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Google Employee Writes Memo About 'The Burden of Being Black at Google'

“Over the last five years I've heard co-workers spew hateful words about immigrants, boast unabashedly about gentrifying neighbourhoods, mockingly imitate people who speak different languages, reject candidates of colour without evidence because of 'fit'.

by Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai
16 August 2019, 9:05am

Image: Michael Short/Bloomberg via Getty Images

This article originally appeared on VICE US.

In a memo he sent before leaving the company, a former Google employee criticized the internet giant and its employees, noting that he regularly encountered racism during his experience as a Black worker at the company.

The memo, obtained by Motherboard, is titled “The Weight of Silence,” and argues that Google is lacking in diversity, and that some of its employees make racist or at least insensitive comments about minorities.

“Over the last 5 years I’ve heard co-workers spew hateful words about immigrants, boast unabashedly about gentrifying neighborhoods, mockingly imitate people who speak different languages, reject candidates of color without evidence because of ‘fit’ and so much more,” the employee wrote. “So, just as I’m doing with this essay, I ultimately resolved to break my silence. And though I eventually grew more comfortable using challenging moments to educate my co-workers, I never stopped feeling the burden of being black at Google. And the more insensitive comments weighed on me, the less safe I felt here—and the less capable I was of being my best self at work, or myself at all.”

Do you work or have you worked Google, or another tech company? We'd love to hear from you about workplace culture. Using a non-work phone or computer, you can contact Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai securely on Signal at +1 917 257 1382, OTR chat at lorenzofb@jabber.ccc.de, or email lorenzofb@vice.com

The author worked at the company for several years before leaving. He confirmed to Motherboard that he did write it, but he declined to comment. We have redacted his name from the memo to protect him against retaliation. The memo was sent internally but we were unable to determine how many people read it or how widely it was shared.

In the memo, the former employee cites a few moments where he felt uncomfortable at Google, particularly after big news events such as the police killings of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, and during the ensuing protests against police brutality.

“I realized that my team simply did not have much to say on the issue of police brutality. This was odd—mostly because I’d watched them debate countless other topics, newsworthy and not, with a proud deftness and alacrity,” the memo reads. “From disappearing Malaysian airplanes to the spread of Ebola to the marriages and divorces of celebrities I’d never heard of, my teammates always had something to say about everything. But when it came to the violent policing of black bodies, they were silent.”

The memo highlights once more how several employees at Google are unhappy with how the company treats its employees. In the summer of 2017, an anti-diversity memo written by a now former employee caused an uproar within the company. Last week, a new mother shared a memo complaining that the company discriminated and retaliated against her for being pregnant. This memo is the latest public manifestation of the internal tensions within the company, which were recently detailed extensively in a Wired feature.

Google did not respond to a request for comment.