> Peppered throughout the post are cultural signs and signifiers that mark the author as an advocate for a fairly specific set of political and social beliefs. A reader could be excused for having concerns that the author was not an objective witness. On the other hand, those signifiers are so obvious that you could also question whether someone who had set out to unfairly tar the company would put them into the post.
The guy was rightfully incensed and his reaction is completely understandable. However, the style of the original post does make it hard to distinguish from embittered hyperbole. I think the important distinction is that there's a big difference between saying "I can't tell if this guy is for real" vs. "this guy is definitely lying".
No, I don't. Read the rest of my comments in that thread. The post you're citing was my attempt to distill the controversy without advocating one way or another, because the author's post was long and easy to get side-tracked on.
All you have to do is click that link, then hit "CMD-F" or whatever your search hotkey is, and type "t-p-t-a"; you should almost immediately land on a comment that makes my opinion about the veracity of the story plain. I won't spoil it for you.
That actually sounds to me more like devil's advocate, or at the very least an attempt at logically walking through the issue from both sides of the argument. I wouldn't read that and think the author made a conclusive statement. He's toeing the line with reasonable skepticism.
I'm just having trouble reconciling "A reader could be excused for having concerns that the author was not an objective witness" with the root comment of this thread. It seems that, in fact, the reader can't be excused for having such concerns.
Maybe tptacek is solely referring to the more vitriolic comments that attempted to dismiss the original poster out of hand. If that's the case, I point to my original comment that there's a difference between "I can't tell if this guy is telling the truth; we need more info" vs. "this guy is lying".
“While it’s clear that not everything in the blog post was accurate, I did discover examples of embarrassing behavior that I find inappropriate for Kixeye, or any other work environment."
It is clear in context that "embarrassing behavior" refers to racially charged conduct, that being the through-line of the whole story in which the CEO is publicly commenting and disclosing employee terminations.
If they wanted to minimize legal liability, saying nothing would have made more sense than publicly disclosing "embarrassing behavior" that lead to termination.
I know this sounds like more tea-leaf reading and I am myself continually exasperated by the tea-leaf prognostications HN gives rise to in other stories, but the CEO of a large-ish company publicly stating, in the wake of notorious claim of racial prejudice at their firm, that the company fired people for their behavior... that's a Big Deal.
Unfortunately, it's not a Big Deal for someone to get fired for mistaking a pendant for a calculator. That sort of thing happens all the time. You know, in the country we live in.
It would certainly be a Big Deal if we lived in a country controlled by the Vast White Racist Conspiracy. Actually, San Francisco is especially notable for its deeply entrenched racism. The KKK has a huge office on Market Street, right next to Twitter - you can't miss it.
> "Actually, San Francisco is especially notable for its deeply entrenched racism."
Are you a visible minority? I can tell you straight up right now that racism in San Francisco is a Big Deal, though the SF-is-paradise brigade would never accept that.
Note that the below applies to just about any place with any significantly racially diverse population, it is far from exclusive to SF - though many SF residents seem to pretend they are an island of racial equality.
There are two broad types of racism: the blatant, violent, and openly hateful racism that you see from the likes of the KKK. The other is the subtle, subconscious, but far more pervasive and damaging racism that us minorities have to deal with every day. The more liberal members of our society openly mock the former, while their hearts and minds are filled with the latter.
On a bad day I wish we could trade in some of the latter racism for the former. At least openly hateful racists are easy to identify and easy to dismiss simply because of how ridiculously venomous they are.
Indeed, it is the more insidious, less obvious racism that affects our daily lives. It is the broad racial stereotypes and preconceived notions that prevent us from achieving what we want. It is the subtle segregation that keeps us from being full, first-class participants in our communities. It is the exhausting need to topple every awful stereotype on a long list before someone is capable of perceiving you as a unique person.
It's the woman who suddenly clutches her purse more tightly as you pass by on the bus. It's the man who mistakes you for the kitchen staff even though you're dressed for a nice dinner. It's the coworker who keeps giving you the math-heavy jobs because, hey, you're supposed to be good at that right? It's the stranger on the street who feels the need to dumb down his English to kindergarten levels because he's assumed you can't speak it. It's the girl you're on a date with who seems more enamored with your race's stereotypes than you. It's shocked looks when you assert yourself in a meeting because everyone expected Your People to be mild and soft spoken. It's the fact that, despite being one of the largest racial minorities in the country, and the region, your representation in upper management is a pitiful fraction of where one might expect it to be.
