On Racialized Tech Organizations and Complaint: A Goodbye to Google
Today (Wednesday, February 2, 2022) is my last day at Google. It’s been a year and two months after my former manager Timnit Gebru was fired, and nearly a year after my next manager Meg Mitchell was given the same treatment. I’m following Timnit and joining her at the Distributed AI Research Institute as Director of Research, effective tomorrow.
In resignation letters, this is where you write how much you appreciated the people you worked with. And I’m definitely going to do the same. But this is in spite of the culture of Google, rather than because of. The Ethical AI team created by Meg Mitchell and Timnit Gebru was one of the most inclusive on which I’ve ever worked or had the fortune of witnessing firsthand. Throughout many teams I’ve experienced in tech and academia, this one’s members have shown each other the most mutual respect, care, admiration, and appreciation. Even though it was unstated, Google’s Ethical AI team has (and continues) to exemplify a deep ethic — learned and emerging from a Black feminist tradition — of growth, nurturing, and wanting to see each other succeed. For that, I want to give our erstwhile co-leads the deepest appreciation. I’m going to deeply miss all of my teammates.
But Google’s toxic problems are no mystery to anyone who’s been there for more than a few months, or who have been following the tech news with a critical eye. Many folks — especially Black women like April Curley and Timnit — have made clear just how deep the rot is in the institution. I am quitting because I’m tired. I could spend time rehashing the litany of ill treatment by Google management from prior organizers or how the heads of diversity and inclusion are implicated in the company’s union-busting, which we know thanks to the case brought by the whistleblowers illegally fired for organizing against ICE, CPB, and homophobia on YouTube. I could describe, at length, my own experiences, being in rooms when higher-level managers yelled defensively at my colleagues and me when we pointed out the very direct harm that their products were causing to a marginalized population. I could rehash how Google management promotes, at lightning speed, people who have little interest in mitigating the worst harms of sociotechnical systems, compared to people who put their careers on the line to…