My contract was recently terminated early because I chose to voice my opinion on the company intranet in regard to an article that I thought was at the very least suggestive of discriminatory attitudes. It was an article called “Why I Need to See More Black People in Architecture” in which the author expressed her tendency to, quite literally, count the number of black or non-black people in a room. Among other things, she noted how she believed this lack of color representation was problematic in her getting hired, based on her personal experience, even though presently she works for the company in most likely a higher capacity than me. The criticism in my comment took aim at some of her statements and ideas and I made it clear I was not critical of the person herself, but rather her statements and ideas, nor did I use any actually offensive terminology. My comment overall was a mix of subjective opinion and objective fact, whereas the author’s article was more interested in the expression of a personal “lived experience” and suggestive of her desire to see affirmative action type policies that literally place skin color as a priority for hiring. This disgusted me. I was subsequently told by my superiors that the comment was “tone deaf” because of its “potential to offend”. In reply, I told them the article has a similar tone/attitude and proceeded to explain how. I attempted to contest but it seemed HR already made up their mind – my own offense at the article which I expressed in my comment was apparently not enough to convince them to either leave me alone, at least with a warning or something similar, nor take down her article for its own potential to offend, which it clearly did. There was a clear double standard at play. They told me they are open to opinions and said I could’ve reached out to the author herself, but that was not my point. If there’s a method provided of responding to an online article, can I not choose to reply with such a method? I was not inclined to reach out to the article’s author personally; I was more interested in a public comment, so others can reply to me as well, so we can all see feedback and foster an actual honest conversation, instead of the one-way “accept it, or stay quiet” tendency of this particular company’s media attitude. It was not clear whether or not my actual comment was grounds for firing, but given that I was under contract, they reserved the right to terminate for any given reason, provided it was non-discriminatory, and to be fair, it wasn’t a discriminatory reason but was more related to their policy of “fostering a positive work environment” in the office or their social media platforms. For them, my comment, despite evidence to the contrary, leaned towards more of a “hostile” work environment when it was clear the comment itself was not hostile (but could potentially be, emphasis on “potentially”) nor was my intention. In essence, I was fired for making a potentially offensive comment on a potentially offensive (and in my opinion actually offensive) article. I was aware of and understood the potential consequences in making the comment, but my conscience couldn’t let me stay quiet. I had enough. Best decision I’ve made in a while.
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