None of it particularly hateful, none of it particularly vile, but also universally present, and in aggregate far more hurtful than a handful of ignorant people waving placards. And the worst part is that nobody but us notice it.
I won't pretend I have it the worst. I'm East Asian. Far, far worse experiences abound in liberal-utopia San Francisco if you're Hispanic, Black, or South Asian.
Just because you live in a place where crosses aren't burning on lawns, where whites and blacks don't have separate water fountains, do not presume you're even remotely close to being free of racism.
I'm of South Asian descent and can relate to a lot of the points you make here. In particular, I'm classed as 'British Pakistani', so I get searched everywhere. This includes on the underground, customs at any airport and once getting ambushed by four plainclothes Japanese police officers in Tokyo station.
That being said, my biggest exposure to racism has been from my own extended family towards people of just about every other race. Even my mother who's relatively moderate advised me to 'never trust the white man in the workplace' as they would always promote each other over a "Paki". My family has just about everything from your uncle with crackpot zionist conspiracy theories all the way up to real-life war criminals who raped their way across Bangladesh in the 70s.
The reason I bring this up is because it's the same hateful, blatant racism, but it happens behind closed doors and even receives protection from the government. In the eyes of my family, my Japanese wife is a kafir, or 'infidel' and in my family at least sub-human unless she converts to Islam.
I'm obviously an extreme case (I sincerely hope I am!), but anecdotally I don't think that my family is of the only minority that has this level of culturally ingrained racism. I have friends of East Asian descent who report similar sorts of stories from their own families 'back home'. My in-laws (who have literally never left Japan) are obviously racist, but not in any overtly malicious or harmful way, so I think I can forgive them the occasional awkward question about 'my people'.
Given my experiences it's very difficult to get all that worked up when our product manager mixes me up with the other brown guy in the office or when someone casually assumes that I had an arranged marriage. The perpetrators in this case feel guilty about their mistakes and apologize. That my own family doesn't have this level of cultural awareness is a source of immense personal anguish to me.
 I actually feel quite secure because I get searched as often as I do. In my case at least I believe the racial profiling is accurate. As a child I went to the mosques where the extremists preached and there's only a very fine thread of causality that lead to me being a Dawkins-quoting Atheist instead of a fundamentalist muslim.
People can come into a relationship with preconcieved notions of the other person based on steryotypes. A white man might get annoyed when his Japanese girlfriend stands up for herself ("After all aren't they all supposed to be meek and docile, what's the point of dating a japanese girl if they aren't the same"), a white woman might get annoyed when her latino boyfriend won't get aggressive when another man hits on her ("Aren't Latinos supposed to be fiery, passionate and stand up for their woman (me)? What's wrong with this guy that he won't start a fight over me?"), someone might feel cheated or let down when their black male partner does not have a massive penis ("they are all supposed to be big!").
These preconceived notions can interfere with relationships and put pressure on people to act in certain ways, which might not be in keeping with who they actually are.
It's somewhat telling, aristotelian, that out of the myriad of accusations in that lengthy blog post you chose to focus on the pendant for calculator one and only that one. Of all the accusations that was the one most likely reflective of ignorance rather than malice. Yet by only selecting that one it's likely that your goal is to dramatically trivialize and minimalize the general nature of this article. That approach then fits in well with your pre existing narrative that follows a sort of "Minorities are too overly sensitive and whites are too overly sensitive leading to massive over reaction to events that wouldn't raise an eyebrow if the roles were reversed"
It appears you have a significant axe to grind. From where it came we can only speculate. In the end you look like such a radical apologist for all things racist and homophobic to be at the same, just polar opposite, end of the spectrum as you think the author of the original post to be.
> How so? The fact that the company is attempting to minimize legal liability doesn't mean that the contractor was truthful.
Apparently the contractor was truthful enough to warrant firing four people. What's the likelihood of them throwing four employees under the bus if there were no bite to the charges? A purely propitiatory sacrifice like that would be hell on employee morale.
