Do you work with black women? Maybe it’s a good day to ask us how we're doing. We’ve been in the news, after all.
Yesterday, Fox News commentator Bill O’Reilly and White House press secretary Sean Spicer accidentally kicked off a firestorm on Twitter. At issue were condescending remarks aimed at two different black professional women. The events were unconnected, but the scenarios will be familiar.
During the morning show Fox & Friends, Bill O’Reilly reviewed a clip of Rep. Maxine Water [D-Calif] who had been critical of President Trump on the House floor. "We fight against this president and we point out how dangerous he is," she said. “We're saying to those who say they're patriotic, but they turn a blind eye to the destruction he is about to cause to this country. You are not nearly as patriotic as we are." In response, O’Reilly laughed, "I didn't hear a word she said. I was looking at the James Brown wig."
Then later in the day, Spicer admonished April Ryan, an Urban Radio Networks reporter who covers the White House, to “stop shaking her head again,” after a contentious back and forth. He did this in front of her peers and on international television.
It didn’t take long for Twitter to unpack exactly what was wrong with these separate but equally offensive exchanges. Activist Brittany Packnett amplified the hashtag #BlackWomenAtWork to help other women share the stories of being demeaned, belittled, overlooked or otherwise disregarded. “Today, we were told a Black woman's hair matters more than her voice, and our choices are under the control of others,” she tweeted. And then this: “This happens to black women everyday at work. Share your Maxine and April moments, so people don't think this is rare. Use #BlackWomenAtWork.”
And share they did:
- “Arrive to keynote. White faculty ask me to go get them some water. I get it. Then tell them why I'm really there.” @pastortraci
- #BlackWomenAtWork are paid less, asked to do more, are constantly antagonized, and then called angry/abrasive for setting boundaries. @BlackMajiik
- Pulling into my own reserved parking space and being told by a random WW that cleaning people can't park there. @GPBMadeit
- I've lost count how many times I've been called articulate. Folks are shocked every time I open my mouth. @MarissaReneeLee
The feed was instructive and cathartic. Women shared being spoken over in meetings, upbraided for being “aggressive,” overlooked for promotions, mistaken for a support function. (And if you take nothing else away from the conversation, then know this: stop touching black women’s hair. Please.) But you’ll also find solidarity, strength, and humor.
Even Hillary Clinton talked about both Ryan and Waters in a speech Tuesday afternoon to the Professional BusinessWomen of California. “Too many women, especially women of color, have had a lifetime of practice taking precisely these kinds of indignities in stride,” she said.
“I’m surrounded everyday by brilliant, confident, incredible black professional women who get demeaned despite their prowess. Today, I was over it,” Packnett told The Huffington Post. “I wanted the hashtag to make the invisible visible, to challenge non-black people to stand with black women not just when this happens on television, but in the cube right next to them,” she said.
O’Reilly later apologized for his hair comment and will appear on television again like nothing happened. Okay, fine. But today, untold numbers of black women are walking into work steeled to wave off the microaggressions that sap them of energy, respect, influence and earning power. That’s not fine.
Every now and then, social tools make it possible for voices to be heard in ways that can be a temporary shock to the system. It’s up to us to take it the rest of the way, like Waters herself, who eventually joined the hashtag launched in her honor. “I am a strong black woman. I cannot be intimidated, and I'm not going anywhere. #BlackWomenAtWork,” she tweeted.
Reporters and editors of the Wall Street Journal write a letter in support of diversity
The letter, obtained by Business Insider, was sent to the editor-in-chief, and signed by 160 staffers. "Diversity in the newsroom is good for business and good for our coverage," says the letter. "We would like to see The Journal undertake a more comprehensive, intentional and transparent approach to improving it." It comes at a time when the outlet is under fire for being "too-soft" in their coverage of the Trump administration. “Nearly all the people at high levels at the paper deciding what we cover and how are white men," the staffers say. The letter also takes on pay disparity.
