raceAhead: June 7, 2016


Summer time is no picnic for low income kids of color in the U.S.

There are 50 million public school students in America and, on average, they lose between one and three months of learning every summer. Educators and social scientists call it the “the summer slide.” The inefficiencies are startling. “We invest $10-12,000 per child during the school year, then walk away for two to three months,” says Matthew Boulay author and founder of the National Summer Learning Association. The loss to taxpayers is upwards of $60 billion. “We let 20% of their academic growth be lost over the summer. And we do that summer after summer.”

But the price is particularly steep for kids in poorer neighborhoods, whose parents and caretakers often work long hours and can’t afford a summer program. This leaves these children permanently behind. “When you start with an expectation that a child is not going to be able to perform, you respond to the child with disproportionate punishment,” says Jim Shelton, the former Deputy Secretary of Education who now leads the education efforts for Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan’s philanthropy and investments. Once they fall behind, they tend to get shunted into remedial classes or drift away. Unsupervised time in the summer leads to a host of obvious problems, but one is particularly tragic: Kids are going hungry. Some one in six kids typically qualify for free or reduced lunch programs, says Boulay. They often can’t find or don’t have access to a similar program in the summer.

What’s really troubling, says Richard Berlin, is that no public policy has emerged to deal with this problem. Berlin runs a successful summer and year-round program called Harlem RBI that serves 1,700 kids a year. “The private sector has really led here, both private foundations and corporate America,” he says, investing in and influencing smart, local programs and encouraging employees to volunteer their time. Summer programs tend to be less structured, less formal, more fun, and ripe for innovation. “They’re more experiential,” he says, with an emphasis on soft skills and exposure to the larger world. And older kids can come back and work as counselors, all the way through college. “Youth unemployment is also an issue in this community.” After all, it was a beautiful summer day in Ferguson when an underemployed Michael Brown was shot, just days away from attending community college. But putting the moral issues aside, Berlin says, “If you want to create the next generation workforce, you can’t leave 15% to 20% of their year uncovered.”

It’s a problem that’s ripe for smart corporate thinking. Umpqua Bank, the largest community bank on the West Coast, has made stopping the summer slide the centerpiece of its employee voluntarism efforts, allowing employees to direct grants to innovative programs and giving up to 40 hours off to spend time with kids doing cool stuff. “Similar programs nationally [have] average participation of approximately 30%,” Umpqua’s Eve Callahan told me by email. “At Umpqua, our average associate participation each year is 70%.”

On Point

Sewing Bey.
Beyonce was the surprise honoree at the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s annual awards event last night, and she did not disappoint. Looking very much a fashion icon, she firmly took the fashion industry to task, while effortlessly weaving a tale of how poverty and discrimination would have derailed her family if it wasn’t for the art of sewing. Her grandmother, a seamstress, traded her craft for school fees, and passed down the skill to Bey’s mother, who would go on to make the costumes for her budding superstar. “Starting out in Destiny’s Child, high-end labels didn’t really want to dress four black country curvy girls, and we couldn’t afford designer dresses and couture,” she said. “My mother was rejected from every showroom in New York.”
The Fader

@Jack stays woke.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey took a break from the recent Code conference in Rancho Palos Verdes to talk to CNBC’s Jon Fortt about stuff unrelated to share prices—namely sports, his favorite Disney movie, and how to keep Twitter safe and open. Since women and people of color are most likely to experience abuse on the social network, it’s a particularly relevant question. Conspicuously wearing a #StayWoke t-shirt, Dorsey said about community safety: “I think we're getting better and better, and we're applying a lot more engineering to the problem as well, so that we can build a very simple mechanism for people to block, to report, to mute not just accounts but potentially even hashtags or keywords, so that they continue to feel free to express themselves.”  Framing abuse as an issue of suppression of free speech he said, “People should feel free to express themselves. And we will defend that right, and make sure that we're amplifying those voices.”

The color of search.
When Google released its diversity numbers in 2014, and again in 2015, it sparked a serious conversation about diversity in Silicon Valley. Google's Director of Diversity and Inclusion, Yolanda Mangolini, spoke candidly with veteran journalist Lynn Johnson about how the search giant plans to improve. Spoiler alert: it’s not just about eliminating bias in hiring, it’s about making sure that the people of color who do make it in the door get to feel that they embody "Googley-ness", too.

This is the greatest definition of shade, ever.
Gregory Cheadle, a Republican candidate who is running for California's 1st Congressional district, might have preferred fame to come another way. Instead, he is now known around the country as Donald Trump’s only black friend. When Donald Trump pointed to him at a rally in Redding, Calif. last week and said, “Look at my African American over here!” Cheadle says that “it was a jovial thing,” and that he wasn’t offended by the remarks. "Had he said, 'Here's my African-American' and then after that said, 'What's up, dawg,' or 'boy' or even the N-word as they use it today, I really would have been offended." Cheadle does cop to holding up a Make America Great  sign, but insists he was merely using it as a shield from the hot sun. He is not planning on voting for Trump but says he went to the rally because he has an open mind. "I am a free man. I am not chained to any particular party, and I refuse to be chained to any particular party."

No vote.
The voting wars are heating up in Virginia. State Republicans are aggressively working to overturn an executive order signed in April by Governor Terry McAuliffe that re-enfranchised 206,000 Virginian felons who have completed sentences, parole, or probation. Though the implications are clear for presidential politics and will inform similar initiatives across the country,  the long history of racially charged voter suppression tactics in Virginia is re-opening old wounds. Last week, the Supreme Court announced a special session to hear arguments related to the case in July.
New York Times

The Woke Leader

We are people with caribou.
Environmental journalist Ben Goldfarb has a thoughtfully reported piece that explores the traditional disregard that wildlife scientists and researchers have not only for the wellbeing of indigenous people living in areas they were studying, but also for the deep knowledge these communities have of their own environments.  “Although biologists and indigenous people have worked together for centuries, the relationship has tended toward friction,” he writes. “Scientists often looked askance at traditional knowledge, sometimes with harmful consequences for both science and indigenous livelihoods.” He cites a number of instances where new partnerships and collaboration have yielded good results in research and wildlife management. With so much at stake in a changing climate, this is good news.

Chewbacca on fleek.
You may have heard of Candace Payne, the 37-year-old Texas mom who delighted the world with her popular Facebook live video of her unboxing a Chewbacca mask. She has become an unlikely example of the ways internet windfalls are bestowed in exchange for accidental influence—everyone from Kohl’s, to Hasbro, to J.J. Abrams has showered her with attention and gifts. But when Payne, her husband, and two kids were given free tuition to attend Southeastern University in Lakeland, Fla., many, including columnist Gillian Branstetter, called foul. "It’s true, free tuition is an oversized prize for such easily begotten fame," she writes. "It’s also true that the real rewards typically reaped for online success tend to heavily favor insta-celebrities who are white." Have you heard of Kayla Newman?
Daily Dot

I'm authentic, you're a problem.
Although researcher Adam Grant may be operating with a slightly different definition of "authenticity" than most of us use, his exploration of the personality trait called “self-monitoring” is a useful way to think about how emotionally intelligent people scan their environments for social cues. Or don't. Of note to the raceAhead crowd is how high or low self-monitoring affects the office reputations of already marginalized people, like women and minorities, who enter the workplace with cultural baggage already assigned from birth. What remains unanswered, for managers in particular, is how our collective understanding of personality, when filtered through race, change the way people lead.
New York Times

—raceAhead is edited by Scott Olster


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