Last update and edit: May 15, 2021. [added YouTube video]

I made a video of me reading the open letter with a stupid thumbnail. The thumbnail is the above pic. You can see the video here.
Making the video was really uncomfortable. But for many kids, YouTube is the only way to reach them.

Preface

  • This is not about Asians vs whites. This is about unintended consequences from good people with good intentions. We’re all on the same team. We want to stop racism.
  • I am making this public because accountability matters. Googlers may need a finger to point towards. What I write is relevant to society and many companies.

Open Letter

Hi my name is Tom Wong,

Violence against Asians has affected my friends and family, so I feel a need to speak. I want to provide observations of issues I’ve seen here at Google.

We Googlers may care about racism… but maybe not enough to try to stop it. We have, perhaps, provoked it.

We’re smart people. We’d consider the ways not to let the problem fester for years on our platforms. We would have critical, open, expansive discussions.

Perhaps we get paid too much to consider love and compassion for those we hate.

I read online racist comments and forums a lot. What I learn is many of these people have such decades-long extreme hopelessness. They’ve given up trying to explain nuance. It’s too taxing: to defend why they can be pro-life without hating women, why they can be against affirmative action without being racist.

Why they can be pro-life without hating women. Why they can be against affirmative action without being a white racist.

  1. They’ve become the hate we see due to society’s contempt.
  2. They’ve resorted to just being a middle-finger to society.
  3. Everyday is a reminder they don’t matter. And I feel for them.
  4. They were and ARE people worth saving.

#StopAsianHate is subsiding… But for how much longer? There will be countless more eruptions of anger if nothing changes. We have only succeeded in making things worse each time, inadvertently hurting efforts to promote diversity and inclusion.

We all need emotional support. Trump was a safe space for white racist suffering… but he was also a safe space for good conservative suffering… and many others who’ve felt overlooked and marginalized by today’s society. He provided real (and illusory) support for so many. We can’t be surprised if Trump is re-elected in 4 years. He promised the “forgotten” a way to be seen and heard again.

Given the precarious moment, I need to make this clear:

  1. Lives are at stake. People DIE because we Googlers are so terrified to consider unique ideas here. Are feelings more important than deaths?
  2. We can’t fix that which we don’t understand. We can’t improve algorithms (and filter bubbles) that amplify toxicity and misinformation if we refuse to openly have good-faith discussions.
  3. Misinformation & hate are related. They’re due to a lack of societal trust. They spread to have second-third-fourth order consequences. Grandmas are indirectly dying from COVID-19 partly due to our collective fears. 
  4. For the sake of humanity, PLEASE have courage and talk. We need a culture that permits good-faith “unsafe” discussions with colleagues and enemies.

This is NOT about talking politics needlessly. This is about humility of our blindspots.

Googlers: Please re-read the above as many times as possible until you understand. Please do not dismiss my message. This is no “feel good” diversity post, I know. I would not be staking my future (in front of recruiters), if I did not believe this needs to be heard.

Generalizing (without fear) can be an effective exploratory method for truth-finding. Female, male, straight, LGBTQ, Asians, Latin-X, etc. we all do this to our own respective “identity”. We Googlers cannot shame well-intentioned people for using their own observations, if our goal is for a better society. We can debate, but we CANNOT lash career risk (and reputational filth) to those we disagree.

Everyone (including me) supports Diversity & Inclusion (D&I). A lot of positivity happens. But there’s also a lot of fear.

For many Googlers (including myself), there can be a constant fear over our every next word or thought. I spent countless hours rewriting a previous email critique (PLEADING for forgiveness every next sentence), out of fear of offending.

This is censorship, and this is no way to live.

We need to be truthful about how our $100k+ compensation may cause hypocrisies and unconscious biases we have over Trump’s America.

Privilege can sound so different, depending on your circumstance.

We should not be surprised many Googlers support affirmative action considering we’ve all made it here.

But can you empathize with why many poor white Southern Christians hate it? They’re non-existent here at Google. If they were here, they probably wouldn’t make themselves known. They’re not hateful people. They have no coalition.

White racists though, they do talk. But do you ever hear them? On why they’re pro-life, pro-oil, or maybe believe global warming’s a hoax?

How much louder do they need to scream? Before we sit down and bring them back to the table.

I 100% support diversity efforts. Institutional and systemic racism are 100% real, but why do I feel a need to remind others I know that every next sentence? Don’t you know me? I’m a man who contributed to D&I efforts the past 5 years.

There are indeed certain unique hardships that only colored people experience in America. But we cannot deny pain elsewhere, or risk a decade more of racism. Marginalized can be very real in much of Trump’s America.

White racists can be rightfully hurt, seeing our (at-times) utter disgust coupled with a lack of empathy, explanation and consideration at them.

We talk about psychological safety a lot, … but I’m terrified for my life. NOT for being Asian, but for the non-conformist views I’m now expressing.

Because who wants to hire a “cancelled” company critic? Who wants to be “called out” to HR?

