raceAhead: Aug. 18, 2016
Of all the tidbits we gleaned from the recent Pew Research report about how often black, Hispanic and white people post or view content about race on social media, the racial divide may be the most important. Turns out, white internet users are largely out of the conversation.
While 28% of black social media users and 20% of Hispanic ones say that some of the things they share or post on social media are about race or race relations, only 8% of white folks talk about race in online social spaces, with a large majority, 67%, saying they never do.
It’s understandable. This is tough stuff, and nobody wants to make a mistake that can get them flamed into oblivion.
But in many businesses, the most important conversations about growth and strategy still happen in majority white spaces, like boards, management committees and executive confabs. And this is where speaking up about issues of race and inclusion – also known as ‘white allyship’ – can make the most difference.
But it’s not easy. “There’s a real cost to bringing things up, like ‘where are the brown faces in this ad?’ or ‘why are there are only white people on this committee?’ ”one white executive from a Fortune 500 firm told me on background. “You risk making other people feel like they’re insensitive or don’t notice things,” they said. “And when you’re asking for people to change the way they think, it feels like a threat to their line of business.”
Allies can feel like a minority of one when they step away from their peers. “Because what we’re really talking about when we talk about ‘allyship’ is dismantling systems, the way things have always been done,” says Mychal Denzel Smith, the author of Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching: A Young Black Man’s Education. Pushing for change makes people uncomfortable, which can cost you friends and professional capital. “You have to be prepared for that. You have to ask yourself, ‘what am I willing to lose?’” Sometimes it’s personal. And sometimes it’s economic.
Smith says allies need to focus on turning that loss into a win. “What are the opportunities associated with the establishment of new systems that don’t deny others access to their own humanity and the respect and dignity afforded you?” Build on that. And keep talking.
One of the most spectacular recent examples of white allyship came from South Carolina State Senator Paul Thurmond, 40, the youngest son of the late Senator Strom Thurmond, one of the state’s most famous segregationists. Last year, Thurmond was one of the first state lawmakers to publicly call for the Confederate battle flag to be removed from the statehouse grounds after the shooting at Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church. “Our ancestors were literally fighting to continue to keep human beings as slaves, and continue the unimaginable acts that occur when someone is held against their will,” he told his colleagues. “I am not proud of that heritage.”
The flag came down.
And two months later, Thurmond opted not to run for re-election to, yes, spend more time with his family. (And build his law practice.) I recently emailed him a question. “Was the cost of speaking out too high?”
“Doing the right thing is never at a cost,” he responded, minutes later.
|Big business can, and should, change the world|
|With the arrival of Fortune’s second annual “Change the World” list, we see a deepening commitment from big business to take on the vexing social problems of race, inequity, poverty, the environment and more. Change your day by perusing the list.|
|A new lynching memorial will confront the legacy of slavery|
|The first annual memorial to the victims of lynching is slated to open in Alabama in 2017, a comprehensive look at our nation’s traumatic history of mob violence and its aftermath. This is something that has happened other places – like post-Nazi Germany or post-genocide Rwanda, but not here. Equal Justice Initiative founder Bryan Stevenson explains why this matters. “I want us to be liberated from the chains that this history has created,” he said.|
|Apple’s latest diversity report shows slight progress|
|Something is better than nothing: Black employees now make up 9% of the company’s workforce, up from 8% in 2015; the number of Asians has increased from 18% to 19%; and Latino/Hispanic employees are up from 11% to 12%. And, under Tim Cook, people of color and women have been promoted and now hold important leadership positions.|
|Black people don’t like Donald Trump|
|The New York Times’s Charles Blow examines, in great detail, why candidate Trump’s recent “efforts” to court the black vote are as disingenuous as they are pointless. “Donald Trump is the paragon of racial, ethnic and religious hostility. He is the hobgoblin of retrograde racial hegemony.”|
|New York Times|
|Oprah and Ava: We don’t say diversity anymore|
|Inclusion is the thing, they say, that will change the entertainment industry and beyond. This joint interview with Oprah Winfrey and filmmaker Ava DuVernay shows they are clearly focused on the big picture. “Forward-thinking people and allies of this cause within the industry have the common sense to know that this is systemic,” says DuVernay. “There needs to be more done than applauding one or two people who make it through your door.”|
|Black students choose majors that won’t lead to high paying jobs|
|A new Georgetown study shows that while African American representation in college is growing, students are seriously underrepresented in the majors that will yield the highest paying, most secure jobs – STEM, health, and business. Career planning services is one suggested remedy, but that takes talent off the social work and education tracks. “The low-paying majors that African Americans are concentrated in are of high social value but low economic value,” says co-author Anthony P. Carnevale.|
The Woke Leader
|Genetic data comes from mostly white patients, and that’s a problem|
|A study lead by a team from Harvard Medical School has shown that when black patients are given genetic tests, they are at risk for receiving false positives for gene mutations indicating serious illnesses like a type of cardiomyopathy that can cause sudden death in young athletes, and that are classified as benign for white patients. It’s complicated, but they believe a lack of diversity in publicly available genetic sequencing data may be to blame.|
|Wall Street Journal|
|NPR to abandon comments on their site|
|NPR is joining a long list of media organizations who are forgoing comments sections to let the fights, uh, conversations happen on social media instead. Said one reader: “Remove the comments section from your articles. The rude, hateful, racist, judgmental comments far outweigh those who may want to engage in some intelligent sideline conversation about the actual subject of the article.”|
|Will Common Core help close the racial divide in Silicon Valley?|
|Common Core, an attempt to create a national set of standards for math and language arts across the country, have been controversial from the beginning. But, argues Tamyra Walker from #YesWeCode and Peggy McLeod from La Raza, a Hispanic civil rights outfit, their emphasis on math may be an overlooked tool that could eventually help increase the number of young professionals ready to join tech companies.|