Good on the CEO for taking action. But my applause is diminished by the weasel words in the CEO's posts on the matter. In the first one, he described the person with the allegations as "a former short-term contract employee". The employee's blog post unequivocally stated that he only worked there for the month of August, so the purpose of such a comment on the CEO's part can only be to cast aspersions on his credibility. Now, in these latest comments, the CEO implies that the claims apparently had enough validity to warrant firing a bunch of people while going on to say that not everything claimed was true. Was this just legal ass-covering? In any case, it makes his public apology feel conniving and insincere. It may have been the best legal maneuver (I wouldn't know) but it makes for bad PR.
It's not about who's right and who's wrong. It's about who has the power.
The Kixeye CEO did exactly the right thing for his shareholders. He's also going to make a large payment to the OP, which will enable this obvious professional victim to live for years off his month of work. This is also the right thing to do - for the shareholders.
The lesson for hiring managers is that you have to be very careful when hiring a member of a "protected class." You are effectively hiring them for a different position than your ordinary second-class citizens.
It's not illegal to be an asshole to an ordinary second-class citizen. But a member of a protected class is effectively a noble, and a different set of legal norms apply to him. It is illegal to be an asshole to a member of this nobility. America is a nation of laws, and you have to follow the law. Kudos to the Kixeye CEO for realizing this.
Why isn't it illegal for anyone to be an asshole to anyone else? A fascinating question. Worth thinking about.
(And don't ask me how our country got to have "protected classes" at the same time as it got "equal protection under the law." Actually, the latter is legally derived from the former - believe it or not.)
It would have been. It wouldn't have been enforced, however.
If you look at the history of civil rights jurisprudence, in the South before 1960 there were a lot of laws that looked race-neutral. Their actual intent was to keep black people from voting, however. It didn't fool the Supreme Court.
Software patents are just as illegal. But what actually happens?
Your rant could be applicable if it were directed at an appropriate situation. This is not that situation.
A major problem with racism is that it's a Schelling point for assholes. I presume the entire department isn't made up of racists, yet it takes just a few assholes to make it a hostile racist environment. OP's next gig may involve assholes as well, but those assholes (hopefully) won't be using the same insults, singling OP out, or abusing the same sore spots that OP sees throughout his life. Letting the common assholes devolve into racism makes it so OP would be unlikely to find somewhere free of being specifically picked on due to something he cannot change.
(Hellbanning as a moderation system is unfortunate. If you are who I think you are, I suspect that the specter of inevitable banning is causing you to go for a shotgun comment approach rather than taking the time to compose something less emotional and more defensible)
Pardon me for semi-hijacking the thread, but can you explain your comment about hellbanning being unfortunate? When I first read about the idea, I thought it was pretty ingenious. However, I haven't thought about it deeply, nor studied its true effects, so I'm interested in what makes you say that.
Oh please, I don't think anyone actually thought that his writing style would matter in terms of the outcome - the facts are the facts, no matter who states them. Moreover, anti-white racism is a well-known and long-time aspect of the black community that most white people have come to terms with as acceptable given the way that blacks have been treated for hundreds of years.
Startups in the valley seem almost by definition, segregated places to work. I don't think it is intentional (or maybe in the case of Kixeye it was), but the vast majority of companies seem to have straight white males in their 20's as employees. What this means is that people who do not have "critical mass", ie any few numbers of minorities, are going to count the number people just like them. It will also mean stereotypes will be at their worst. Do startups hire programmers in their 50's? Do startups that make products "for women" try to hire women to work on that product? Why is it that black engineers and non-native English speaking engineers are in positions like QA and testing, but not program management? These are just a few of the trends I've noticed.
It seems reasonable to suggest that more diversity would inversely correlate with comments/behavior which targets non-white, non-young, and non-males.
Furthermore, working with a wide variety of people from a variety of backgrounds naturally encourages you to think about people outside of your own culture. It's a counter-example to the idea that whiteness is "normal" or "American" and (e.g.) black culture is "black" and, by implication, "not-quite-American" nor "normal."
As much as I was expecting a spineless "a few bad apples" response from Kixeye, I'm still pleased to see them responding openly to the accusations and taking at least some action to correct the issues, instead of just trying to make it all go away. Hopefully this leads to larger reform.
