During the first week of protests stemming from the apparent murder of George Floyd by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, the music software and hardware manufacturer posted an image macro via LinkedIn as a gesture to the black community. “We stand in solidarity with everyone fighting against racism and social injustice in our society,” read accompanying verbiage. “We are listening, learning and looking into how we can best help to amplify voices against racism and be part of the force for change.”
Former NI employee Jessy Halison brought up the 2017 Maschine promotion in her response to the post. Featured in the campaign was an Angola-based artist who goes by the stage name Dj N**** Fox. Halison wrote that she was ignored when raising concerns about use of a derogatory term in the campaign, and that her superiors did little to shield her and other BIPOC employees from racist remarks in online discussions on the matter. “We don’t need and we don’t want your performative allyship,” Halison wrote. “Apologize sincerely first, really do better. Acts speak more loudly than your empty words, and trust me, they speak volume!”
NI apologized in the ensuing thread and shared plans to remove all remaining online presence for the campaign. “We had good intentions with giving a voice to a talented artist, but we realize that not listening to the concerns raised by some of our team members back then wasn’t right and we’re sorry for the pain that this has caused,” they commented.
Halison clarified that she took no issue with the artist or his alias, but how the NI reinforced harmful stereotypes by displaying it. “We showed you several examples of other companies who showcased his community and him in a respectful manner,” she wrote. “You never really highlighted them, you tokenized them as a way only to sell Maschine, and this is also what we were denouncing and you ignored purposely.” A handful of other BIPOC employed by the company echoed Halison’s sentiments in the thread.
In the days that followed, Native Instruments CEO and Co-Founder Daniel Haver attempted to clear the air with a longer apology. “At this moment, we are focussing on listening to and discussing actionable next steps with our team,” read his post. “We will remain transparent and share concrete next steps in due course about the actions we are taking to ensure an inclusive, respectful environment for our staff and broader community.”
Following the controversy, Native Instruments also made a $50,000 donation to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
Image credit: Dj N**** Fox