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raceAhead: May 20, 2016

May 20, 2016, 2:01 PM UTC

This week, the National Urban League published its annual State of Black America report, Locked Out: Education, Jobs and Justice. There is much to parse for policy makers and citizens alike. But the truth is, not much has changed, which is a cause for concern.

The report uses a benchmark called the Equality Index, based on nationally collected data from federal agencies including the Centers for Disease Control, National Center for Education Statistics, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the Census Bureau. It attempts to measure full equality with white people in the areas of economics, health, education, social justice, and civic engagement. This year, the League said the equality index for black people stands at 72.2%, compared with last year’s 72%. For Hispanic people, it’s 77.8% compared to 2015’s 77.3%.

The report, which was first published in 1976, is now in its 40th year. In a video intro to the event that announced the report, Vernon Jordan recalled the early history of a report he helped to establish. It’s worth putting on your headphones and giving it a listen.

Jordan talks about his work in the Ford administration, and the deep disappointment he felt that the President never mentioned race in his first State of the Union. “The 1970s were a time about making real the rights of black people,” he said. It was also a time of political turmoil, recession, and the waning days of an expensive war. Sound familiar? The data that the League published were so grim that The New York Times published an editorial about it. “In all aspects of life that could be measured statistically, the gains that were made in the 1960s have been decimated.” In fact, the Times wrote, “the gears have been thrown into reverse.”

Things remain fraught today. With the poverty rate for black Americans stuck at around 27%, and a 33% high school graduation rate, this year’s report calls for a trillion-dollar “Main Street Marshall Plan.” Proposals include public investments in universal early childhood education, expanded summer youth employment programs, expanded homeownership strategies, urban infrastructure funding, and a $15 federal living wage indexed to inflation.

But corporate America is also where other solutions can scale, and investing in underserved communities can be part of that. One example: Starbucks is opening stores in neighborhoods like Ferguson, Mo. and Jamaica, N.Y., with significant investments in training and support. I’ll be reporting on those in future newsletters. Howard Schultz recently told me, “I’ve been thinking a lot about the millions of people being left behind in the United States through the ills of society, specifically racism in America. What is our responsibility to create an agenda to address that?”

On Point

What's in a name?
Twitter was abuzz yesterday after The Washington Post published a survey stating that 9 in 10 Native Americans were not offended by the Redskins name. But Professor Adrienne Keene at Brown University jumped in to the fray to debunk their methodology with her own findings. “Hey @washingtonpost, saw the survey. You found 373 Natives who don’t find ‘Redsk*ns offensive? Here’s 5859 who do.” Further, only 36% of those surveyed by the Washington Post had tribal affiliations, she said.
Native Appropriations

Puerto Rico in crisis, House panel delivers
In a show of bipartisan progress, a vote on the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA) bill is now expected to take place the first week of June in the U.S. House of Representatives. There’s not a lot of wiggle room: a $1.9 billion debt payment is due on July 1. Puerto Rico has been experiencing a deep decline in public services, threatening a humanitarian crisis.

Babies having babies.
A new analysis from the CDC show that births among Hispanic and black teens have dropped by almost half since 2006, mirroring a 40% national decline across the board for all teens. Still the news is mixed: Birth rates remain twice as high for Hispanic and black teens compared to whites. In some states, birth rates among Hispanic and black teens were more than three times as high as those of whites.

What does it mean?
Cultural appropriation, microaggression, safe spaces, trigger warnings: Tools of inclusion or politically correct oppression? These concepts are among the newest additions to a rapidly growing lexicon that people, particularly college students, are using to discuss some of the thornier aspects of living life in an increasingly diverse world. The Washington Post asked student activists to explain the terms in their own words.
Washington Post

No such thing as a free lunch
A new report from the Government Accountability Office, published on the anniversary of the landmark Brown v Board of Education decision, paints a dismal picture of an public school system increasingly divided by race and class: The number of black and Latino students enrolled in impoverished school districts increased 11% from 2001 to 2014. Schools in these neighborhoods were less likely to offer AP or STEM classes, and up to 100% of these students were eligible for a price-reduced lunch.
NBC News

Your network at work.
In a universally agreed upon #blackgirlmagic moment, 29 year old Elaine Welteroth has been tapped to run Teen Vogue, making her the youngest editor-in-chief in Conde Nast history. Her best fashion advice: Don’t be eye candy, be soul food. Not hip to fashion? Join her on Instagram and let the cool wash over you.

The Woke Leader

The book of Lemonade.
Jasmine Sanders does a beautiful job deconstructing Beyonce's  Lemonade and Chance the Rapper's Coloring Book in terms of their musical content, but also how the works read in the larger context of race, place, family, history, and spirit. One example: "Coloring Book is exultant, jubilant in the most South Side percolating, mild sauce-flavored, blackest of ways."

Because it's there.
In Mount Everest terms, Lhaka Sherpa is the most successful female climber of all time. She's climbed with the titans of the sport, and she’s currently attempting her seventh summit. Yet her life has been an odd mix of broken bones and broken dreams. And her day job? She's a housekeeper in Connecticut. Grayson Schaffer offers a surprising profile of a woman who should be a household name.

In his shoes.
Empathy can be a surprising journey. Charlotte Alter interviewed some two dozen trans men and activists—including people of color—about their lives and families. Men who were raised and socialized as female had extraordinary things to say about the fundamentally different way the world now treats them—and what it means for them at work, in their relationships, and as they walk down the street.

Radical Google
Yuri Kochiyama was a lifelong activist for civil rights for people of color and beyond, with a rich work history: Malcolm X literally died in her arms. But yesterday, when she was honored with a Google doodle, the conservative voices on the internet wailed in protest. Edmund Lee helps put the former WWII internment camp survivor into context. “Kochiyama was a voice for people who looked like me, which is still unusual, and that's what makes Google's choice notable, not that she was a radical, whatever that word means.”


Kanye's best prodigy/ He ain't signed me, but he still proud of me.
—Chance the Rapper