Uber released its first diversity report and it will neither surprise nor delight you
Although, to be fair, they’re doing slightly better in some categories than other tech titans. Women in leadership account for 22% of Uber’s employee base. For tech and engineering roles, that number drops to 15%. Uber is predominantly white (49.8%), and their global workforce is 30.9% Asian, 8.8% black, 5.6% Hispanic, and 4.3% multiracial. There are no black or Hispanic employees in leadership positions on the technical side. “This clearly has to change—a diversity of backgrounds and experience is important at every level,” the report says.
Optimizing journalism based on trust not clicks
NYU journalism professor and beloved media critic (yes, there is such a thing) Jay Rosen has joined forces with De Correspondent, a member-funded digital news site based in The Netherlands. It is an attempt to answer a very important question: “What if news organizations optimized every part of the operation for trust? Not for speed, traffic, profits, headlines or prizes… but for trust.” They’re expanding to the U.S. and Rosen is helping them smooth the way. Click through for a lucid explanation of an extraordinary business model that we should all be thinking about.
Trump administration removes LGBTQ questions from the 2020 census
Last year, various federal agencies urged the Census Bureau to include sexual orientation and gender in their data for many reasons, not the least of which was this: the information is essential to their role in enforcing federal law. Although it was expected that the 2020 census would include LGBTQ related subjects, the U.S. Census confirmed that it had only “inadvertently” included them in a report outlining new categories for the survey released Tuesday. The reaction from advocacy groups was swift. “If the government doesn’t know how many LGBTQ people live in a community, how can it do its job to ensure we’re getting fair and adequate access to the rights, protections and services we need?” said Meghan Maury of the National LGBTQ Task Force in a statement.
An epidemic of LGBTQ youth suicide in Utah shocks a religious community
Last year was hard for the LGBTQ community across the board, with some legal setbacks that rattled an already fragile sense of safety and inclusion. But Utah is home to a particularly devastating statistic: Suicide is the leading cause of death among kids 10-17, far outpacing the national numbers. LGBTQ youth are particularly at risk. Advocates worry that the Mormon church is a factor. “Internal policies passed in recent years targeting queer people highlight the struggle the community faces in Utah for positive recognition,” says Vox writer Nico Lang. Church doctrine, detailed in the story, have isolated an already vulnerable group. If you click through, there are stories of grief, suicide and attempted suicide.
The Woke Leader
An elite college degree does not mitigate bias in hiring
For anyone focused on the talent pipeline, this survey offers interesting fodder for your thinking. University of Michigan sociologist S. Michael Gaddis conducted a study comparing black and white graduates from elite universities and found that an upscale education is no equalizer in the job market. “Although there is clearly a premium to a degree from an elite university over a less selective university for both white and black candidates, black candidates still lag behind white candidates in employer responses,” he writes. The offers black candidates receive tend to be for jobs with lower than listed salaries; they are also routinely less likely to be tapped for analyst or manager roles. There’s plenty more – he found that employers discriminate against elite credential holders with black-sounding names, for example. Great to bookmark and consider when re-designing your recruitment protocols.
Austin is pretty white, y’all
Austin, Texas is better known as a liberal blue town in a conservative red state. With its fancy festivals and music scene, it's become internationally known as a destination – and a tech hub, too. But they’ve never reckoned with their history of Jim Crow separation, and that’s a thing, says Thrillist’s Doyin Oyeni. “Behind the creative, progressive image that SXSW and ACL [Austin City Limits] project, you'll find Austin struggling to live up to the marketing campaigns that brought you here,” she says. Oyeni explores the gentrifying East Austin, which has become popular enough to make it unaffordable for the black and Latinx families who lived there for decades. No other big city grew at Austin’s pace all while losing black residents, and it shows. “Nobody has to say anything to make you feel out of place when you’re the only black person trying to enjoy your beer at yet another wooden picnic table,” she says.
Undocumented persons are unwilling to speak out anymore
“The Power of U” was once an online photo project designed to help illuminate the rich and varied stories of undocumented persons living and working in the U.S. Then the Trump victory changed all that, says project producer Michael Luna, who is also a community organizer focusing on environmental justice. People stopped showing up to protests and reform movements and refused to share their stories, often rife with personal trauma. Luna is pressing on with his project, and has become a lightning rod figure for an issue that is tearing communities in California apart. “Whether the outcome is positive or negative,” he told The Los Angeles Times, “our stories need to be told.”