Jeff Bezos said he received “a number of sickening but not surprising” responses after publicly supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.
The Amazon.com chief executive on Sunday posted to Instagram a screenshot of a profane, racist email he said he received from someone threatening to stop shopping with the retailer because of Bezos’ support for Black Lives Matter.
“This sort of hate shouldn’t be allowed to hide in the shadows,” the world’s richest person wrote. “It’s important to make it visible. This is just one example of the problem. And, Dave, you’re the kind of customer I’m happy to lose.”
Bezos joins other tech executives who are speaking out in response to the issues of racism and police brutality laid bare by the killing of George Floyd. Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian resigned from the board of directors and asked that he be replaced by a Black candidate. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has used his Twitter feed in recent days to highlight statements from the software maker’s Black employees.
Social media CEOs, meanwhile, have drawn criticism for how they have handled controversial postings on their platforms. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey took the unusual step of slapping a rule-violation notice on a tweet by President Donald Trump that the company said glorified violence, prompting ire from Trump supporters. By contrast Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has continued to give Trump free rein, to the dismay of many of his own employees.
Bezos on Friday posted on Instagram an email exchange with a different customer in which he defended a decision to place a Black Lives Matter banner on Amazon.com touting a $10 million donation Amazon made to a group of racial and social justice organizations.
The recipients of those gifts, which include Black Lives Matter, the Brennan Center for Justice and the NAACP, were selected by Amazon’s leadership and the company’s Black Employees Network, Amazon said. A blog post announcing the donations has gone up on bulletin boards in some Amazon warehouses, employees say.
Much of Amazon’s racial diversity is found among front-line workers in its warehouses and other logistics depots, rather than the white-collar software developers and product managers in the company’s office buildings. Among workers classified as laborers or helpers in detailed workforce data Amazon last disclosed for 2016, 58% of employees identified as a race other than white. That percentage fell to 42% when looking at all other workers, a group primarily composed of professionals and managers.
Amazon and other tech companies for years have been criticized for their lack of racial and gender diversity in management ranks. Amazon has resisted efforts by outside shareholder groups calling on it to set goals for greater inclusion. The company said 26.5% of its U.S. workforce at the end of 2019 identified as Black or African American, a figure that falls to 8.3% when looking at management alone.
Bezos, a latecomer to social media and a relatively infrequent user by the standard of technology executives, has more than 2 million followers on Instagram.