“I believe that whatever racism is, often it’s a result of people facing things they are not familiar with.”
Taras Kobernyk is famous, or infamous, for a document he wrote as a Google employee questioning Google’s anti-racism actions. He was eventually sacked by Google and has shared his experiences on Tucker Carlson Tonight in the US and TRIGGERnometry, a free speech YouTube show and podcast.
In the full-page document titled Questions About Google’s Anti-Racism Actions, Taras mentions the company is either unable, or unwilling, to have internal conversations on difficult topics.
How can we work through differences and seek to understand if we can’t talk about it?
Working for Google was Taras first job as a software engineer and was his second trip out of the ex-USSR (his first was his onsite interview). He was excited about being a part of a huge company working on bleeding edge technologies.
Google has many resources of different clients and projects and so ideally everyone can potentially find the project they are interested in. Taras compares this process to a lottery, as he soon learnt that the manager has a huge influence on your future. They define what kind of projects are available in the team, how they are distributed and how individuals are represented before the company in performance reviews.
Have you read: Command and Control Leadership – Rex Buckingham
It takes courage to speak up and the above-mentioned document wasn’t the first document that Taras tried to write and share. His first focus was on racial ideologies which stemmed from conversations that were being had inside the team. These conversations included Taras’ manager who wanted to share his thoughts to escalate them if needed. Needless to say, it didn’t go down too well and Taras believes this was probably due to the topic being too sensitive.
Racial ideologies went into overdrive after the death of George Floyd in the US and the advice Google employees were given was to educate themselves on racism by reading books like White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo, or the book by Ibram X. Kendi. They were told that all the problems for black people are because all white people are inherently racist.
The document was written at the end of July 2020 and focuses on asking for clarification on Google’s anti-racism actions, not the rejection of ideas and instead of getting the help to rewrite the document to an acceptable version, he received pressure to remove it.
Have you read: The Champion of Courage – Martin Stark
There are plenty of people that are scared to ask questions and keep their distance from any politics inside the company. These are questions not only about racial ideologies but about other things like diversity and inclusion initiatives. Taras believes that people should be able to dissent and even challenge diversity programs. After all, if you cannot detect the problem, you don’t have a chance to fix the problem. “How do you know when these things start getting too far and really start hurting something if people that ask questions and dissent are getting reprimanded?” He says, “the company is just basically breaking internal feedback mechanisms to detect problems and fix them. That goes against principles that Google has in relation to hardware and software.”
When Taras published his document, he was hoping for the reduction of pressure and what looked like racial discrimination. He was totally committed to trying to identify actual problems and solutions, including potential problems with racism, but instead he unfortunately uncovered a problem with bureaucracy.
Is Taras just a disgruntled ex-employee of Google?
We don’t believe so, but we are interested to know what you decide…
The complete interview of an ex Google employee sharing a cultural perspective, can be listened to here, on audio platforms, or watched here, on The Culture of Things (TCoT) YouTube channel.