Course urging workers to be 'less white' pulled from LinkedIn platform

23 February 2021, 20:23 | Updated: 23 February 2021, 20:55

The course was available on LinkedIn Learning but has since been taken down
The course was available on LinkedIn Learning but has since been taken down. Picture: LinkedIn Learning
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

A course urging people to be "less white" has been pulled from LinkedIn Learning after Coca Cola faced a backlash for making it available to its staff.

The slides were part of a set of videos called 'Confronting Racism with Robin DiAngelo', written by the white sociologist who authored the book White Fragility.

They were made available to Coca Cola staff via the LinkedIn Learning site and went viral after being shared by a disgruntled employee in the US.

However, the soft drinks giant sought to distance itself from the backlash, saying that although it had recommended the course to its staff, it was not compulsory for them to take it.

On Monday, LinkedIn confirmed it had removed the slides altogether following the public outcry.

One of the slides said being "less white" would require being "less oppressive", "less arrogant, "less ignorant" and "more humble", while another simply read: "Try to be less white."

The slides have since been removed from LinkedIn's Learning platform
The slides have since been removed from LinkedIn's Learning platform. Picture: Twitter

Ms DiAngelo, the author of the slides, is an academic who argues that unless white people actively work to be "anti-racist" then they are "complicit" in racist structures.

After initially facing calls for boycotts and court action, Coca Cola released a statement confirming it did not own the course but had made it available to its employees in the US as part of its diversity training.

The firm said in a statement: "The video circulating on social media is from a publicly available LinkedIn Learning series and is not a focus of our company's curriculum.

"Our Better Together global learning curriculum is part of a learning plan to help build an inclusive workplace. It is comprised of a number of short vignettes, each a few minutes long.

"The training includes access to LinkedIn Learning on a variety of topics, including on diversity, equity and inclusion.

"We will continue to refine this curriculum."

Coca Cola has distanced itself from the slides, saying they were not compulsory for staff to read
Coca Cola has distanced itself from the slides, saying they were not compulsory for staff to read. Picture: PA

Access to the course has since been blocked and has been replaced by a message from LinkedIn, which reads: "We’re sorry! The course Confronting Racism, with Robin DiAngelo (by) has been retired.

"We sometimes need to retire or refresh courses."

A spokeswoman for the social networking company told the American weekly magazine Newsweek that the slides had been removed "at the request of the third-party content provider we licensed this content from".

One of the pages in the 11-minute video read: "In the US and other Western nations, white people are socialized to feel that they are inherently superior because they are white.

"Research shows that by age 3 to 4, children understand that it is better to be white."

The slides in question were retweeted by Harmeet K. Dhillon, a leader of the Republican National Committee in California, who said they seemed like "blatant racial discrimination" to the person who initially shared them.

Some people on Twitter responded angrily to the post, with one person saying: "Somehow it has become acceptable to be blatantly racist towards white people.

"This is hurting our society and needs to stop."

Another wrote: "Imagine the outcry if they said try to be less <literally any other ethnicity>."

However, some people seemed to support the message behind the course.

One user wrote: "Hey, you. Person reading this. You may be outraged. You may struggle to accept this challenge. You may not feel like you need it.

"But I assure you... I *assure* you, someone does."

Another said: "All the bullet points under 'To be less white is to:' are good things to strive for. So this sounds like a good concept with a (possibly very) poor choice of words at its core.

"And it's clear from the last four years that many white Americans need anti-racism training."

LBC has approached Ms DiAngelo for a comment.