Ready for Change: Reddit Co-founder resigns amid George Floyd Protests
June 30, 2020
3 min read
What's going on here?
Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of online discussion website Reddit, has announced his resignation from the company’s board, urging them to replace him with a black candidate.
What does this mean?
In light of the protests for racial justice triggered by the killing of George Floyd and countless others, Ohanian has announced his decision to leave the board in hope of being replaced with a black candidate. The venture capitalist is married to tennis champion Serena Williams, and explained his reasoning in a tweet, stating that he made the decision “as a father who needs to be able to answer his black daughter when she asks: ‘What did you do?’”. African American writers have highlighted the issue of “slacktivism”, as some users share trending hashtags but take little tangible action, so Ohanian’s decision has been widely applauded.
In a video statement on Twitter, he explained that “I believe resignation can actually be an act of leadership from people in power right now”. “To everyone fighting to fix our broken nation: do not stop”. He also donated $1m to Know Your Rights Camp, a non-profit organisation with the goal to “advance the liberation and well-being of Black and Brown communities”, started by former NFL player Colin Kaepernick. On top of this, he outlined that he will use his future gains on Reddit stock to serve the black community and curb racial hate. The previous board was all white, consisting of three men and one woman; CEO and co-founder of the site Steve Huffman stated that the board will honour Ohanian’s wish.
What's the big picture effect?
Ohanian’s decision could result in a domino effect, as both commercial firms and their clients are being forced to re-evaluate their diversity and inclusion strategies. Ohanian has proven the importance of proactive allyship: taking positive steps to educate yourself and others, with the goal of achieving change. This can be displayed through financial donations, focus on diversity schemes, or even resignation as in this case.
Many major companies, including law firms themselves, have felt it important to release statements expressing their support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Ben and Jerry’s released a powerful statement on its website, entitled “Silence is NOT an Option”, demanding people not forget the names of those murdered at the hands of racial violence. Other companies, like Amazon, have been criticised for releasing hypocritical statements in solidarity with the movement. Amazon only announced that it would be banning police use of its facial recognition technology following a public backlash. Adidas has made a pledge to fill 30% of new US roles with black and Latino candidates; the company will also finance 50 college scholarships for black students every year, for the next five years.
Many law firms have spoken out about the issue. Jeroen Ouwehand, Clifford Chance’s Global Senior Partner, has released a statement outlining that the firm will work on more racial injustice related pro bono matters. Additionally, the firm’s annual funding to the Equal Justice Initiative, which provides legal representation to prisoners in the US, is being doubled. The CEO of Dentons has also openly condemned the killing of George Floyd. According to a 2017 Report by The Law Society, only 18% of partners in the UK are part of BAME groups; law firms must reflect on how they can better promote diversity. Whilst this report also found that 85% of large firms have a diversity and inclusion plan in place, perhaps the protests will be a force for change; businesses everywhere can do more.
Report written by Rowenna Allen
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