But I’ll start crying too if we can’t speak without constant fear of being reported to HR. I really will!…

I don’t want to be obliterated for not being “educated”, but I fear this is exactly what will happen.

The only thing I hate is how much I care. Thanks, Google.

I’ll leave you with 2 last thoughts: humility and an open door.

  1. I know I’m an idiot. I’m sure there’s so many flaws in what I write. But I have an open-mind. Please feel my genuine care for humanity.
    • I’m writing this because I know what real pain is like. You give up talking. You give up life. Boy, did 2020 suck. I can’t imagine 10 years of hopelessness, which a lot of “racists” (people who have completely fallen out of society) have endured.
    • We’re all a collection of (fortunate and unfortunate) stories that make up our character. We’re not “that one thing we said” when we were frustrated. Nobody is perfect. We’re all a bundle of mess. But we’re also all a bundle of good. We need to accept the bundle of mess (and real grievances) found in everyone in order to allow the good to flourish.
  2. I am opening my doors to all, Googlers and racistdeplorables. Anybody who hates their lives or Asians, you can see me: tomwong.xyz/meet. Because we live in a cruel world and EVERYONE deserves love, laughs, awkwardness, and compassion.
    • Communication is hard. It’s one word at a time. I can promise you, if you can experience someone’s entire mind (all their stories), it’s absolutely impossible to hate that person. Only love is possible.

I’m sorry for my tone, for any parts that triggers you. I know you’re a genuinely good human-being. But I need to make my points clear. Because we Googlers wield so much power. I’ll say this once more:

  1. We can’t fix that which we don’t understand. We can’t improve algorithms that amplify toxicity and misinformation if we refuse to openly have good-faith discussions.
  2. Misinformation & hate are related. They’re due to a lack of societal trust. People will die if Googles continue a culture where our engineers and scientists are unconsciously or consciously communicatively constrained. This is no exaggeration.
  3. We need a culture that permits good-faith “unsafe” discussions with colleagues and enemies.

Here and everywhere, we can all benefit from love and good-faith… even if it hurts.

I’m frustrated with the way things are and want to help with the loneliness (and hopelessness) epidemic that contributes to racism.

I’m dedicating 2021 to this effort. So if you (or someone you know) know of anyways to help, please contact me.

I may avoid my emails for some time though, as I am incredibly scared.

The truth is, those who wish for good-faith discussions are all around us… white, black, Latin-X, AAPI, etc. Many Diversity Allies will confide in me. But few will ever take a stand.

Because is this a popular position? Is this Director, VP, or CEO material? But that’s ok… that’s ok. I truly wish you the happiest life you could imagine. I really do mean that.

Never let a crisis go to waste.When the next uproar happens (in society, but especially at Google), lets please choose love, humility, open mind, and good-faith for those we hate or disagree. In the meantime, please consider sharing these ideas to your friends and colleagues.

#StopAsianHate, but #WeStillLoveYou. Kind of.

Sincerely,

Tom

Again, please consider sharing this (social media/texting/email list/whatever).

You can follow me over email. You can engage with me publicly, @tomwongxyz on TwitterLinkedInFacebookRedditInstagram. You can reach me via my email ([email protected]) or the social media I mentioned.

Additional Notes:

  1. I know all this “love” seems really sappy, but I really do mean it. Because “love” solves for others (humility, open mind, and good-faith).
  2. On censorship: I am not advocating (or rejecting) censoring anonymous “hate speech”. But Googlers are all generally smart, well-intentioned with hundreds of people who know our character. We should not cower in fear for saying one wrong thing.
  3. I am mostly addressing “white racists” given their dominant impact on political votes and the sheer amount given population makeup. “Racists” can and do come in all colors.
  4. Demagoguery exists and exacerbates the problems we have, I know. My primary Google (“liberal elite”) point is we need to have open discussions for the best antidote.. My primary societal (and social media) point is also “love” (thereby humility, open mind, and good-faith)… But we all know how hard that is to fix. We’re all driven by “emotions” (logic) whether you see it or not.
  5. Original title was “Love, Death, and Fear Culture. An Open Letter to Google.” This was a mistake… It made past colleagues revile me, without reading the essay… Truth is, I’ve never met a non-well-intentioned Googler. Isn’t that crazy? The culture is conducive to creative innovation, but leaves room for blindspots that can negatively impact society.
  6. Reading online comments, I know there’s a unique mental journey that occurs when you give up friends and only have an online community. There’s no “white people club” as they say… I may explore this further in a different post. But this, is a different kind of hopelessness.
  7. I also did not mention ideas of free will and nihilism, which are important… But maybe again, maybe a different time.
  8. Again, it doesn’t matter who you are, but if you’re frustrated by what I write, please feel free to meet or email me: tomwong.xyz/meet. I’m always open to feedback.
  9. There’s much more to say, for a Google (and Silicon Valley) antidote. But I’ll leave it as.
  10. This article can also be found here: tomwong.xyz/google.