[guest post by JVW]
Here is today’s “yeah, that’ll happen” event, reported by the New York Times.
Uber has placed its longtime head of diversity, equity and inclusion on leave after workers complained that an employee event she moderated, titled “Don’t Call Me Karen,” was insensitive to people of color.
Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber’s chief executive, and Nikki Krishnamurthy, the chief people officer, last week asked Bo Young Lee, the head of diversity, “to step back and take a leave of absence while we determine next steps,” according to an email on Thursday from Ms. Krishnamurthy to some employees that was viewed by The New York Times.
“We have heard that many of you are in pain and upset by yesterday’s Moving Forward session,” the email said. “While it was meant to be a dialogue, it’s obvious that those who attended did not feel heard.”
Employees’ concerns centered on a pair of events, one last month and another last Wednesday, that were billed as “diving into the spectrum of the American white woman’s experience” and hearing from white women who work at Uber, with a focus on “the ‘Karen’ persona.” They were intended to be an “open and honest conversation about race,” according to the invitation.
But workers instead felt that they were being lectured on the difficulties experienced by white women and why “Karen” was a derogatory term and that Ms. Lee was dismissive of their concerns, according to messages sent on Slack, a workplace messaging tool, that were viewed by The Times.
Who could have seen that coming. (Answer: all of us.) It turns out that minority females in achingly progressives billion-dollar corporations don’t always want to hear about the travails that white women undergo. “Tough luck, sister; now, to turn the spotlight back on to me,” appears to be the general attitude among the higher echelons of the intersectionality pyramid. The times reports that employees at Uber objected to treating discomfort with the term Karen as being on the same level as other forms of discrimination and, according to the Times, they wanted to focus shifted back to the ways in which white people are causing harm to what we like to refer to these days as “people of color.”
This is of course a minefield that no competent corporation would want to wander into, but the new executive team at Uber is focused on repairing what many employees felt was a toxic work environment under the previous leadership. The new CEO brought in to fix the company’s culture, Mr. Khosrowshahi, hired Ms. Lee in the newly-created Chief of Diversity and Inclusion role and it would seem turned her loose to awaken her colleagues. After the first of the “Karen” sessions, Ms. Lee was apparently asked by a black female Uber employee if she would commit to preventing “tone-deaf, offensive and triggering conversations” from coming up in future sessions. Unfortunately for the diversity chief, her reply defended having difficult conversations, arguing according to one disgruntled employee that Uber employees would find value in being pushed out of their own “strategic ignorance.” And that’s when the excrement made contact with the oscillating air conditioning unit.
Rather than schadenfreude, I just find myself feeling weary with constantly hearing about all of this whiny nonsense. I think that if done right, some of this cultural competency stuff can be of some value, but in these days of the well-funded DEI racket it more often than not devolves into petty bickering about who has suffered the most and is thus to be accorded the seat of honor at the grievance banquet. Tough luck, Uber, and tough luck, Bo Young Lee, but this game isn’t for amateurs.