With great dramatic flair, more than a dozen New York Times employees privately commiserated this week over a co-worker's tweet, which some felt amounted to a "micro-aggression."
The tweet in question was posted Monday by Bari Weiss, staff editor for the opinion section and an unfailingly sharp writer whose dissenting takes on feminism have made her a lightening rod for growing progressive resentment over the paper's decision to include a more diverse slate of voices. Weiss had tweeted a video of American figure skater Mirai Nagasu with the caption, "Immigrants: They get the job done," an allusion to the Broadway show "Hamilton." Nagasu is not an immigrant herself, though both her parents immigrated from Japan.
Weiss' sentiments were not appreciated by more than a dozen of her co-workers, including an editor, who reportedly vented their frustrations in a Slack conversation, a transcript of which was leaked to Huffington Post.
"I will no longer remain silent about our hostile work environment just so that it will be pleasant for others," one person wrote. Another replied, "I don’t know, man. it’s really painful when you feel your colleagues are disrespecting you."
"...frankly," the first person wrote back, "microaggressions and people being obtuse cut the deepest. and this is DAILY."
"Thank you for bringing up this issue here!" added another person. "I had thought about posting about it yesterday but opted instead to vent privately to other AAPI/Asian-American colleagues because I didn’t know if I had the energy to address microaggressions and /or defend my right to feel frustrated at something other people might look at as not a big deal. I’m glad you had the courage to mention this!"
"On a related note," that person continued, "given the heightened political discourse around 'free speech' where many people on the receiving end of criticism complain about being silenced, I don’t think there’s enough thought given to the way institutions/organizations/communities are structured to defacto silence people who are already most vulnerable to marginalization."
Two staffers in the conversation expressed general support for implementing more "implicit bias training" programs. An editor chimed in to say, "Hey all, a lot of smart thoughts here and just wanted you to know I am following along. Definitely worth more discussion."
An important takeaway from Google's meltdown over that controversial diversity memo last summer was how students appear more and more to be taking the attitudes and rhetoric they are often taught to embrace on college campuses with them into the workplace. Most young people working for top employers in progressive cities, like Google and the New York Times, probably graduated from leading schools where they learned to react to opinions that deviate from liberal orthodoxy by leaning on concepts like "implicit bias" and "microaggressions." This can often do more to engender a sense of intolerance than tolerance.
If employers dare to hire collegiate social justice warriors, they should be prepared for the same conflicts over viewpoint diversity that flare up so regularly on college campuses to start hitting their workplaces with increasing frequency.