From what I can tell, Harbin seems like A Good Bloke. It doesn't surprise me to hear of the brogrammer environment given the way they've marketed (the YouTube video, recruitment flyers with Insanity Wolf on), but it's good that he stepped up quickly.
“...I did discover examples of embarrassing behavior that I find inappropriate for Kixeye or any other work environment."
I don't like that he leads with the word "embarassing". It suggests a focus on how this makes Kixeye look. I would have liked to've seen a word like "horrifying", "unconsciounable", or "evil" in it's place.
Well, there may or may not have been racism occurring (sometimes it is difficult to distinguish a joke). Now if you are the type of person who thinks a racist joke is a "bad" joke, then I guess you also hate South Park and love to bathe in politically-correct self-righteousness. I have friends of every race, and we joke openly about our respective races/religions/ethnicities.
The one thing I will say is that the author is clearly racist towards white people (yes, this is possible), or at the very least grossly lumps all white people into the same category. A few quotes from his article (linked below):
-- "Beyond culture = hipster racism = neoliberal white supremacy"
-- "A brief moment of clarity only to be again submerged in the sea of white privilege and supremacy"
-- "white men always telling which way is up because they feel they are the “authority” when it comes to any and everything, most often when they don’t know shit about shit except how to protect their privilege by telling me my life experience is false"
The author takes (at most) minor infractions, and uses them to demonize the entire white race.
On the other hand, it would be stupid for a company with a culture like this to hire a gay black guy, they are just asking for a lawsuit.
Now if you are the type of person who thinks a racist joke is a "bad" joke, then I guess you also hate South Park and love to bathe in politically-correct self-righteousness.
I don't know much about South Park. Not sure about self-righteousness either. But I like to bathe in the feeling that I don't accidentally insult people I have no intent to insult. That's why I try to be careful with my jokes (racist-wise or otherwise).
No, racist words/talk is talk that openly or subtle re-enforces existing power inbalances between people of different races. Since black people have very little power (statistically as a group) compared to white people (statistically as a group), then it's not racist for them to make comments like "dumbwhite", "white privilege" etc.
Note this can work the other way in some cases, in a very female dominated work place & profession (e.g. floral shops, nursing etc.), then there can be many comments that could put down male workers etc., Maybe if you're a (white) rapper you might experience (black) people putting you down, etc.
Since black people have very little power (statistically as a group) compared to white people (statistically as a group),
Explain it like I'm 5. Specifically, what "power" do white people have that black people lack?
Also, how is it meaningful or useful to bring up statistical generalities when discussing individual behavior? Are you taking as an unstated premise that if certain statistical properties hold for a reference class, then all individual members of a reference class are bound to act in a certain way? (I.e., some sort of collective guilt/responsibility?)
For instance, if group X were statistically disproportionately likely to commit violent crimes, would all members of X be obligated to behave in such a way as to avoid scaring members of Complement(X)?
Your first link is just a bunch of vague content-free assertions. Life is like an RPG - so as a white guy, it takes less practice to unlock the "computer programming" skill? And blacks just get less Str, Int and Dex?
Your second link claims that if you are a collectivist with niche tastes who's collective is poorly represented, you won't be too happy. True - if you assign high utility to being around others of the same race, being a minority will suck.
I lived for over a year without the benefits of "white privilege". I didn't speak to a single person of my race, quite a few housing societies wouldn't let me in and people ascribed many of my choices to my race/nationality. Basically I lost every single "privilege" listed at your second link. It wasn't a big deal, probably because I don't really care about having white friends.
Racism is not defined by numbers or power (it has nothing to do with social standing, wealth, or whether or not you are a minority). Definition:
1. The belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and that a particular race is superior to others.
2. Discrimination or prejudice based on race.
3. Abusive or aggressive behaviour towards members of another race on the basis of such a belief
One reason that MLK's campaign was successful was that he did not promote hatred, but rather peace. This author's aggressive behavior and tenseness towards white people does not help his cause. He ended up getting 4 people fired when he could have just talked to them about his problems.
He ended up getting 4 people fired when he could have just talked to them about his problems.
Did you read the original story? He did talk to them. They ignored it and mocked him complaining. Talking to them didn't help, what else should he do?
