'Facebook has a black people problem,' one former employee wrote, on Facebook

A former Facebook employee used the Facebook platform to address what he calls a "black people problem." Mark S. Luckie, who said his role was the strategic partner manager for global influencers with a focus on underrepresented voices, said Facebook is failing both its black users and black employees.

Earlier this month, just hours before his final day, Luckie penned a lengthy letter to his Facebook coworkers. He made that same note public to the world Tuesday afternoon.

"Facebook has a black people problem," Luckie wrote on the very first line.

He outlined the increased growth of black users on social media, especially Facebook, and detailed the company's lack of outreach when it comes to new ideas and opportunity growth in diverse communities. Luckie said the black employees are encouraged to submit ideas and opinions, sometimes.

"Black employees at Facebook are frequently asked publicly and privately to volunteer their input for projects that involve race in some way," he wrote.

Luckie said those questions were things like: "What do black people think about…", "Is this racist?", or "Is this graphic culturally appropriate?"

"Black employees often do these things gladly (and within reason) because someone has to," Luckie wrote. "Otherwise, these issues would go untouched by people of color."

In a 2015 Facebook "Digital Diversity" report on Facebook Business titled "A Closer Look At African-Americans in the US," Facebook actually drilled into data to plan a way to accomodate their growing base.

The report states that African-Americans watch about 10 hours of TV on a weekly average and that 67 percent are browsing their mobile devices, while 63 percent are scanning their computers while watching TV. The use of social media while watching TV is called "screen stacking," per the study.

The report also says, "For African-Americans, family encompasses community." Additionally, black Americans predominantly use Facebook as their go-to source and 9-of-10 use it to communicate with family, while 7-of-10 use it to keep up with friends and community events, according to the study.

"While family is important to defining African-American culture, our research showed that celebrating the personal achievement of other African-Americans is the top link to African-American cultural identity," the report read. "Facebook is seen as a place to express this cultural pride. Four out of 10 African-Americans use Facebook to share personal achievements and quotes or inspirational messages."

The Facebook Business message wrapped up with potential marketing abilities it could tap into with black communities. It stated that buying potential in black communities could soar from $1 trillion to $1.3 trillion within a few years.

A study by the Pew Research Center found that 55 percent of black millenials spend at least an hour a day on social media sites, higher than their white millenial counterparts.

Luckie continued his letter by providing examples of black users not being able to create a social "safe space," and how their accounts may get shut down or suspended without notice because of verbiage usage in how to handle problems.

One example was Mary Canty Merrill's rant on April 2017 when she wrote, "Dear White People: The terminology we use to define a problem determines how we attempt to solve it.

"You are so accustomed to defining racism as people of color being the problem that you want to fix us, patronize us, save us and heal us. You rarely perceive yourselves as the problem (which is where its root lies). Thus, your interventions are most often ill-informed, misdirected and yield no meaningful or sustainable results."

The next day, Merrill found her account had been suspended for a week, per this 2017 report on Revealnews.com.

Luckie said such brash actions by Facebook, removing accounts on a knee-jerk reaction, could lead the company to alienate and lose trust in one of its fastest-growing demographics — and with all their marketing potential with more than $1 trillion in buying power.

It's one thing to try and hire more diverse employees, but "it isn't a cure all," Luckie said. He said the company, from the top down, has worked on a more diverse hiring culture, but the company needs to hire to better represent the communities, and not just a demographic.

"What's been missing in many cases is a plan of action for how their work will roll up into the greater team goals," Luckie said. "Inclusion should be a team effort. It is not enough to simply hire people to focus on diversity. Everyone on teams whose work focuses on varied cultural backgrounds should be responsible for ensuring the outcome of their work is representative of those groups. The people who focus specifically on diversity should be given agency to carry out not only their fundamental goals but to keep their team accountable as well through measurable impact."

Luckie acknowledged Facebook's efforts in hiring more people of color — a rise from 2 percent black employees to 4 percent by 2018.

"When you interact with people who look like you, it drives retention, forges relationships and increases loyalty to the company," Luckie wrote, calling it good for business. "This makes the work of the Diversity team and the teams that touch these issues so important."

Still, the former Facebook employee said the reach isn't far enough to touch the burgeoning black user base. He said staffing at Facebook is a long ways from matching its diverse amount of users.

Luckie touched on "racial discrimination" at Facebook, saying black ideas would typically be shot down, and when employees got involved with internal communications like active Black@ group or doing "Black stuff," even outside of work hours, managers would typically try to dissuade the actions.

He added that HR would try to rationalize hiring and behavioral patterns at Facebook and that black employees started to become uncomfortable reporting to HR or raising their voices because "we risk jeopardizing our professional relationships and our career advancement."

Luckie said another perk at Facebook should be a "discrimination-free workplace."

He said he was grateful for his time at the company and teams on which he worked, but he decided to leave for the issues he laid out for his role and lack of diversity in the company.

"At a company whose family of products directly affects the lives of 2.5 billion people worldwide, representation and inclusion should be of the greatest importance to everyone," Luckie wrote. "Diversity defines our external image and relationships. It is therefore important that inclusion is methodically woven into the fabric of the company."