Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian resigns for the sake of his daughter

The Reddit co-founder has a baby girl with tennis star Serena Williams. (File/AFP)
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Updated 06 June 2020

Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian resigns for the sake of his daughter

LOS ANGELES: Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian announced his resignation from the board of the social media site and urged the board to replace him with a black candidate.

Ohanian, who is white, implicitly linked his move to protests around the globe over the killing of George Floyd, a black man who died in Minneapolis after a police officer pressed his knee against his neck for several minutes, even after he stopped pleading for air and became unresponsive.

The entrepreneur, who is married to tennis star Serena Williams, said he made the decision for the sake of his daughter.



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I co-founded @reddit 15 years ago to help people find community and a sense of belonging.
 It is long overdue to do the right thing. I’m doing this for me, for my family, and for my country. I’m saying this as a father who needs to be able to answer his black daughter when she asks: What did you do? I have resigned as a member of the reddit board, I have urged them to fill my seat with a black candidate, and I will use future gains on my Reddit stock to serve the black community, chiefly to curb racial hate, and I’m starting with a pledge of $1M to @kaepernick7’s @yourrightscamp
 I believe resignation can actually be an act of leadership from people in power right now. To everyone fighting to fix our broken nation: do not stop.

A post shared by Alexis Ohanian Sr. (@alexisohanian) on

“I’m writing this as a father who needs to be able to answer his black daughter when she asks: “What did you do?,” Ohanian said in a blog post. He pledged to use future gains on his Reddit stock to “serve the black community, chiefly to curb racial hate.”

He also said he would give $1 million to Colin Kaepernick’s Know Your Rights Camp. Former NFL player Kaepernick is known for kneeling to protest police brutality and racism in 2016, and later filed a grievance claiming the league had blacklisted him as a result.

Reddit, based in San Francisco, calls itself “the front page of the internet” and has millions of users. LIke all social media sites, it has had issues over the years balancing freedom of speech against posts with racist, inflammatory and abusive intent.

Co-founder and CEO Steve Huffman said in a Reddit post that the board would honor Ohanian's wish to be replaced by a black candidate. He also said Reddit was working with moderators to explicitly address hate speech.

 


South Asian marriage websites under fire for color bias

Updated 12 July 2020

South Asian marriage websites under fire for color bias

DHAHRAN: An online backlash has forced the matrimonial website Shaadi.com to take down an ‘skin color’ filter which asked users to specify their skin color using descriptors such as fair, wheatish or dark. The filter on the popular site, which caters to the South Asian diaspora, was one of the parameters for matching prospective partners.

Meghan Nagpal, a Toronto-based graduate student, logged on to the website and was appalled to see the skin-color filter. “Why should I support such archaic view [in 2020]?” she told Arab News.

Nagpal cited further examples of implicit biases against skin color in the diaspora communities – women who are dark-skinned are never acknowledged as “beautiful” or how light-skinned South Asian women who are mistaken as Caucasian consider it a compliment.

“Such biases stem from a history of colonization and the mentality that ‘white is superior’,” she said.

When Nagpal emailed the website’s customer service team, she received the response that “this is what most parents require.” She shared her experience on a Facebook group, attracting the attention of Florida-based Roshni Patel and Dallas-based Hetal Lakhani. The former took to online activism by tweeting the company and the latter started an online petition.

Overnight, the petition garnered more 1,500 signatures and the site eventually removed the filter.

“Now is the time to re-evaluate what we consider beautiful. Colorism has significant consequences in our community, especially for women. People with darker skin experience greater prejudice, violence, bullying and social sanctions,” the petition reads. “The idea that fairer skin is ‘good’ and darker skin is ‘bad’ is completely irrational. Not only is it untrue, but it is an entirely socially constructed perception based in neo-colonialism and casteism, which has no place in the 21st century.”

Overnight, the petition garnered more 1,500 signatures and the site eventually removed the filter.

“When a user highlighted this, we were thankful and had the remnants removed immediately. We do not discriminate based on skin color and our member base is as diverse and pluralistic as the world,” a spokesperson said.

“If one company starts a movement like this, it can change minds and perceptions. This is a step in the right direction,” said Nagpal. Soon after, Shaadi.com’s competitor Jeevansathi.com also took down the skin filter from its website.

Colorism and bias in matrimony is only one issue; prejudices are deeply ingrained and widespread across society. Dr. Sarah Rasmi, a Dubai-based psychologist, highlights research and observations on how light skin is an advantage in society.

The website took down the skin filter following backlash.

“Dark skin tends to have lower socio-economic status and, in the US justice system, has been found to get harsher and more punitive sentences.

“These biases for fair as opposed to dark skin comes from colonial prejudices and the idea that historically, light skin has been associated with privilege, power and superiority,” she said.

However, in the wake of #BlackLivesMatter protests, change is underway.

Last month, Johnson & Johnson announced that it will be discontinuing its skin whitening creams in Asian and Middle Eastern markets, and earlier this month Hindustan Unilever Limited (Unilever’s Indian subsidiary) announced that it will remove the words ‘fair, white and light’ from its products and marketing. To promote an inclusive standard of beauty, it has also renamed its flagship Fair & Lovely product line to Glow & Lovely.

“Brands have to move away from these standards of beauty and be more inclusive so that people – regardless of their color, size, shape or gender – can find a role model that looks like them in the mass media,” said Dr. Rasmi.