Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has reprimanded employees following several incidents in which the slogan “black lives matter” was crossed out and replaced with “all lives matter” on the walls of the company’s Menlo Park headquarters.
“‘Black lives matter’ doesn’t mean other lives don’t – it’s simply asking that the black community also achieves the justice they deserve,” Zuckerberg wrote in an internal Facebook post obtained by Gizmodo.
Zuckerberg expressed dismay that, despite his “clear communication” at a company question-and-answer session the week before that such behavior was “unacceptable”, employees had continued to change the messages.
“I was already very disappointed by this disrespectful behavior before, but after my communication I now consider this malicious as well,” he wrote.
Facebook is investigating the incidents.
The phrase “black lives matter” was coined by activist Alicia Garza in a Facebook post responding to the 2013 acquittal of George Zimmerman, the Florida man who shot and killed African American teenager Trayvon Martin.
The slogan has come to signify the resurgent civil rights movement that has arisen in response to police killings of unarmed black men across the US.
“All lives matter” arose as “black lives matter” gained viral popularity and is viewed by many as an implicit rebuke to the movement.
“Not just all lives. Black lives. Please do not change the conversation by talking about how your life matters, too. It does, but we need less watered down unity and a more active solidarities with us, Black people, unwaveringly, in defense of our humanity,” Garza wrote in 2014.
Like much of the tech industry, Facebook’s workforce is overwhelmingly white and male. Of the company’s nearly 5,500 employees, only 81 are black, according to its most recent diversity report.
In July 2015, Maxine Williams, Facebook’s global director of diversity, wrote that the company’s diversity programs had achieved “positive but modest change”.
Among the initiatives Facebook has put in place are a requirement that hiring managers consider at least one candidate from underrepresented groups to fill any open position and a company training program designed to ensure “an inclusive culture that can truly support diversity”, called Managing Bias.
In his post, Zuckerberg encouraged employees to participate in a company “town hall” meeting scheduled for 4 March “to educate themselves about what the Black Lives Matter movement is about”.
Facebook declined to comment on the incident.
This article was written by Julia Carrie Wong in San Francisco, for theguardian.com on Friday 26th February 2016 00.41 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010