mark luckie: “facebook has a black people problem”

November 29, 2018
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While Facebook panics over finding ways to deny that it’s a microphone for fascists and Russians, it’s no surprise that the tech giant has a diversity problem that translates to a hostile working environment for Black people. Black and Brown users have repeatedly complained about the hypocrisy built into the site’s hate speech management and now, thanks to an open letter by former Facebook employee Mark Luckie, we have been validated in our assumptions. Best of all, the call(ing out) is coming from inside the house.

Mark Luckie is Facebook’s former Strategic Partner Manager for Global Influencers focused on Underrepresented Voices. His position gave him a unique perview, exposing him to the issues regarding engagement with Black communities alongside the internal struggles faced by Black employees. According to research conducted by Facebook, Black people outpace other groups in terms of engagement with 63% using the platform to connect with family and 60% using the site to communicate with friends at least once a day. A Nielson survey shows that 55% of Black millenials spend an hour or more on social, 6% more than all millenials, providing numeric illustrations of the active role Black millenials play in driving social media discussions and trends.

If you’re a person of color who is outpoken about injustice, it’s likely that you know someone or are someone who has had their account suspended by Facebook. While Nazis run free on the site, a Black woman called Mary Canty Merrill had her account suspended over posts that included the term “Dear White People.” Merrill, a psychologist who advises corporations on how to deal with racial bias, even went so far as asking her white friends to copy the flagged posts word-for-word. Their posts remained untouched, obviously.

You can climb the pile of evidence that is mounting in Facebook’s biased treatment of users of color — that same evidence is now being corroborated by Luckie’s account. The former employee also shares, “Black employees are commonly told ‘I didn’t know Black people worked at Facebook.’” Tech has a notorious representation problem but for a company like Facebook, built on the ethos of bringing people together, that same energy isn’t even felt by Black employees. “For some, their work devolves into serving as an address book to add a few names of color to projects,” says Luckie. “Efforts that promote inclusion, not just diversity, are being halted at the managerial level.”

This speaks to the double-edged sword that is our current push for diversity: companies will hire a diverse set of candidates at entry levels in order to be racial moderators or the faces of a superficial attempt at inclusion. What Black employees are hired into is a culture that disproprotionately hands out negative performance reviews to them while they also face consistent gas-lighting when trying to address microaggressions. Luckie’s most damning yet powerful observation regarding the racial state of affairs within Facebook is perfectly surmised with this statement: “In some buildings, there are more ‘Black Lives Matter’ posters than there are actual Black people.”

Mark Zuckerberg wants to be your friend. Your white friend that doesn’t want to speak about race while calling you hostile for even mentioning it. Your white friend who wears a Black Lives Matter t-shirt for the ‘gram. Your white friend whose friendship fetches a high price: your comfort. Facebook has the means to do better (Luckie has a few recommendations on how), it just doesn’t. All I can say is, I have unfriended people for less.