'Try to be less white': Coca-Cola hit with backlash over 'confronting racism' training course

Coca-Cola found itself at the center of controversy on Friday after a viral social media post revealed that some Coca-Cola employees completed a racial sensitivity training course that teaches participants how to "be less white."

What are the details?

Images of the course were shared by psychologist Karlyn Borysenko, an activist who is fighting against critical race theory, who obtained the images from an "internal whistleblower" at Coca-Cola.

One of the slides in the course titled, "Confronting Racism," states, "Understanding What it Means to Be White, Challenging What it Means to Be Racist."

Another slide states, "To be less white is to:" "be less oppressive," "be less arrogant," "be less certain," "be less defensive," "be less ignorant," "be more humble," "listen," "believe," "break with apathy," and to "break with white solidarity."

"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," another slide claims.

One of the other slides just says, "Try to be less white."

The online training is a webinar created by Robin DiAngelo, author of "White Fragility," and
is hosted on LinkedIn.

The description of the course says the training "gives you the vocabulary and practices you need to start confronting racism and unconscious bias at the individual level and throughout your organization. There's no magic recipe for building an inclusive workplace. It's a process that needs to involve people of color, and that needs to go on for as long as your company's in business. But with these tools at your disposal, you'll be well on your way."

What was the response?

Coca-Cola was met with backlash online.

  • "Wut.... this seems like blatant racial discrimination to this employment lawyer," attorney Harmeet K. Dhillon said.
  • "If a corporate company sent around a training kit instructing black people how to 'be less black', the world would implode and lawsuits would follow.
    I genuinely hope these employees sue
    @CocaCola for blatant racism and discrimination," Candace Owens responded.
  • "This is outright racism under the guise of education. Substitute any other race for white and watch the reaction. You can't reach equality by denigrating another group," one person said.
  • "That whistleblower needs to file a civil rights violation complaint for race based discrimination. This won't go away until this is viewed as a legal issue, which it is," another person said.
  • "How is any of this legal? If we replaced white with any other race there would literally be hell to pay. This is the most @$ backwards Jim Crow thinking on steroids that I've ever seen," another person said.

What did Coca-Cola say?

In a carefully crafted statement, Cola-Cola neither confirmed nor denied that employees were required to take the training.

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.

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