Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Google Diversity executive lectures Jews on the lessons of the Holocaust

The Google Diversity Annual Report says: “Building a culture of belonging empowers people to do their best work. Google is a company where people of different views, backgrounds and experiences can come together and show up for one another.” 

Dr. Kamau Bobb is the Global Lead for Diversity Strategy and Research for Google, so you’d think that he would have a great deal of sensitivity to how people of different views, backgrounds and experiences should relate to each other. Which makes it quite surprising to read the audaciously offensive post that he wrote on his blog in 2007.

In this era of “cancel culture”, we’ve seen people held to account for what they posted online before they were adults. But Dr. Bobb had already received his PhD from Georgia Tech by the time he wrote the piece under discussion. Given that it was 14 years ago, it is possible that his views have changed since then, and if so, I’d genuinely welcome hearing from him about it. Because it certainly strikes me as grossly inappropriate for a non-Jew to be lecturing Jews on what we should have learned from the Holocaust (and prior centuries of persecution).

“Wait, what?”, you say. Yes, indeed. You can read his post  “If I Were a Jew” here.  His utter erasure of the genocidal calls to eradicate the Jews from the Jewish homeland, from the Mufti’s incitement in the 1920’s, though Azzam Pasha’s promise in 1947 that “this will be a momentous massacre”, all the way up to Fathi Hammad’s “cut off the heads of the Jews”, screams louder than his multiple misstatements of fact and his characterizations of Israel as having “an insatiable appetite for vengeful violence.”

Perhaps Dr. Bobb might consider this: some of the lessons that many Jews learned from the Holocaust (reinforced by subsequent events such as the Rwandan genocide and the oppression of the Uighurs) are 1) that the Jewish state has to be able to defend itself because we know that the world won’t act on “never again”, and 2) that we take antisemites quite seriously when they say that they intend to kill us.

Discussions along these lines do occur within the Jewish community-- and even within Israel itself. But those discussions occur among those with a shared sense of reference-- and in Israel, with a shared set of experiences and responsibilities. Just as I'd expect that there are certain conversations which take place within the Black community, in which outsiders are not welcome to lecture them.  

We’ve seen far more than our share of “Jews didn’t learn the lessons of the Holocaust.”  But those don’t usually come from those who are professionally employed to promote inclusion at worldwide companies. I’m sure that after reading that, many Jewish employees at Google won’t feel that he’s ready to show up for them against antisemitic abuse.

(h/t Alana Goodman)

1 comment:

  1. Saved to the Wayback machine Internet archive, in case he tries to pretend it never existed