By Ellen McGirt
Updated: May 31, 2018 12:44 PM ET

No essay today, sorry! I’m recovering from a nasty bug.

But I wanted to at least share some comments on the news, since there has been so much of it.

First, the Starbucks racial bias training day. You can find the curriculum they used here, which includes a moving short film by award-winning documentary filmmaker Stanley Nelson.

My big take: It was a well-executed first step for a company dedicated to inclusive leadership, and an extraordinary attempt to host a bigger conversation about race in America.

New Yorker writer Jelani Cobb further explains the white-dominance of public spaces — the napping while, walking while, barbequing while black phenomenon — and the insistence that the authorities support that dominance. “It would be possible to see the recent incidents as a survivable pestering — racism as nuisance — were it not for the fact that the denial of the unimpeded use of public space has been central to the battles over civil rights since Emancipation,” he says. “The crucial aspect of the Starbucks story isn’t whether a company can, in a single training session, diminish bias among its employees. It’s the implied acknowledgment that such attitudes are so pervasive in America that a company has to shoulder the responsibility of mitigating them in its workforce.”

Adding on, Phillip Atiba Goff, a professor and the president of the Center for Policing Equity at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, wonders if Starbucks could help change the way tensions in public spaces are assessed.

“Instead of training sessions, Starbucks could make more of a difference by helping cities fund non-police options for people worried about suspicious behaviors,” he writes. “Employees at a Starbucks in Oakland, Calif., for example, posted the phone numbers of social workers and others who are trained to de-escalate conflicts. If we funded these resources to scale, we could make it less likely that an employee calls the police for a ‘quality of life’ complaint that turns out to be unwarranted.”

This is an interesting conversation to have and a lot to ask a corporation to do.

One of the things the Nelson film does particularly well is to show the deep exhaustion associated with being a suspect based on the color of your skin. “Am I going to take the burden of this interaction being comfortable?” says one man who talks about the reality of white discomfort. “Because what I really want is a sandwich. Do you know what I mean? I don’t want to fight. I’m hungry.”

The burden is real, whether it is shared or not.

In other news, Roseanne Barr got fired from her television show for a clearly racist tweet-storm. For fans who wonder if she was treated fairly, or if you’re looking for a teachable moment, maybe some background will help.

Here is a piece exploring the dangerous rise of racist dog whistles in modern media. More directly, here’s some analysis from Psychology Today that helps assess the damage that has been done by our long and ugly history of dehumanizing black people by comparing us to apes. Here’s just one component — research shows that the perception of black people as subhuman and ape-like directly informs the public’s view of whether police brutality against a black suspect is deserved.

And if you’re worried that television is missing the perspective of the working class or conservative family, Vox has provided a list of eleven other options for you to choose from.

Last but no means least, there’s a new report on the true death toll of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. According to this New England Journal of Medicine article, 4,645 people died because of the storm—more than the number of people who perished during the attacks of September 11, and more than seventy times the official death toll of 64.

My colleague Clifton Leaf explains the specific tragedy of this number in his must-read newsletter Brainstorm Health Daily: Many fatalities occurred long after the wind had passed; in fact, one-third of the deaths were attributable to “delayed or interrupted” health care.

“I bring this up not merely to talk about the ferocity of Mother Nature,” Leaf writes. “I bring this up to point out, once again, that delayed care, and the lack of accessibility to care, and the inability to afford care, leads to death. Plain and simple.”


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