred to as "black". (For what it's worth, many people in Britain with Indian ancestry were brought up in Africa so could claim to be "real" Africans...)

I don't think it makes much sense to categorise people by skin colour. An Afro-Caribbean doesn't in general have more in common with an immigrant from Africa than with an immigrant from Syria or Hong Kong.

People with a different skin colour certainly do get discriminated against. However, if you really want to get discriminated against, try dressing in the wrong way and speaking a foreign language or with a foreign accent. In general, people get judged by their clothing and the way they speak far more than by any physical feature.

Perhaps it doesn't make sense to generalise across the UK, either. Afro-Caribbeans are much more common in the London area than elsewhere. Only in Bradford has someone made me feel like a foreigner by speaking to me slowly in Hindi/Urdu and rolling their eyes when I fail to understand. (Quite cool, I thought: I approve.)

Hah yeah we are talking about a place that has “polish” separated from “white” on their census

The American condition doesnt have a way to relate to that

I am sorry to hear about your experience.

As far as the dialog, it is known that Facebook pays PR firms to improve their image by spreading misleading stories (see Definers Public Affairs), so I think there is reason to believe that some comments here may be disingenuous.

We all have biases and those are largely shaped by media and pop culture and to a lesser extent personal experience. The talk of diversity evokes a lot of emotion. I sometimes think the focus ought to be not on race/religion/ethinicity but rather on how to prevent our assumptions from adversely affecting others.

There is a need for diversity training but the way I’ve seen it done is off putting to the people who need it most. All it ends up being is a virtue signaling fest for so called allies of minority groups and the real harm persists - people making false, often times demeaning, assumptions about others that adversely affect them.

I work in academia and have never been outside of academia. My belief about diversity training comes solely from my experiences within academia. Do companies spend time on diversity training? Is it a yearly training like it is in parts of academia? Do you find the way it is done off putting? Helpful?

Lots of tech companies do require diversity/bias training for managers and interviewers. It's often counterproductive. In my experience people either don't take the training seriously or strongly object to being forced to go through it. I'm not sure it'd be effective even if everyone embraced it since shifting attitudes and behaviors takes time and effort even when you're highly motivated to do so.

I typed up a long message to share an experience, but feel like it would be better in private. Is it alright if I can reach out to you via email?

- From a black male entering the tech industry

Absolutely, here's my email kwame@magnetic-inc.com

>The larger subtext of the entire diversity conversation is learning to coexist. It's not about black people, women, the LGBTQ community, or any other single group. It's about a better working environment for everyone indefinitely. Being against that is literally pathological.

You claim the site doesn't have thoughtful comments and then you build up a strawman of diversity efforts and then claim being against it is 'literally pathological'. This is the problem.

People with grievances about how diversity programs are ineffective or are causing harm are labeled as 'pathological', etc by people on the left because they think the criticisms are against diversity in the first place. You are making enemies out of people who believe in equal opportunity because they point out flaws and injustices in diversity programs.

I recommend that you reflect on your positions if you want to build bridges. Assuming that everyone who points out flaws in an approach are against the much larger goal is a good way to needlessly divide everyone.

You misunderstand. I'm saying that being against a better working environment for everyone is literally pathological because it's antisocial behavior. I didn't say disagreeing with the way companies approach diversity is pathological.

But that's a strawman position nobody has. Can you point to anyone who has literally argued "Today I want to stop the workplace becoming better for everyone"? It never happens.

I think you're misinformed. There are plenty of people who are either fine with status quo (which is not totally equitable from my POV) or completely fine with prejudice. Few people articulate it as "I want to stop the workplace from becoming better for everyone" but the outcome is the same. I'm not speculating - I've experienced both groups first hand.

I think an even more subtle problem is people who attack ineffective policies as opposed to focusing on the primary objective, which is coexistence. In other words, people focus on attacking solutions as opposed to helping create better ones. That behavior is pervasive, insidious, counterproductive, and seems to be picking up steam.

Being fine with the status quo is not the same thing as being "against a better working environment for everyone" and is wildly, insanely far from being "literally pathological" - your words, not mine.

