I spent the hundredth day of the Trump presidency marking a different milestone – the one-year anniversary of the opening of the first Starbucks in Ferguson, MO. There was a lot to celebrate.
Though a torrential downpour drove the planned block party inside, there was a sunny vibe all around. Senior Starbucks executives, in from Seattle, chatted with elected officials and people from local organizations like the Urban League, along with Starbucks employees and regular customers, just like they were old friends. At this point, they sort of were. The store is part of a bigger idea for selling more than just lattes in Ferguson and places like it; it aims to be part of an economic opportunity engine that offers a clean, well-lighted space for a community to do the work they need to grow. And that meant lots of trips to Ferguson, many hours logged in city council meetings, frank talk with other business owners and their families, and just hanging out, listening and asking all sorts of questions.
But the new store is also a part of some bigger ideas that Ferguson has for itself; fitting those ideas together took time and patience, particularly for a town who has been through some things and still feels the world doesn’t understand who they really are. But on the hundredth day, there were hugs and cupcakes and a mantra on a bulletin board that made the case: “Local contractors. Local partners. Local love.”
I’ll be digging into all of this for a longer story to post later this week, but the celebration reminded me of how deeply personal this work is. Inclusion happens over time, as a series of conversations that have the needs of real people, in all their messy humanity, at its center. And it needs to happen at scale. That’s not often a corporate thing. Or a government thing, for that matter. And it’s definitely not an easy thing.
I'd like to take a moment to brag on one of raceAhead's earliest profile subjects. Long-time readers may remember Damon Davis from the Fortune story “Leading While Black;” he was one of four St. Louis area young men who were confident that corporate life was not for them. (He also appeared along with his business partner, Darian Wigfall, in the video that accompanied the story.) When we met, over whiskey and craft beers, Davis was in the middle of a documentary about the events in Ferguson, and had an almost comically long list of projects and accomplishments as an artist and music producer. Since we talked, his work has been included in the permanent collection at the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture, and his film "Whose Streets," premiered to strong reviews at Sundance.
Here’s what Davis and his friends said about corporate life:
They all believe that have access to the tools they need to succeed on their own terms, and a network of friends and community that sees them. They see no need to invest in a flawed system that isn’t designed to invest in them. These are the young black men for whom corporate America is not an option, but not because they worry they won’t measure up. “Why?” Davis asks pointedly. “What’s in it for me?” If his business ideas are workable he can scale them on his own.
Davis is also a TED fellow. NPR’s Code Switch covered his just completed talk about the Ferguson film, where he talked about how the community reacted after Michael Brown's death:
"He ain't the first, and he won't be the last young kid to lose his life to law enforcement. But see, his death was different. When Mike was killed, I remember the powers that be trying to use fear as a weapon. The police response to a community in mourning was to use force to impose fear. Fear of militarized police, imprisonment, fines. The media even tried to make us afraid of each other by the way that they spun the story... this time was different."
The job of the next hundred days, and all the days after that, is to make sure that things stay different in all the ways they need to. While it’s jarring to think about the Trump presidency, and its very traditional embrace of top-down, white male executive aggression, the idea that the structured world puts up permanent barriers to good ideas is losing sway. Like-minded people can both find each other and a way to work together, even at scale. It just takes time and more than a little bit of love.
Teen Vogue promotes editor Elaine Welteroth and all is right with the world
The promotion helps clarify Welteroth’s role, and gives her new license to expand Teen Vogue’s presence online and through real world experiences and products. Welteroth, working closely with digital director Phillip Picardi and creative director Marie Suter, has infused the brand with a welcome cultural and political verve; under her leadership, online activity has soared from three million unique monthly visitors to over nine million every month.
Female marines are fighting a “culture of sexism”
Maj. Janine Garner is one of a hundred Marine Corps women who signed a public letter demanding that Marine Corps leaders address the systemic misogyny that makes it acceptable for women to be mocked, diminished and treated as sexual objects. It’s a good letter. "We have allowed to thrive and, in some instances, even encouraged a culture where women are devalued, demeaned and their contributions diminished," the letter says. Garner was also one of a handful of Marine women who were recently mocked online. A standard-fare Instagram photo of eight women, smiling in uniform, became fodder for unwanted commentary from men who were supposed to be their peers and leaders after the photo was scraped and added to a Facebook group. “I watched in real time as hundreds of people commented on this photo and said things like they wanted to rape us," she told NPR.
