The chief diversity officer at Uber is under fire after employees voiced complaints about a pair of events held in the workplace that critics say attempted to sympathize with the “white woman’s experience.”
The New York Times reported that Bo Young Lee has been placed on leave after she hosted the sessions on race, including one that was given the title, “Don’t Call Me Karen.”
The first of the two Don’t Call Me Karen events, in April, was part of a series called Moving Forward — discussions about race and the experiences of underrepresented groups that sprung up in the aftermath of the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020.
Several weeks after that first event, a Black woman asked during an Uber all-hands meeting how the company would prevent “tone-deaf, offensive and triggering conversations” from becoming a part of its diversity initiatives.
Ms. Lee fielded the question, arguing that the Moving Forward series was aimed at having tough conversations and not intended to be comfortable.
“Sometimes being pushed out of your own strategic ignorance is the right thing to do,” she said, according to notes taken by an employee who attended the event. The comment prompted more employee outrage and complaints to executives, according to the Slack messages and the employee.
The second of the two events, run by Ms. Lee, was intended to be a dialogue where workers discussed what they had heard in the earlier meeting.
Black and brown employees at Uber were reportedly outraged at the sessions, prompting complaints that led to Lee being placed on leave.
According to Lee’s bio on Uber’s website, she has worked in similar diversity, equity and inclusion positions.
At Uber, where Lee has worked since 2018, she has been charged with building “a work culture where radically diverse and inclusive teams drive innovation, accelerate growth, and build a work culture and systems where all employees have the opportunity to excel and grow to their highest potential.”
The timing of Lee being placed on leave came as a woman branded a “Karen” has been making headlines in New York City stemming from her encounter with a group of young Black men. The incident, which was partially recorded on video, points to the white woman — identified as physician assistant Sarah Jane Comrie — appearing to cry out for “help” over a dispute about a bikeshare rental. While the details and nature of the dispute are being challenged, Comrie’s behavior toward the young Black men — she appeared to try to falsely cry in what seemed to be an attempt to criminalize them — spoke volumes, according to critics on social media.
It was likely Lee’s alleged sympathy for those “Karen” white women who fit the description of Sarah Jane Comrie that didn’t sit well with Uber’s Black and brown employees.
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