Please, reflect on your position for a moment there. You're saying that anyone who is happy with their workplace and thinks things are OK is engaged in "literally pathological anti-social behaviour". That's the kind of overblown, extremist rhetoric that makes diversity initiatives a toxic topic in the modern workplace - it's a demonisation of anyone who thinks that maybe their firm has bigger things to worry about than a never-ending, apparently unsatisfiable quest for "equity".

In other words, people focus on attacking solutions as opposed to helping create better ones. That behavior is pervasive, insidious, counterproductive, and seems to be picking up steam.

It's actually your behaviour that's counterproductive here. There is never any obligation to propose something better when criticising a proposal.

It might be helpful to the proposer, and if someone can think of a better approach then you'd hope they would propose it. But if something is a bad idea, or represents a bad tradeoff (there are no solutions in life, only tradeoffs), then it's a bad idea and shouldn't happen. This is independent of anything else. Indeed, making the status quo worse is absolutely possible with any change, and something people are right to point out if a proposal might lead to it.

That doesn't make them insidious, or counterproductive.

>In other words, people focus on attacking solutions as opposed to helping create better ones.

Because many of those policies are actively harmful and are worse than the status quo. You don't need to have a better solution to point out that implementing quotas results in more racism than having no quotas at all.

When it comes to approaches to diversity, many are significantly worse than nothing at all because they embolden divides by highlighting that fact that some people are different and are incapable without special provisions.

>That behavior is pervasive, insidious, counterproductive, and seems to be picking up steam.

They are only counterproductive if you are already convinced reverse discrimination is the answer to discrimination.

the irony of your post is that you don't seem to follow your own advice.

I read this thread early this morning when the only comment was "the left is eating itself", got mad, decided HN sucks now, then decided to try understand the point of view of the commenter, I read the rest of their comments, decided my original position was correct.

>>The larger subtext of the entire diversity conversation is learning to coexist. It's not about black people, women, the LGBTQ community, or any other single group. It's about a better working environment for everyone indefinitely. Being against that is literally pathological.

I think that's something everybody can agree with. However, I sometimes think that HR, Code of Conduct policies, etc do more harm than good in ensuring that happens.


In the ideal world, we all work together to find something that works. In reality, we're prone to change resistance so when we disagree with a new policy (regardless of whether it really has implications for our own lives) we tend to reject the policy, the premise, the authorities, and any groups that support said policy. There's lots of evidence that suggests that's an inherent dynamic of social systems. When policies have implications for social groups things turn explosive quickly, but beyond that I think the reaction we see to diversity conversations is just run of the mill change resistance. I often find it helpful to highlight the inarguable, universal truths in those situations as a starting point for finding a better way forward but...it's never easy.

> That hasn't stopped me from building a career I'm proud of and I don't lose sleep at night. But I'm an outlier in that regard.

Why do you think that?

Based on many conversations over the years. Anecdotal evidence to be sure but quite a lot of it.

> The larger subtext of the entire diversity conversation is learning to coexist. It's not about black people, women, the LGBTQ community, or any other single group. It's about a better working environment for everyone indefinitely. Being against that is literally pathological.

About this.... There's something I've noticed is that when one group has rights by default, and another doesnt, fighting for equality or equity feels like to the innate group that rights are taken away.

Its the perception of zero-sum game versus a positive-sum game. For the in-group, having others brought up to your status feels like its reducing yours... But it doesn't.

Whereas rights can be assessed for everyone. The more rights we all have is a positive sum. A rising tide raises all boats.

It's not about rights, which there is no scarcity of, it's about the fact that there's always some social competition for scarce resources (college admissions, jobs, dating opportunities, grants, cultural conversations, etc) and if one group currently has a significant chunk of those they will feel threatened that their share of those resources is being taken away.

...despite the gray hairs lining my chin.

What is interesting to me is that before reading this part I assumed you are a man even though there was no hint before this line that you are. How many people thought kwamenum86 is a man from start of his writing?

Disappointed to see the Guardian refer to Facebook as “a tech corporation that largely excludes African Americans.” “Excludes” implies a deliberate and willful act which they cite no evidence for, and the editorializing is more appropriate for the Daily Mail.

