raceAhead: June 8, 2016

By Ellen McGirt
June 8, 2016

Early this morning, the Associated Press reported that Hillary Clinton had won the California primary, a final validation to her claim to her party’s presidential nomination. The delegate math is now clear.

Last night, at a rally in Brooklyn, the new nominee took center stage repeatedly clasping her hands over her heart in emotional gratitude. It was picture perfect. She had been introduced by a video that framed this moment as a historic one for women, born from the hard work of generations who had fought for equal rights. The video was inclusive and effective, with lots of faces of color, of every age, with gay and transgender women clearly in the mix.

Before she took the mic, Clinton threw her arms wide in joy. The already thrilled crowd went wild.

Drawing a bright line from the Seneca Falls Convention for women’s suffrage in 1848, to the 19th Amendment of 1920 to today, she paused to consider how far we had come and what was still at stake. Taking Donald Trump to task, as she did repeatedly, Clinton pointedly decoded his “Make America Great Again” slogan. What Trump really wants, she said, was, “to take America backwards … to a time when we didn’t have the rights that we have now.”

But there are no bright lines when it comes to race and this country’s past. Native Americans couldn’t vote because they weren’t considered U.S. citizens until 1924, and many individual states barred them from voting until 1957. And it took a nation transfixed by televised violence in Selma, 1965, before support for the Voting Rights Act, which barred racial discrimination at the polls, finally became law. And although Seneca Falls did kick off the equal rights movement for women, over time, the movement became largely one that represented the voices of affluent, heterosexual, white women, a tectonic drift that animates conversations in African American studies departments and among community organizers, LGBT activists, and Black Twitter today.

Hillary Clinton has her own complex history with race, partly due to her long involvement with government. But today, intertwined with activist movements bearing hashtags, there is a new generation asking her tough questions, often with refreshing candor. People like Tracy Clayton and Heben Nigatu, hosts of Buzzfeed’s extraordinary podcast Another Round, who traveled to Iowa last year to interview Clinton about many things (including why she never seems to sweat on camera) but also dig into race. “You’ve got to be willing to constantly say there are gross inequities,” Clinton said. “Black men are arrested more, charged more, tried more, convicted more, and incarcerated more than than white men who do the same things.”

“I’m glad you brought up the deplorable state of the prison system,” began Clayton, who went into a detailed lead-in about the Clinton Administration’s crime bill of the 1990s, among other things. “Do you ever look at the state of black America now – regardless of your intent – and say, ‘Wow, did we really f@#$^ this up for black people?’” Clinton didn’t flinch. (Short answer: No. Crime was an issue everyone wanted to solve, they did their best, and will learn from their mistakes.) Head to the 20:40 mark if you don’t want to wait.


On Point



The invisible voter.
The Nation digs into a different kind of delegate math with an interesting question. By election day, nearly $3 billion will have been spent by Democrats and progressives on messaging and get out the vote initiatives. If you’re a moderate fence sitter  — also known as a swing voter — gird your loins. But so far, nothing is slated to target African American voters through specific mobilization. What gives?
The Nation



Good romance.
Spotify has confirmed that Troy Carter, the musical mogul who is largely credited with bringing Lady Gaga to her full creative potential, will become their new “global head of creator services.” Reporting directly to their chief content and strategy officer, Carter will be tasked with working with artists and other talent to create exclusive content. Carter is an investor in the streaming service via his Atom Factory enterprise.
Recode



It’s always day one somewhere.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is preparing to expand operations in India by adding an additional $3 billion in investments to better compete in the complex Indian e-commerce space. Bezos has been light on further details. Yesterday, at a Washington, D.C. event attended by Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi, he did say that Amazon had already built 21 fulfillment centers in the country. “I can assure you it’s only the beginning and as we say in Amazon, it’s only day one,” Bezos said. Modi met with several business leaders, and he is in the U.S. on a state visit.
Fortune



Talk to me.
It’s been nearly a year since Dylann Roof walked into a prayer meeting  at Emanuel AME Church, an historic black historic black church in Charleston, S.C., and murdered nine people. The race-based attack not only shocked the nation, it opened old wounds in the southern city and, many believe, put the myth of a post-racial society to rest for good. The Rev. Joseph Darby with the Charleston NAACP told NPR’s Code Switch that he believes the massacre was a defining moment. “Because of what happened, Charleston will never be the same on many levels,” Darby says. He hopes the incident will become a catalyst for candid conversation. “South Carolina operates by what I like to call ‘raging politeness.’ We don’t like to bring up anything that’s touchy, that might be offensive,” he said.
NPR



Belong anywhere but here.
In direct response to Airbnb’s ongoing and very public problems with race-based discrimination on their platform, two new rental sites, the similarly named Noirbnb and Noirebnb, have popped up, designed to capitalize on the growing black travel market, while vowing to make renting safer for guests of color. Noirbnb was founded by rapper Stefan Grant, who was nearly arrested attempting to check into his Airbnb rental in October 2015 – neighbors assumed he was breaking in. Rohan Gilkes, the founder of Noirebnb, was denied a rental in Idaho, which mysteriously reappeared when he asked a white friend to try to complete a booking for the same property.  
Tech Insider


The Woke Leader



Girl all grown.
Culture editor Bim Adewunmi digs into the “coming of age” genre for film and television, a comfort food category where boys, typically, turn into men through culturally proscribed rites of passage. But for girls, specifically black ones, the genre is more rich with meaning and opportunity than one might expect. It’s some welcome good news for diversity in the entertainment category, but only if you are willing to re-think the trope. “I would argue that coming-of-age stories may well be the only genre in which black girls and women are represented with something approaching equality (at least in terms of screen time) in popular culture, if you widen the net of what a coming-of-age story can be.” In addition to chewy commentary, Adewunmi provides a terrific summer viewing and reading list.
BuzzFeed



Our gang signs.
Professor Julia Lee has written a fascinating book on the racial history of “The Little Rascals,” a show that was far more progressive than I ever had imagined. It was, at least at the beginning, an authentically integrated cast of very little kids having a really fun time. Turns out, that was a radical act. “The thing that is just mind-boggling when you think about it is that in 1922, we’re talking about—this is the height of Jim Crow,” Lee told NPR’s Robert Siegel in an interview about the book. “You have the Ku Klux Klan undergoing a period of resurgence. You have lynchings going around across the country. And so race relations were at an incredible low, and yet you have this series that’s so popular that shows black and white children playing together as if there’s no such thing as race at all.” It goes downhill from there, sadly. 
NPR



Where did you say you were from?
Tomas Chamorrow-Premuzic and Michael Sanger ponder the question: Does your country of origin determine how you’ll lead? The answer is a qualified yes, if you believe, like they seem to, that cultures differ widely in terms of implicit theories of leadership. Such baked in assumptions inform what an individual believes leadership looks like. They shape an individual’s communication and decision-making styles, and they can predict some fairly serious derailers. Hmmm.
HBR

—raceAhead is edited by Scott Olster

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