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Prompted by #AltonSterling, an ex-Facebook worker says ‘Silicon Valley doesn’t care about black people’

Black tech worker Justin Edmund sounded off in a Medium essay.

A memorial for Delrawn Small, a Brooklyn man killed by an off-duty police officer earlier this week
Erik McGregor / Pacific Press via Getty

Late last night, a black man named Philando Castile was shot to death by a police officer in the Minneapolis area during a traffic stop. His girlfriend streamed the graphic aftermath of the encounter on Facebook Live.

In a Medium essay posted Wednesday, just hours before Castile was killed, ex-Facebook and Pinterest designer Justin Edmund highlighted a fundamental irony at work here.

Increasingly, companies like Facebook and Twitter are the portals through which people learn and respond to police killings of black people across America. Simultaneously, Edmund argues, these tech companies do not care about black people and black life in America.

Edmund, a black man, says that while the tech industry’s corporate diversity and inclusion efforts are well-intentioned (but ineffective), Silicon Valley does and says little when U.S. law enforcement kills black people. His essay was prompted by yet another police killing — that of Alton Sterling, a black man selling CDs in Baton Rouge, La., whose death was recorded on smartphones and widely circulated online just a day before Castile was shot.

“Tech companies are no stranger to using media, money, and smarts to raise the stakes on issues it cares about,” Edmund wrote. “If they really thought that hiring black people was in their best interest, they wouldn’t let them be murdered in the streets by police. Silicon Valley does not treat black people like people, it treats them like a statistic.”

In recent months, a number of high-profile Silicon Valley companies have run into serious race-related problems of their own. For example, Airbnb was called out for enabling discrimination against black guests on its platform. Last fall, a former Twitter exec said in a Medium post that the company’s business struggles were related to its struggles to diversify its workforce.

There are very few black people who work in Silicon Valley. Google, for example, is only about 2 percent black. And among venture-funded startups, only 1 percent are led by black people.

Though virtually all the tech heavyweights have pledged to do better, little progress has been made.

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