In early June, dutifully doing its part to virtue signal along with the rest of the world, Cisco Systems hosted an "all hands on deck" meeting on race, hosted via videoconference. In the comments of the online forum, visible to everyone, some workers questioned the Black Lives Matter movement and were subsequently fired from their jobs, proving once again that you can have an opinion, as long as it's the right opinion.
Chief Executive Officer Chuck Robbins talked with Ford Foundation President Darren Walker, who is Black, and Bryan Stevenson, a Black lawyer and author who founded the Equal Justice Initiative, during the company's June 1 meeting in front of 30,000 employees, according to Bloomberg.
Several people spoke out online against Black Lives Matter during these online forums. For example, one employee wrote: “Black lives don’t matter. All lives matter,” while another wrote that BLM "reinforces racism". A third employee commented: “People who complain about racism probably have been a racist somewhere else to people from another race or part of systematic oppression in their own community!”
Cisco says it fired a "handful" of workers for "inappropriate conduct" because it won't tolerate racism. It also, apparently, won't tolerate its employees opinions.
The "incident" at Cisco (read: people expressing well reasoned opinions) has been a microcosm of similar situations at other silicon valley companies, who are left to try and figure out how to posture to the public they are concerned about racism, while at the same time not laying off their entire staff. Some believe that protests at companies could be next if employees aren't "trained" to think the right way.
Kristen Clarke, the president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said: “Employers should be striving for zero tolerance when it comes to racism and discrimination, period. The protests we’ve seen in the streets have become part of our new normal and will eventually make their way inside workplaces if employers fail to meet the moment.”
Cisco said that ultimately 237 comments of the 10,400 made during the videoconference "objected to what was being presented", while the majority of comments praised management. On the video call, Cisco's CEO was announcing a $5 million donation to "groups combating racism".
Francine Katsoudas, Cisco’s executive vice president and chief people officer, said: “I just felt sad to see it. I felt a ton of empathy. I knew that for the African-American and Black employees that were in the meeting, that it was heartbreaking to see that.”
She then tried to backtrack and justify the firings because they weren't considered "legitimate debate". Katsoudas said: “You have a framework where red absolutely is crossing the line. But if someone has a question or they don’t understand something, there’s a way for them to ask that question. We went through and just placed things on that spectrum.”
The remarks were apparently so offensive they were "seared in the minds of some Black employees," according to Bloomberg. One employee commented: “Wow…and these people work at Cisco?” If they are bold enough to say those things at work for all to see, imagine what is said behind closed doors.”
Yeah, it could be <gasp> differing opinions!
“We still have work to do as a nation. I pray my daughters have a better world to live in soon,” another employee said.
Meanwhile, we pray our children have a world where their first amendment right hasn't completely disintegrated over the next few years. But with the direction things are moving, it doesn't look promising...