Alexis Ohanian, the founder and former CEO of Reddit, stepped down from his position on the company’s board on June 5 as the U.S. roils with nationwide protests against police brutality after Minneapolis police killed George Floyd, an unarmed black man.
Ohanian is calling on the company he founded to fill his position with a black board member, a high-profile step for a company with its own rocky track record around issues of race.
“I believe resignation can actually be an act of leadership from people in power right now,” Ohanian said in his announcement. “To everyone fighting to fix our broken nation: do not stop.”
With the decision, Ohanian also announced that future gains of his company stock would be invested in the black community, “chiefly to curb racial hate.” That amount could total to around USD 50 million. His first move will be to give USD 1 million to Know Your Rights Camp, an organization founded by Colin Kaepernick that focuses on self-empowerment and safety for black and brown communities.
Many leaders within tech are calling for the industry to have its own reckoning with entrenched racism, an effort Ohanian’s move may amplify. Tech companies have long been criticized for their broad lack of black leadership at the highest levels, a failing that likely factors into their myriad policy failures around race — like the fact that Facebook only banned white nationalism one year ago.
“I co-founded @reddit 15 years ago to help people find community and a sense of belonging. It is long overdue to do the right thing. I’m doing this for me, for my family, and for my country” Ohanian wrote on Twitter. “I’m saying this as a father who needs to be able to answer his black daughter when she asks: ‘What did you do?’ ”
Ohanian stepped away from his daily duties at Reddit in 2018 but kept a seat on the board at the time. His transition to being more hands-off at the company he founded has been gradual over the last few years as he spent more time on Initialized Capital, an early-stage venture fund he co-founded.
In recent years, Ohanian has also become a more outspoken advocate for policies like paid family leave, calling for more equitable, flexible leave policies and citing his own experience as a father. In 2017, Ohanian had a daughter with his wife, tennis legend Serena Williams.