Alexis Ohanian has stepped down from his seat on the board of Reddit, the website he cofounded just shy of 15 years ago, in an apparent act of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.
“It is long overdue to do the right thing,” Ohanian wrote in a blog post Friday afternoon. “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 married Serena Williams in 2017, with the tennis star announcing their engagement in a Reddit post, referring to herself as “future Mrs. Kn0thing” — a reference to Ohanian’s username on the site.
— Alexis Ohanian Sr. ???? (@alexisohanian) June 5, 2020
Ohanian not only resigned his position on the company’s board, he’s also pledged to “use future gains on my Reddit stock to serve the black community.” His first donation, he says, will be $US1 ($1) million to Know Your Rights Camp, the black and brown liberation organisation founded by Colin Kaepernick. He’s also made clear he wishes his board seat be filled by a black person. (Reddit’s other board members, Sam Altman and Bob Sauerberg, are both white men.)
It’s impossible to ignore the timing of Ohanian’s departure amid a flurry of brands attempting to bandwagon onto the cause of Black Lives Matter — Reddit among them. An anodyne note posted on Monday by current CEO Steve Huffman paid lip service to the idea of racial justice, while remaining silent on what the company or Huffman would do to advance the cause, save for a passing mention of supporting voter reform.
Huffman was publicly shamed by Reddit’s former interim CEO, Ellen Pao, on Twitter for the website’s complicity in protecting and amplifying communities built around hate and harassment. (In particular she mentions r/the_donald, the infamous pro-Trump subreddit that has, among other things, threatened Reddit’s own employees.)
I am obligated to call you out: You should have shut down the_donald instead of amplifying it and its hate, racism, and violence. So much of what is happening now lies at your feet. You don't get to say BLM when reddit nurtures and monetizes white supremacy and hate all day long https://t.co/VN5XCiYp5g
— Ellen K. Pao (@ekp) June 2, 2020
While Reddit’s long-running reputation as an incubator for racism and harassment would seem a good a reason as any to jump ship, it’s unclear what specific issues Ohanian has with Reddit, or why he felt leaving the company was the best option for addressing them at this point. We’ve reached out to Ohanian directly and will update if he responds.