Act 1: The Crime
LinkedIn has kicked me off its platform twice in the past year. My crime?
Saying "white." Specifically, "white women."
Yes, I have been banned TWICE for committing the sin of "white women." This is particularly absurd (racist) as White Women is the title of a new book that I've co-authored with a Black woman, Regina Jackson.
(Psst: you're allowed to say Black and brown women on any of these platforms without so much as a wrist slap).
White Women is published by Penguin Books. White Women is a New York Times Bestseller. White Women got me kicked off LinkedIn.
LinkedIn’s stated vision is to "create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce." Further, its stated mission is to "connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful."
I am a member of the global workforce (check). I am connecting with other professionals of the world to make my work, in this case, my book, more successful (check).
So why did I get kicked off of LinkedIn?
Because I violated their *unstated* caveat to both their vision and mission, which goes something like this: "...unless you are a Black, Indigenous, or brown person talking about white supremacy, anti-Blackness, racism, and xenophobia."
White people who don’t believe me, who are shocked right now? Save it. You know that being punished for talking about racism at work and online is par for the course for Black, Indigenous, and brown folks. And we know you know because it is you, white folks, who exact this punishment on us at work. And like most workplaces in America, LinkedIn leadership is majorly white folk, so it is also you who are exacting this punishment against us online.
Act 2: The Modus Operandi
So how did this go down?
I’ve been posting about my book White Women since it came out in November. It hit the New York Times Bestseller list. I posted. It was featured in Essence. I posted. It was excerpted by Time Magazine. I posted. Katie Couric commissioned us to write an Op-Ed for her newsletter. I posted.
One crisp December morning, I woke up, had a cup of coffee, fed my dog, and clicked on my LinkedIn app. I couldn’t log on. This had happened to me before. Over the summer, LinkedIn deleted my account in this exact same manner, so I had a sense of what was up. I texted a friend who confirmed that, indeed, my account was gone. I checked my email to see if LinkedIn had sent a note letting me know that they were yanking my account.
Being punished for talking about racism at work and online, through silencing, ghosting, and gaslighting, is nothing new for Black and brown people.
In real life, this looks like getting left off emails. Not being invited to lunch with colleagues. Your assistant, your equal, your boss leaving the coffee room when you arrive. This is the racism of whispers and hushes, stolen glances — or no glances at all. This is the racism of, "I totally didn’t mean to leave you off that Slack." This is the racism of, "I thought I’d invited you to that happy hour." This is the racism that causes SO MANY Black, Indigenous, and brown folks to quietly leave their jobs because we feel uncomfortable; It is clear we are not wanted and we will never move up. This is the racism of you forcing us to break up with you because you don’t want to break up with us and get sued.
LinkedIn punishing me for talking about my book White Women by silently deleting my account is every American company, university, non-profit, retail store, professional sports team, Congress, state legislature, school board, and boardroom.
Act 3: “Resolution”
I got my account back in a few days, unlike this summer, when it took over a month of "reviews" and promises to not violate community standards — which seem to be code for "don’t say white" — which becomes difficult when your book is titled White Women.
How did I get my account back so quickly this time? As I mentioned, our book is quite popular. Many thousands of people are reading it and posting about it and many of them started posting about the deletion of my account.
Magically, my account reappeared, along with this in my inbox:
Thank you for your patience while we looked at your account. We lifted your restriction and you should be able to access it immediately with no issues.
I would like to connect with you to discuss this matter further. If you are open to a phone call, please provide the best phone number and times when you can be reached.
Executive Escalations Case Manager
I arranged for – and had – a call with Calvin M. and his boss, another man with a first name and last initial. It was over Zoom, without cameras. When I asked about cameras, they stated that they have a no-camera policy at LinkedIn.
Nameless and faceless don’t lend themselves well for accountability.
Calvin M. apologized profusely, noting that his fiancé was reading our book and couldn’t believe they’d banned the author.
"It was a mistake," he said.
"What was the mistake," I asked.
He again reiterated it was a mistake.
"But there was a post or posts that made you delete my account?" I asked.
"Yes," he said, "but they were mistaken to have done so."
I asked if the post in question was a post about my book. He assured me no.
I asked if the mistake was banning a person who had a platform and power to bring light to their racist practices. He scoffed through the blank screen, reiterated, again, that it was a mistake, and promised to send me the offending post that had triggered the ban right after the call. The post that they flagged for the ban, but shouldn’t have.
We hung up.
It’s been nearly two months, and still, no word from Calvin M. as to which post, leading me to believe that, in fact, I’d been banned for posting about my book White Women. Forbes Senior Contributor Dana Brownlee reached out to LinkedIn for comment. She didn’t get much of one.
In any event, my account has been restored and I use it often. As intended, it’s a great way to promote my work, connect with others in the anti-racism space, and build a like-minded community.
I am one of the lucky ones. There are many Black, Indigenous, and brown people who get shadowbanned (when algorithms bury your posts), whose posts are routinely deleted, and who lose their accounts without the luxury of public outrage and prompt service from LinkedIn. Plenty of people rely on LinkedIn for their income, funds to feed their families, pay for healthcare, and put a roof over their kids’ heads. So messing with our LinkedIn accounts is weaponizing power to ensure we don’t say anything the white power at LinkedIn doesn’t want to hear.
This mirrors white American institutions at large. Don’t say anything about white supremacy, racism, or whiteness at work. If you do, you’ll lose the shirt off your back, your kids won’t eat, there won’t be money for rent.
LinkedIn is a white institution. All white institutions have a white supremacy and racism problem. Ergo, LinkedIn is no different.
I sincerely hope those at LinkedIn — and at ALL American institutions — will read this, sit with this, and change their policies, their ways, and their culture rather than talk about diversity, equity, and inclusion, while silencing Black, Indigenous, and brown people.
In addition to rolling out the red carpet for Black History Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Native American Heritage Month, consider treating your Black, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American and Latinx employees, clients, colleagues, fellow humans with dignity, respect and humanity in the present.