Google gives out offensive notebooks to Black summit attendees

A source sent me a photo of a peculiar notebook received by someone who attended Google’s K&I Black Summit in August but only recently looked through the merchandise from the event.

On the front of the Google-branded notebook given to its Black attendees is the summit’s name alongside the event’s theme: “Seize the moment.” That’s completely normal. On the inside of the notebook, however, it reads verbatim, “I was just cotton the moment, but I came back to take your notes.”

Now pause. The notebook is funny because it’s one of those things that, if given to a crowd of any other race, the slogan inside would have meant relatively nothing. It might have been perceived as it was likely supposed to be: a notebook made from eco-friendly recycled cotton materials. Instead, here is just this notebook, given to an audience of Black people, that says, “I was just cotton the moment.” It is an awkward oversight from Google, especially in the post-2020 era when support for Black employees has become more deliberate.

When reached by email, a Google spokesperson did not dispute that the company gave out the notebooks during the event. The spokesperson said that the notebooks were purchased through a third-party vendor and that Google did not add the cotton line. (Google declared the email on “background,” which requires that both parties agree to the terms in advance. We are printing the reply, as we were given no opportunity to reject the terms.)

I asked the spokesperson how the attendees might perceive the notebook’s awkward “cotton” line, but the spokesperson did not directly respond at the time. It is clear that whoever was overseeing the ordering of these notebooks did not pay keen attention to how they could be perceived before handing them out. AXAXAXAXAXAX

After this story was published, Google spokesperson Emily Hawkins provided a statement that said Google is “reviewing our processes to avoid similar situations as we engage with vendors going forward.”

“We understand the line might come across as insensitive and apologize for any unintended offense that was caused,” the spokesperson said.