So, not everyone liked the Heineken ad
Writer The Didi Delgado took issue with the conceit of the ad, which paired two people on opposite sides of an issue and gave them a chance to get to know each other, ultimately over a beer. She’s got a quick and vicious wit but also lands some real critique. “This commercial is the worst type of propaganda. It tricks you into thinking social problems can be resolved if only people tolerate their oppression just a LITTLE while longer,” she says. “It pushes the idea that bigotry, sexism, and transphobia are just differences of opinion that are up for debate, and deserving of civil discourse and equal consideration.” This passes for social justice work, she says, when corporations lack the real will to address real issues.
Okay, let’s try this ad from Goya
It’s meant to be a funny take on the anguish of Latinx parents who are raising kids in the U.S. It begins when a school girl asks her mom in Spanish to help her prepare some Latin food to bring to school for some sort of heritage day. The food she wants to bring? Nachos. Cue the theatrical reaction from her madre. "That moment, when you realize, you're losing your Latin child," she says in voiceover. The rest of the ad touches on the tension between assimilation and cultural identity in sweet and relatable ways, and yes, authentic food is a great reminder of where history lies. Fear not, they didn’t invite any pro-wall folks in for arroz con pollo.
Airbnb settles race discrimination case in California
It’s been about a year since the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) filed a complaint charging that Airbnb had failed to prevent discrimination against African Americans attempting to use the short-term rental platform. A new agreement between Airbnb and the DFEH was announced on April 27. For the next two years, Airbnb would agree to take certain actions to prevent future recurrences. For starters, the company agreed to submit regular reports to the DFEH, and ensure that any Airbnb hosts with three or more listings and a discrimination complaint were subject to “fair housing” testing with the agency.
The Woke Leader
One of India’s most fascinating and influential women has died at 108
One of the strongest female voices shaping India in the last century was a Hungarian Jew by birth. Shobha Magdolna Friedmann Nehru died last week at her home in the Himalayan foothills. She was, by all reckoning, a true badass. Nehru, who had narrowly escaped the Holocaust, married a prominent Indian diplomat named Braj Kumar Nehru in 1935; she became a constant figure in Indian public affairs, grieving with family after the assassinations of Mahatma Gandhi, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, and on occasion delivered strong and heartfelt rebukes to leadership on civil rights matters. She met her future husband when they were both students at the London School of Economics, his cousin – then the leader of the Indian independence movement and under arrest by British authorities - would go on to become the first Indian prime minister. The romance shocked both families. “How could their beautiful and lovely daughter marry a black man in a distant country of which they know nothing, and who, by his own confession, belonged to a family of jailbirds?” BK Nehru wrote in his memoir.
If you’re enjoying this newsletter over a tasty Chinese Chicken Salad, then maybe read this first
Writer Tracy Ma has a funny way of making you feel both a little hungry and a little queasy. In this essay, she explores the persistent, low-rent racism of “Asian” salads, which are found on menus alongside the Greeks and Caesars. They have become revenue-generating staples in both fast food and upscale cooking. Culinary inclusion, right? Not really. “[T]he Asian salad is often the one that comes with a winky, jokey name: Oriental Chop Chop. Mr. Mao’s. Secret Asian Man. Asian Emperor. China Island. Chicken Asian Chop Chop. Chinese-y Chicken,” she writes. The vaguely Asian ingredients with strange references to faraway emperors are more about how non-Asians are just making up a version of Asianness in service of stereotypes and bland palates. “When you fail to see countries and cultures as discrete entities, what kind of consideration could you be expected to give to individual people?”
It's time for the evangelical community to talk about race
I’d debated sharing this because, really, it was just another picture of people who should know better, not knowing better. Five senior faculty members of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary appeared in a staged photo in which they posed as rappers in a stereotyped way; although none appeared in blackface, they wore hoodies or sideways caps and gold chains, one brandished what looked to be a real gun. The photo, shared publicly by David L. Allen, the dean of the School of Preaching, was a tribute to a departing colleague who rapped on occasion. Click through for the backlash and apology. Christian rapper Lacrae posed the real question on twitter, “How do you all plan to grow from this?” Though Lacrae declined their request for him to help them unpack their teachable moment, an earlier tweet of his frames the issue perfectly. “Evangelical leaders don't ask me to use my voice to speak on racial unity if you don't use yours to talk about racism.”That’s the bigger story here.