Former Mixer Employee Calls Out Racism In Management

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Photo: Mixer, Twitter
Photo: Mixer, Twitter

Over the weekend, former Mixer employee Milan Lee shared a blog describing his experiences with racism while working at Microsoft’s streaming platform, which was shut down today as part of a deal between Microsoft and Facebook. Lee’s post included allegations that he was singled out for being one of the few Black employees at the organisation and inaction from upper level management when a racist analogy was used during a meeting.

Lee worked at Microsoft for two years before moving to Seattle to join the Mixer team in 2018. Although he was “beyond happy and anxious” to have a job in the gaming industry, he now considers the time he spent at Mixer to be the worst professional experience of his life, mainly due to the racism he encountered.

“I was one of the only black people working at Mixer during my tenure,” Lee wrote in the post. “While at a conference I was pulled aside and told that the only reason I was hired is because I am ‘street smart.’ The first thing that popped into my head at the time was affirmative action. I believed I was only hired to meet a diversity goal because I was black. I decided to brush it off and let it go.”

(“We do not tolerate any form of discrimination and thoroughly investigate all employee concerns,” a Microsoft spokesperson told Kotaku via email. “We do not discuss the details of such investigations.”)

Lee’s post also details a time when one of his managers described partnered Mixer streamers as “slaves” and herself as their “slave master.” Lee explains getting visibly upset to the point that the manager who made the analogies asked to have a one-on-one meeting with him.

“Within that meeting I told her why I was angry and why her using that analogy was not ok,” Lee wrote. “She decided to defend her statement and even had the nerve to Google that analogy to prove why it was ok. After Google showed her it was never ok to use that analogy, she told me I need to work on myself. If I wanted to go far in this industry I need to work on my emotions and feelings to similar comments. After this meeting I knew I was leaving.”

When Lee took his concerns to higher-level management and eventually human resources, the latter of which had allegedly never heard from the former about Lee’s complaints. An investigation was opened through the legal team and continued after Lee chose to leave Mixer. “Months go by without a verdict,” he wrote. “One day late last year I get a call from the legal team with their final findings. That finding was not guilty!”

“The reason my manager was not penalised and the reason she still has her job today is because she cannot be racist,” Lee continued. “The reason she cannot be racist is because she hired a black person. This is why you haven’t seen me in any streams. I do not care about how big a company is or their market share. If we do not have the same values, if you cannot be intelligent enough to know racism isn’t tolerated then I will not work for you or your company.”

After coming forward with his allegations, Lee was met with a flood of support from both colleagues and Mixer streamers. Mixer publicly acknowledged his experiences, saying that the company would be “vigilant in addressing this more diligently in the future.” Lee even received a response from Xbox head Phil Spencer, who thanked him for coming forward and offered to have a meeting to discuss the issue further. Lee replied that he had previously emailed Spencer about the situation while Lee was still at Mixer, but had a chance to speak with Spencer directly earlier today. Afterward, Lee indicated that their talk had been a productive one.

Attention to racial issues like those described by Lee has expanded greatly in the wake of global protests against police brutality and systemic injustices. Major companies will soon have to reckon with years of ignorance to the parts they’ve played in widespread discrimination, both in terms of hiring practices and how they handle internal complaints. Black lives should matter always and everywhere, even in a Microsoft boardroom.

Comments

    • It’s deeply ingrained in human nature. Slavery, racism and prejudice in work and life are not new concepts and have existed about as long as humans have.

      • That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to change it.

        The best thing about humans is that we’re not slaves to our nature. We can decide what kind of society we want and engineer it.

    • Part of the problem is that HR often acts to protect the company in situations like this. It’s better for the company that the manager is found not to be racist, and if they thought it was likely Lee was going to leave anyway, then there is even less reason to support him.

      • Very true. I’ve worked in HR and internal politics with people who have leverage often takes priority over doing the right thing.

        • Is the solution to generate enough public scrutiny to force HR to change their calculations regarding which is worse for the company?

  • The ‘street smart’ comment was straight up racism, either from the comment, or from management hiring a person as an ‘affirmative action’ measure rather than based on merit.

    On the slave one, I get the causal link, and whilst being tone deaf towards their “partners” (I love that term, it reminds me of “sponsorships” in Paintball which was really just package deal pricing if you put their logo’s on your jersey), taking offence at that because you’re black is bordering on victimhood culture.

  • “Tech companies should hire more minorities instead of white males!”

    “Why did you hire me because of my skin colour?”

  • The old affirmative action hey. By its very nature its racist because you are taking action based on someones traits. If I was employed by someone just to meet a quota for affirmative action I’d be out the door straight away. Like how crap would you feel if you get a position in uni/workplace not because you earned it but because of some trait you have.

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