Commentary

A Dose of Inspiration

Nov 15, 2016

If you’re looking for a dose of inspiration today, then spending some time with Bryan Stevenson might be just the thing.

Stevenson is a lawyer, professor and the founder of the Alabama-based Equal Justice Initiative, which works to end inequities in the criminal justice system and beyond. But, he began his own education with a degree in philosophy. It clearly informs everything he does. “Since no one was going to pay me to philosophize, I started looking around for something meaningful to do with my time,” he said of his decision to go to law school.

His work has been extraordinary, from freeing wrongly convicted death row inmates, to persuading the Supreme Court to end life-without-parole for children. “We have a system that treats you better if you are rich and guilty, then if you’re poor and innocent,” he says.

His TED talk, We need to talk about an injustice, has more than 3.2 million views, and his memoir, Just Mercy, is a #1 New York Times Bestseller.

As his influence has grown, Stevenson has been sharing a four-step path, designed to help people sharpen their thinking on race, inequity, and justice.

But for anyone who is interested in inclusion - specifically, designing systems to help people work effectively together, they offer a powerful philosophical underpinning that can make sure you're always doing something meaningful with your time.

Here is my synopsis:

  • Proximity. Strive to see the lives of others through your own eyes, and understand their lived experiences. “If you are willing to get closer to people who are suffering, you will find the power to change the world.”
  • Change the narrative. There are always unspoken stories that shape the status quo; the narratives around race are particularly wrenching. His best examples are the “no tolerance” education policies in schools that promote the view that students of color are criminals to be punished, not children to be nurtured and educated.
  • Keep hopeful. Yes, this is a tough one, because it requires us to take a tough inventory of our own resignation. But, he says,“injustice prevails when hopelessness persists.”
  • Do uncomfortable things. Fighting for others, for justice, being the only one who raises our hands to point out an issue can be uncomfortable, for everyone involved. He points to two things. First, there is a restorative power in working for others. And two, “I see my own brokenness in the brokenness of those I serve.”

Stevenson is asking those of us who operate in big systems, all of them, to become more courageous. “We love innovation. We love technology. We love creativity. We love entertainment. But ultimately, those realities are shadowed by suffering, abuse, degradation, marginalization. And for me, it becomes necessary to integrate the two. Because ultimately we are talking about a need to be more hopeful, more committed, more dedicated to the basic challenges of living in a complex world.”

On Point

If you have “diversity” in your title, then your post-election job has become harder

By November 10th, Ernst and Young’s Karyn Twaronite said her inbox was jammed with worries about women’s rights and immigration. The global diversity & inclusiveness officer says that anti-bias and inclusion efforts are a significant priority, partly because it’s important to E&Y’s business: Clients ask for diverse teams all the time. Twaronite tells Fortune there’s a bigger role for corporate America to play in healing and inclusion. The company’s workforce is 35% ethnic minority and 45% women.

Fortune

FBI: Hate crimes surge against Muslims

According to the FBI, hate crimes against Muslims in the U.S. shot up 67% last year, the highest since the 9/11 attacks. While the surge is extremely worrisome, Jewish people remain the most frequent targets of religious-based hate crimes in the country, some 53% of incidents reported. The annual Hate Crime Statistics Report was released yesterday; it was the 25th anniversary of the briefing. Not looking forward to next year’s update.

Al Jazeera

Some Facebook employees openly revolt over fake news on the platform

Looking to directly engage their preternaturally calm CEO, Facebook employees are rebutting a statement put out by Zuckerberg that fake news on the platform affecting the election was “a crazy idea.” Said one employee to Buzzfeed: “What’s crazy is for him to come out and dismiss it like that, when he knows, and those of us at the company know, that fake news ran wild on our platform during the entire campaign season.” My prediction: Good news is coming down the feed after all of this.

Buzzfeed

Editorial: Hate at the White House

The New York Times editorial board has published a strong op-ed, condemning the appointment of former Breitbart CEO Steven Bannon as President-elect Trump’s chief White House strategist. “Anyone holding out hope that Donald Trump would govern as a uniter — that the racism, sexism, anti-Semitism and nativism of his campaign were just poses to pick up votes — should think again.”

New York Times

Remembering Gwen Ifill

Gwen Ifill was one of the most respected journalists working today, one of the few black women in the field when she started her career. Her colleagues put together a video tribute, all of which is worth your time. But don’t miss Yamiche Alcindor’s story at the 23:43 mark, in which she talks about being a journalist wannabe when she discovered that she shared a hair dresser with Ifill. “I basically met her under the hair dryer,” she begins. Ifill took the 19-year-old future talent under her wing and mentored her throughout her career.

PBS

Maverick Carter is a curious guy

Sure, there’s plenty of great boardroom and basketball talk. But Maverick Carter, the man who helped negotiate Lebron James’ billion-dollar lifetime deal with Nike, gets poignantly real about his early influences and how he’s had a different path then most major CEOs: His father was a drug dealer who didn’t go to school past the ninth grade, and his grandmother ran an after-hours club. “They were the two biggest influences in my life,” he says. His passionate curiosity, openness and success came from them. Can it be taught? (Yes.) (At the 10:00 mark.)

Fortune Unfiltered

Talking about race and racism with Van Jones

Race and culture writer Rebecca Carroll sat down with commentator Van Jones and delivered a nuanced conversation about race, the election and the white voter who correctly feels left behind. Is a vote for Trump inherently racist? “I see the rebels on the rise and I see the Establishment on the ropes and I have some sympathy for all the rebels,” says Jones. Carroll is not so sure. In a world where racism is systemic, why is pointing it out a problem? “For a lot of the Trump voters, even raising this conversation they find offensive. And alarming,” says Jones. “And not all Trump voters are racist.”

New York Magazine

The Woke Leader

You can learn to be resilient

Resilience is a funny thing. You only discover you have it if your life is really difficult. So, absent hardship, how to train for it? How to strengthen it? One researcher found that children who thrive despite trauma tend to “meet the world on their own terms,” and are open, curious and independent. Other research confirmed that even terribly traumatized children sometimes became more resilient later in life. One key: the ability to reframe events not merely as threatening, but as linked to meaning and awareness. A hopeful and inspiring read for leaders who want to foster resilience in themselves and others.

New Yorker

An interview with the “not usually a sign guy,” and a lesson in allyship

He showed up to an anti-Trump rally in NYC, grimly holding up a piece of cardboard with these words: “not usually a sign guy but geez.” The resulting photo made Jim Crocamo a viral sensation. Most protest signs make him cringe, he said. “I just think it’s really important for all of the people the Trump campaign targeted — immigrants, women, Muslims, Mexicans, minorities, LGBTQ (sadly the list goes on) — to see the streets fill up with their fellow Americans who are not going to stand for the discrimination he promised and ran on.”

New York Magazine

How to support marginalized writers

Alternating Currents, an independent boutique publisher, has created a platform that allows anyone to offer a ‘micro-grant’ to help an otherwise undiscovered or marginalized writer complete their work. The minimum is $100, but gifts in kind like residencies, travel assistance or other tools are also accepted. If you’re a writer, bookmark it, the list of grants is growing.

Alternating Currents

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