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What Are You Prepared To Do Today?: RaceAhead

Ellen McGirt

Last night I attended a Juneteenth celebration hosted by Refinitiv, and participated on a panel with Tamika Mallory, Activist & Co-Chair of the Women’s March, Matthew Washington, Deputy Borough President of Manhattan, and moderated by the great Conway Gittens from Reuters.

It was attended by a group of mostly black professionals from Companies You’ve Heard Of, a powerful reminder of how far some of us have come, and how much more work there is to do. They were spectacular.

Both Tamika and Matthew spoke passionately about their work in organizing and community, and the deep responsibility they felt to educate allies by being the voice for people who are left out of the vital conversations that can determine their fates. For so many, Juneteenth never comes.

It was a reminder that we all can be allies for each other.

But what was true for so many who attended was the weight of being “the only one” in the room at work. It is a strange bit of business to try to excel in a competitive world while being the living embodiment of the business case for diversity. To be the explainer. The cajoler. The one who points out bias in a person who could end their careers. It was an opportunity to put down the weight for a spell, look at it, acknowledge it, and then pick it up anew.

While I can’t recreate that experience for you, I bet Michael Tubbs can.

He’s become an extraordinary figure. As the mayor of Stockton, Calif., he’s the youngest one for a city with over 100,000 people. (He was also on Fortune’s 2018 40 Under 40 list.) He is also a person who found himself in a series of rooms he didn’t expect to be in, and struggled with the weight of it…until he didn’t.

In this extraordinary TED Talk, called “The Political Power of Being a Good Neighbor,” he talks about the moment he found out his cousin Donnell had been shot and killed at a house party. “What was the point of me being at Stanford, what was the point of me being [an intern] at the White House if I was powerless to help my own family?” he asked.

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The rest of his talk will take you to church, in the best possible way, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

He ends with a powerful question that helped frame my experience of last night and the work that I hope to do today and every day.

What are we prepared to do today, so that a child born today, 50 years from now isn’t born in a society rooted in white supremacy; isn’t born into a society riddled with misogyny; isn’t born into a society riddled with homophobia and transphobia and anti-Semitism and Islamophobia and ableism, and all the phobias and -isms?”

Whatever you’re preparing to do, I see you and appreciate you.

  • On Point

    The pay gap between black and white tech talent widens Hired, a marketplace for tech talent and employers, has just released its now annual review of tech worker salaries across the globe. While San Francisco currently offers the highest average salary at $145,000, pay for tech workers in Austin, Boston, Toronto, Paris and Washington, D.C. have grown year over year. (But if you’re a techie in Austin, you also get the most living bang for your working buck.)  In a troubling trend, the wage gap between black tech workers and their white colleagues has widened by $5,000 since last year. For the first time, Asian tech workers are out-earning their white counterparts by $2,000 on average. Salary offers by race are on average, $137,00 for Asian workers, $135,00 for white workers, $128,00 for Hispanic workers, and $124,000 for black ones. Click through for the fascinating details. Oh, and you’re probably going to regret paying up for that advanced degree. Hired

    Adidas has a race problem It’s certainly not with the roster of black celebrities who have endorsed the brand and given it authentic cachet. But inside the apparel giant, black employees say that they’re marginalized, discriminated against and outnumbered. This piece from The New York Times relies on more than twenty interviews with current and former employees, and describes a workplace that many will find familiar: A leadership team that’s a white enclave, insensitive to issues of race and inclusion. And how about this business case for diversity: “[A]n overall lack of racial diversity…meant it was not uncommon for negative stereotypes to creep into work discussions or marketing pitches involving black athletes, sometimes creating backlash outside the company.” New York Times

    The New York Theological Seminary has its first black woman president Praise up for Rev. Dr. LaKeesha Walrond who will be the first black woman to lead the storied organization in its 119-year history. “It’s exciting, but you wonder why and how did it take so long,” she told WNYC. The organization’s guiding priniciple is “urban ministry,” which hasn’t always meant black. But it does mean ministering to the masses. “Like the mental health issue, like mass incarceration, issues of hunger and and homelessness…where we see people on the ground doing the work to make sure that everyone has the same access and is able to move forward in a way that’s beneficial — not only to themselves, but to the community and to the world.” WNYC

    The state of Alabama has its first black woman brewer While Railyard Brewing Co.’s Airelle “Airie” Peters may be alone in Alabama, she’s also largely alone in the industry. That’s the subject of this often-hilarious conversation between Peters and Ren Navarro, a famous figure in the Ontario beer community and founder of advocacy community Beer-Diversity. “I still don’t see a lot of women like me in the beer industry. We’re here and we drink beer, but why aren’t we represented?” says Peters. “We all drink it. But when you go to a spot where there’s a sales rep and a brewer, suddenly we’re not represented in these numbers,” says Navarro. Beer tea is also spilled. Commenting on a recent federal lawsuit claiming racial discrimination against Founders, a Michigan-based brewer, Navarro mentions meeting their hastily hired new diversity director —a black queer woman. “Good luck with that,” Navarro told her. “Yeah, I know,” she responded. Oct.co

  • On Background

    What is a moral budget? Common Dreams, a progressive media outlet, has put together a good explainer of the Poor People’s Campaign most recent testimony before the House Budget Committee in an attempt to draw policy-makers toward action against systemic poverty. Rev. Dr. William Barber, co-chair of the group said that 140 million poor and low-income Americans live desperate lives that are a “direct result of policy decisions” that are “supported by well-funded myths.” Solutions involve addressing “interlocking injustices” which include strengthening voting rights and expanding Medicaid. “Budgets reflect our deepest values and priorities. And we are here to say that our nation’s budget as it now stands reflects the values of the rich, large corporations, and military contractors at the expense of the poor,” said co-chair Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis. Common Dreams

    Why white people often react badly to diversity training This dispatch is from Robin DiAngelo, the former academic and current diversity training facilitator who may be best known for illuminating the concept of “white fragility.” While the defensiveness many white people feel when confronted with their complicity in racial bias – a condition to which everyone is subject – is real, it also tends to manifest in training situations in some predictable ways and gives real world examples. “[W]hite people’s moral objection to racism increases their resistance to acknowledging complicity with it,” she says. But not wrestling with the quandry is problematic. “White fragility functions as a form of bullying: ‘I am going to make it so miserable for you to confront me that you will simply back off.’” Medium

    Speaking other languages shifts ethics and morals in interesting ways If you feel, even subtly, that you’re a slightly different person when you speak or think in another language, you may be on to something. Recent studies suggest that when people are confronted with moral dilemmas, they respond differently when considering them in a foreign language than when using their own. If you feel, even subtly, that you’re a slightly different person when you speak or think in another language, you may be on to something. “When we use a foreign language, we unconsciously sink into the more deliberate mode simply because the effort of operating in our non-native language cues our cognitive system to prepare for strenuous activity,” reports Julie Sedivy. Scientific American

    Tamara El-Waylly helps produce raceAhead and assisted in the preparation of today’s summaries.

  • Quote

    We grant that Mr. McConnell was not alive for Appomattox. But he was alive for the electrocution of George Stinney. He was alive for the blinding of Isaac Woodard. He was alive to witness kleptocracy in his native Alabama and a regime premised on electoral theft. Majority Leader McConnell cited civil rights legislation yesterday, as well he should, because he was alive to witness the harassment, jailing, and betrayal of those responsible for that legislation by a government sworn to protect them. He was alive for the redlining of Chicago and the looting of black homeowners of some $4 billion. Victims of that plunder are very much alive today. I am sure they’d love a word with the majority leader. —Ta-Nehisi Coates