Nearly one-third of software company Basecamp’s employees resigned after a Zoom call with leadership where workers cried and screamed because one of the executives rejected the notion that they “live in a white supremacist culture,” The Verge reported Monday.
The meeting occurred Friday days after Basecamp’s CEO Jason Fried announced in a blog post that the company would prohibit “societal and political discussions” on the company’s internal chat forum because they were “not healthy,” according to The Verge.
At Basecamp, the head of strategy denied white supremacy at the company. As a result, two employees “found themselves crying and screaming at the screen.” https://t.co/2oCrLBw6CF pic.twitter.com/IwK6qqf3uG
— Richard Hanania (@RichardHanania) May 4, 2021
During Friday’s all-hands meeting, Basecamp’s head of strategy denied that white supremacy existed at the company.
30 minutes later, he had been suspended. This weekend, he resigned — leaving along with at least 20 others.
Here’s how Basecamp blew up: https://t.co/LYpfDaessx
— Casey Newton (@CaseyNewton) May 4, 2021
In April, The Verge reported that employees took issue with a long-standing company practice of maintaining a list of “funny” company names, which some employees argued could lead to racist violence and even genocide. Many names were reportedly of American or European origin, but some were Asian or African.
Fried and Hansson were reportedly alarmed by the employee post linking the “funny names” list to racially motivated violence and shut down the thread, along with a diversity, equity, and inclusion committee made up of employee volunteers.
The Friday meeting on Zoom was the staff’s opportunity to address issues they had with Fried and Hansson. Fried opened the meeting by apologizing for announcing the policy changes through a public blog post. For the next two and a half hours, employees questioned the leaders’ views on white supremacy and racism. (RELATED: The New Left’s Institutionalized Racialism Is ‘Everywhere.’ In Medicine, Education, Even In Government Labs. Here’s How It Happened)
Ryan Singer, who had been working for the company for nearly two decades and was the head of strategy, made multiple comments on the subject of implicit bias and white supremacy that irked employees. Singer previously said, as part of the company’s discussion about the “funny names” list, that attempting to link the list to genocide was “absurd,” according to The Verge.
During the Friday meeting, Singer said he disagreed that “we live in a white supremacist culture.”
“I don’t believe in a lot of the framing around implicit bias,” he reportedly said. “I think a lot of this is actually racist.”
Singer made the point that due to how readily people are maligned for expressing “dissenting” views, allowing such contentious discussions to take place at the company could lead to alienation and division.
“Very often, if you express a dissenting view, you get called a Nazi … I have not felt this is open territory for discussion. If we were to try to get into it as a group discussion it would be very painful and divisive,” he reportedly said.
One employee said during the meeting that Singer’s remarks made them “sick.”
“The fact that you can be a white male, and come to this meeting and call people racist and say ‘white supremacy doesn’t exist’ when it’s blatant at this company is white privilege,” the employee reportedly said. “The fact that he wasn’t corrected and was in fact thanked — it makes me sick.”
Singer affirmed his point after employees pushed for a response from Fried and Hansson. He said he stood by his remarks and that he was “very sure” he doesn’t “treat people in a racist way.” In a comment to The Verge, Singer noted that in the meeting he said “claiming anybody must have a certain viewpoint because of the color of their skin is racist.”(RELATED: Social Media App Launches ‘Anti-Racism Notification’ To Police ‘’Harmful’ Phrases Like ‘All Lives Matter’)
The employee tried to shut down Singer, but the two continued to argue about white supremacy and whether and where it exists.
“The difficulty of this conversation is exactly why I raised it,” Singer reportedly said.
“You said, ‘white supremacy doesn’t exist,’” the employee responded. “That’s a factual lie. It’s not true.”
Singer reportedly responded that there are “different ways of framing” and that there could be a debate about whether it exists at all, but it doesn’t exist “at this company, not with the people I associated with.”
“It exists right now,” another employee said, according to The Verge. “This is f*cking bullshit. You are being ridiculous.”
Fried reportedly said he felt “terrible” about “hearing that someone doesn’t feel valued.” An employee then urged the leaders to denounce white supremacy, calling it the “bare minimum” of what they could do.
Fried said he wouldn’t share his personal views and recounted his own experience with bigotry and prejudice linked to his Jewish heritage. “I’m terrified when one group dominates another,” he said. “I think it’s absolutely the most disgusting thing in the world … I can’t say that’s happening here.”
During the conversation, employees told the Verge that they were “crying and screaming at the screen.” One employee said that people perpetuate “racism and white supremacy” without even being cognizant of it, and often without “true malice.” “Creating a space where people do not feel welcome” leads to white supremacy, the employee reportedly said.
“The silence in the background is what racism and white supremacy does,” the employee said. “It creates that atmosphere that feels suffocating to people. It doesn’t require active malice. It’s not that convenient.”
A half-hour after the meeting ended, Singer was suspended pending an investigation, which would involve external resources. Fried told The Verge on Monday morning that Singer had resigned.
— The Verge (@verge) May 1, 2021
Singer once again affirmed his remarks about white supremacy in a statement to The Verge and said that due to the heated nature of the meeting, it wouldn’t be “tenable” for him to stay at Basecamp.
“I objected to an employee’s statement that we live in a white supremacist culture,” he said in the statement. “White supremacism exists, and America’s history of racism still presents terrible problems, but I don’t agree that we should label our entire culture with this ideology.”
He added that the view he expressed during the call was that of “a future where everyone is treated fairly.”
More employees are reportedly expected to leave the company in the weeks following the policy announcement, according to The Verge, and there are no changes to the proposed policy.