Racism is not defined by numbers or power…
There are several definitions of racism, one is essentially "making references to someone's race and implying everyone in that group is the same (in some attribute)". Lots of people like this definition because it's nice and simple and it means black people in the USA can be racist to white people if they say things like "Dumbwhite".
There's another definition, which is talk that's designed to maintain & reinforce the institutionalised power structure among races. Right now, if modern USA life was a video game, "white male" would be an easier difficulty level than "black male". There are statistically less problems for the "white male" group. Racist talk is talk that re-enforced that imbalance. This definition is harder for some people to accept because it means that you need to look at yourself and think about what power imbalances you might be benefiting from, and it means you can't just do s/white/black/g and make it just as racist.
I think this story brings up an interesting point about startups and "startup culture". It's nice to have an environment that is friendly and comfortable, but at the same time, lines have to be drawn. Unfortunately, some people see having no HR department as an excuse to disregard inclusiveness or respect.
It's an interesting point indeed. Lived it for well over a decade now and I still find it's hard to come up with a good solution.
Startups, tech companies, new media companies, whatever you want to call them, always want to create fun places to work. And everyone can appreciate that. A usual mantra is "hey we're all friends here" and they attempt to go about that way (sometimes awkwardly). Once friendship is established, especially among younger males from Gen X and Y, jokes/ribbing/dozens are all but inevitable - because that's what friends do. The problem is that some people poorly gauge the limits and take things too far. But such is life.
I've always felt that situations like the Kixeye one contribute to the lack of diversity in the tech world. Why would a company want to have to deal with this? I'm reading the Harbin response and while I commend him and Kixeye for taking action (if what happened to that kid was even half true, then it was excessive), when I see "sensitivity training program" and "anonymous, company-wide surveys"...ugh. Who the hell looks forward for that? And what does this do to the company culture, where now you have to worry about not offending people instead of building great products and "being kick ass."
It's really difficult to balance diversity, friendly culture and sensitivity. I haven't had to deal with "sensitivity training" at a company but I doubt it's the best maneuver. From my experience, it's a matter of awareness, skin toughness, and even some luck.
It's for the shareholders to minimize legal liability.
Anyone can spout as much talk about relaxed, casual, kick ass, rockstar, ninja-like, and whatever the newest buzz word is to describe their workplace, but it just takes one bad incident (or sometimes one overly touchy person, not saying the victim here was though) to have to walk on the eggshells of avoiding lawsuits. In any case, my bet is that the sensitivity training won't even be taken very seriously, but I think the actual shake-up will definitely spark some change.
My concern is now that the people fired will probably be even more racist rather than less so because of said punishments, and look again for a safe outlet to spew their hate. They may have learned for their own sake to keep it out of the workplace, but don't think it just got "nipped in the bud". Someone else is going to have to deal with this on what will most likely be a worse level.
My own personal ghoulishness lead me to LinkedIn to see if I could spot the terminated manager from cues from the racism posts. I could not, but what I did learn is that Kixeye is stocked to the gills with people from Ivy League schools, McKinseyites, and veterans of the gaming industry. The sample I got from LinkedIn doesn't refute accusations of "bro-" culture, but it doesn't strongly indicate rampant 4chanism or racism. Without intending undue reverence for b-school, you probably don't graduate HBS and work for several years at McKinsey and retain the belief that a culture of jocular bigotry is an asset to a growing San Francisco tech company.
I think it's less about lines being drawn than that those friendly atmospheres shouldn't come at the expense of other people. Sometimes camaraderie is created because thank goodness we're all white and male, not like those useless $SLUR, amiright? It's so great we're all so alike! It's not a great thing; it is setting the company up for failure and making yourself feel better at the expense of other people who don't deserve it.
The point I was trying to make is that if there is no HR department, lines have to be drawn about what behavior is appropriate. Sometimes the topic never comes up and then it becomes an issue when there is a misunderstanding or offensive conduct occurs.
"joking and acting in a way towards other employees that society finds reprehensible"
It really isn't that black and white though. Almost anyone can be offended by any joke or comment, as people come from vastly different backgrounds and experiences. An example is the rape joke made by Notch. Half the people were pissed about it while half couldn't understand why the other half was pissed. It is those kinds of misunderstandings that can create problems in the first place.