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Business Insider has reported that anonymous sources are to sue Snapchat for discriminatory actions towards employees. As a result, the company has launched an internal investigation to measure whether it’s true and aims to restore its reputation. Snapchat aims to connect with present staff and those who used to work there. Also, it was mentioned by The Verge that the investigation process will examine ex-employees’ stories, talking to people working for the Snap team before they left, in a June 9 article for Mashable.

Mashable arranged several stories from different sources into a full expose, accusing Snapchat of “whitewashing” manager politics in the company during the period of 2015 to 2018. One of the ex-employees said that they’d got rejected by their manager when they wanted to use a photo of popular dance duo Ayo and Teo in their material about dancing. The manager had said that they need to replace it with a “friendlier face”. 

The same manager got a leading role in the other racial story connected with NYC Men’s Fashion Week in July 2017. The manager gave a task to editors to change the shade of the story because it was “too black-heavy”, and replace some of the black people with people of other skin colors. The employee involved in this task managed to include the incident in an HR review of the manager but got dead silence as the answer.

Snap hasn’t revealed the actual diversity report; the only hint we can see is in the same article from Mashable. It was said that, between 2015 and 2018, white employees dominated the company. “Out of approximately 50 staffers, less than 15 percent identified as people of color,” states Mashable. But today, Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel said that the company won’t change their position connected with the diversity report, and will keep it private. 

The company also got a punch of criticism after releasing a Juneteenth filter where you could smile to break your chains. Snap’s president of diversity and inclusion apologized in a companywide email.


Dear Team,

As a leader responsible for driving Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Snap, I want to directly address what happened with the Juneteenth Lens yesterday.

Snap released a Lens to commemorate Juneteenth that many people felt was offensive because it prompted users to ‘smile’ to break the chains of slavery. Snap was also accused of failing to include Black perspectives in the creation of our Lens to mark Juneteenth — a date often celebrated by African-Americans to mark the end of slavery. After reviewing how the process unfolded, it’s very clear that Black Snap team members were fully involved in every stage of developing and approving the Lens and that, in hindsight, we should have developed a more appropriate Lens.

I particularly want to apologize to our team members who have been accused both externally and internally of failing to be culturally sensitive; in some instances they have actually been called racist. This is completely unacceptable.

All of these accusations are particularly painful, first because we care so deeply about racial justice, and second because the accusations are completely untrue. For the record, and the avoidance of all doubt: the two Snap team members who on separate occasions specifically questioned if the “smile” trigger was appropriate for Juneteenth were two White team members. The Snap team members who suggested the smile trigger to begin with, and said it was acceptable to use, were Black Snap team members, and / or members of my team.

Speaking on behalf of my team, clearly we failed to recognize the gravity of the “smile” trigger. That is a failure I fully own. We reviewed the Lens from the standpoint of Black creative content, made by and for Black people, so did not adequately consider how it would look when used by non-Black members of our community. What we also did not fully realize was a) that a ‘smile’ trigger would necessarily include the actual word “smile” on the content; and b) that people would perceive this as work created by White creatives, not Black creatives.

We feel it is perfectly acceptable as Black people to celebrate the end of slavery — as we do with picnics, BBQs, street parties and other forms of celebration across America — and say “Smile! Happy Juneteenth; we’re no longer enslaved! But we’re not yet really free either!” However for a White person to tell a Black person: “Smile! You’re no longer slaves” is offensive in the extreme. I’m hoping many people will understand how the same word can be appropriate in one context, but inappropriate in another, depending on who is using it. Regardless, we should not have used smiling as a trigger to break the chains of slavery in the Lens, and we understand why that was offensive.

The mischaracterization on social media — that White executives at a tech company failed, yet again, to include Black perspectives — is completely untrue. What is true is that regardless of our diverse backgrounds, we are all human, and humans make mistakes. We are building a culture where we confront and acknowledge our errors so that we can learn, improve and grow together. This mistake has taught us a valuable lesson, and I am sincerely sorry that it came at the expense of what we meant to be a respectful commemoration of this important day.

Oona


 

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