Over the past few weeks, we have seen many companies around the world, stating their support for addressing racial injustice and equality. Companies have engaged in Black Lives Marketing by sending out tweets, having black squares on their social accounts, and others have changed their logos. Companies like Bank of America and PayPal are turning marketing into action by making monetary commitments to black-owned businesses and fighting racial injustice.
We know, the catalyst for their response is the unprecedented protests around the world that are looking for justice for George Floyd and acknowledgement of black lives. However, the tension of open commitment is what happens in the background when the system or gatekeepers want to convey a public persona when how they actually operate is not aligned.
Is this what is happening with LinkedIn?
It has taken me time to understand how LinkedIn has evolved. I use LinkedIn for business purposes, to make connections, to have future clients, to share my expertise, to bring visibility to my brand and my companies. I suspect a large percentage of individuals on LinkedIn are with me as to why we use the platform. Through the years, LinkedIn has moved into a professional hybrid between Facebook and Twitter. Along with that evolution, there is a broader acceptance of the fact that certain people don’t need to compartmentalise their lives. Some people can talk about certain parts of themselves, and the overwhelming response is compassion. For example, topics like caring responsibilities, mental health, disability and being a working parent are all issues openly discussed on LinkedIn. I can speak with absolute confidence; this has not been the case for black professionals or entrepreneurs for years until now.
A couple of weeks ago as part of my Small Business Wednesday, I profiled Engage Transform, a talent acquisition company, founded by Yemi Jackson. Yemi is an expert in her field. Like many of us, Yemi has processed the trauma and emotions of the past few weeks. A particular incident that stood out for Yemi is the events in New York where Amy Cooper called the police on Christian Cooper. Christian is a black male, a bird watcher who asked Amy to put her dog on a leash in the Ramble (a section of Central Park). These are the rules of the Ramble because the birds need to be protected. Amy’s response was to weaponise her whiteness by feigning terror as she called the police on Christian.
As Yemi processed this video, she moved to action in her expertise to guide companies on what they can do to weed out the Amy Coopers of their organisations. Let’s be very clear, Yemi, a long list of black professionals and me know who the Amy Coopers are. We have reported into them; they are our colleagues; they show up in performance conversations when promotions are blocked, and when projects aren’t assigned. Amy Coopers are the gender advocates who have high performing teams and love mentoring, but if you look closely, there is always a trail. When Amy Coopers have senior positions (and they often do) it is insidious for black talent and blocks the skills that an organisation deserves. Having this cultural intelligence is what led Yemi to post a video on LinkedIn about what senior leaders can do to root out the Amy Coopers. As irony would have it, Yemi got Amy Coopered. Yemi’s profile is no longer on LinkedIn. Listen to Yemi's video, what guidelines did she abuse or violate that would warrant deleting her account?
Where is Yemi Jackson? If you search for her, you can't find her—no warning, no discussion no debate, gone. Now if Yemi made a video about any other topic would her profile had been deleted? I have seen accounts like the Female Lead discuss a range of issues on gender, and I have seen the comment section in response to some posts, yet their account is active. Why is Yemi's profile gone? I have heard similar reports that this is happening to other black professionals, but Yemi and I were connected on LinkedIn, I can speak to her case.
LinkedIn, we need answers. Are black professionals being censored at a time where our voices need to be heard? Are some of your employees taking liberties with accounts that belong to black professionals? If the comments in the LinkedIn all-staff meeting are anything to go by, there is a severe problem. Censoring black professionals is not acceptable, and we need answers.
Update: Since writing this article, LinkedIn has restored Yemi's profile on LinkedIn.
I have started a Gofundme to support small businesses impacted by looting. You can show your support by donating and sharing the campaign below.