As a daily Graun reader myself I will say sadly that they are guilty of editorializing as much as any other rag.

The Guardian didn't make that claim; Mark S Luckie made the claim.

No, it wasn’t in quotes. The Guardian should just say “paucity of African Americans” or some statement that avoided ascribing intent.

I've got that domain willfully blocked due to unrelated reasons (privacy, etc.)

So just on the off-chance, does anyone know if the post has been reposted anywhere else?

I hear these stories of people making racial surls and other accusations of poor treatment of blacks at the work place.

I am shocked. I live and work in the south and have never seen anything even remotely like this. It's almost hard to believe this occrus and HR simply does nothing. Of the few non racial issues that HR needed to intervene in it has always been swift removal of the offender and a company wide email.

Maybe the south is not so racist ?

Side not- bring a minority can't be a complaint. If you are a minority it is just a fact. Being a minority and expecting to walk into a conference room and find many faces like yours is just not an expectation anybody should have. Even if we had a perfect representation of blacks it still is going to feel like a sea of white in any white majority country.

Sure I’ll add on to the black engineer diaspora.

I find this industry selects for and exacerbates social anxiety issues amongst almost any demographic.

“Is this one of those circumstances where a cabal of men misunderstand my ability to contribute to their company?”

Most experience comments I’ve read in this thread are social anxiety related. And then people debate on the quality of that particular social anxiety issue than the similarities of there being social anxiety at all.

My experience has been mostly positive and inclusive. But this isnt intended to be another anecdotal data point, this is intended to highlight widespread social anxiety.

Blacks comprise about 14% of the US population, but only 1.4% of the top 1% household income. That means that whites are about 10 times more likely to belong to this elite. Many on the intersectional left consider this evidence that blacks are (still) oppressed by whites.

Jews comprise about 2.5% of the US population, but about 25% of billionaires are Jewish. That means that Jews are about 10 times more likely than non-Jewish whites to belong to this elite. Nazis consider this evidence that there is a Jewish conspiracy to oppress whites.

What is the difference?

(Btw, I'm not American, and in my country, there are fairly few of both blacks and Jews, so I see this from the outside.)

The pragmatic reality is that if a demographic has generally left-leaning views then this absolves them of the sin of privilege. This plays out on an individual level as well. Consider how many immensely privileged and wealthy individuals don't get called privileged (or at least, don't get called privileged with any significant degree of intensity) with the rationale that their support of progressive ideals absolves them of their privilege. This is the reason why I outwardly exaggerate support for things like discriminatory hiring policies that favor women and URMs. If I fail to signal the right virtues, then I will be considered (racist | sexist | *phobic) and my professional reputation and opportunities will suffer.

This is interesting since I know of an initiative at FB that aggressively pursued talented AA engineers. The compensation packages they were willing to offer as part of the initiative were impressive even for FAANG. Why put that effort forth if the environment at the company is not adequate to retain whatever AA talent you get?

Because neither Zuck nor any other brass at Facebook can tame the beast they’ve created. Internal gender politics are just a microcosm of their larger problems.

Slavery and the genocide of Native peoples is America's original sin. The legacy of racist policies permeates through every aspect of American life -- Silicon Valley is NOT an exception, liberal havens are NOT an exception. North East Portland is a traditionally black neighborhood, but now I see more "Black Lives Matter" lawn signs that Black people.

It's not a surprise that being black at Facebook is a tough experience, as all of us who are black in tech know. Being 2-3% of the population would be tough for anyone to deal. Add on to that the very real notion of "micro-aggressions". My girlfriend was delivering a presentation and a manager literally admitted to day dreaming about which way she braided her hair that day, it totally threw her off base. At the end of the day a majority of us who are black in tech are dealing with death by paper cut as we try and traverse through our careers. Employee groups have been a big help to me, all I can recommend is to try to integrate yourself with other black employees at your organization -- there is strength in numbers.

This is the problem with putting the onus for regulating speech on Facebook. It sounds like it'll be all rainbows and unicorns when you think it will prevent genocide (hint: it won't), but as soon as Facebook is responsible for removing any content that anyone, anywhere might conceivably object to Facebook as a platform for speech becomes useless.

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