This morning I learned that one third of Basecamp's employees had quit their jobs after an all-hands meeting in which the founders failed to unequivocally denounce white supremacy.
(In particular, I read this article from The Verge.)
I've looked up to Basecamp as a company for a long time. From everything I had read and listened to, it seemed like a place that genuinely cared about both its own employees and society.
Learning about these recent events really upended my view of the company and its executives.
At risk of stating the obvious: I'm going off of a filtered view of events. I wasn't present at Basecamp's company all-hands. In fact, I'm going off of a single article.
But god damn – denouncing white supremacy is such a low bar. I'm genuinely struggling to think of a lower bar that doesn't feel completely contrived.
I'm certain that more about this story will come out in the coming days. But I'm less certain that my disappointment in the company's executives will fade.
A brave and thoughtful team member
I was, however, left with a glowing admiration for an unnamed employee whose remarks directly addressed the issue:
Racism [and] white supremacy are not things that are so convenient that they only happen when full intention is present, or true malice is present.
Evil is not required. We’re not so lucky as for this to come down to good and evil. It’s as simple as creating a space where people do not feel welcome.
The silence in the background is what racism and white supremacy does. It creates that atmosphere that feels suffocating to people. It doesn’t require active malice. It’s not that convenient.
What I love about this statement is that it simultaneously contains a lesson and an invitation.
The lesson is clear: you don't have to be evil to participate in a racist of white supremacist system.
This is something that's been discussed at length by many great thinkers, and I feel that the above quote does the concept a lot of justice.
This employee's statement isn't so much calling out teammates and executives as much as it's calling them in.
It provides psychological safety by saying: hey, the fact that racism or white supremacy exist in the workplace doesn't mean that we're all evil.
It's a reminder that, in many cases, white supremacy is the default setting.
It's an invitation to recognize the injustices that pervade our daily lives – which is the first step in beginning to change them.