Memo criticizes Google over diversity, 'burden' of being a black employee

A Google employee reportedly called out the search giant in a memo as he prepared to leave the company.

Richard Nieva Former senior reporter
Richard Nieva was a senior reporter for CNET News, focusing on Google and Yahoo. He previously worked for PandoDaily and Fortune Magazine, and his writing has appeared in The New York Times, on CNNMoney.com and on CJR.org.
Richard Nieva
2 min read

Protest has become a key part of Google culture. 

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A former Google employee has written a memo reflecting on his experience of being black at the search giant, and says he experienced racism and cultural insensitivity during his time there, according to a report Thursday by Motherboard. 

The memo, written as the employee was preparing to leave the company, also discusses ways Google could improve its internal culture when it comes to diversity. The author, whose name has been redacted from the memo, said Google's system of employment referrals should be audited so the company is incentivized to hire underrepresented groups. The memo also suggests using virtual reality for diversity training, and giving employees of color access to additional mental health support. 

"I ultimately resolved to break my silence," the memo says. "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."

Google didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

The memo comes as Silicon Valley faces criticism for its lack of diversity. Google is overwhelmingly white and Asian, with 92.4% of new hires last year belonging to those two groups. Only 4.8% of new hires were black. 

The author of the memo described feeling uncomfortable with his colleagues' insensitive comments about protests over the death of Eric Garner, who was killed by police in New York in 2014. 

Google has been roiled by diversity tensions in the past. In 2017, James Damore, then an engineer at the company, wrote the infamous "Google memo." Among other things, the screed argued that a gender gap at Google exists not solely because of sexism, but in part because of "biological" differences between men and women. The memo went viral and gained national attention.