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raceAhead: June 22, 2016

June 22, 2016, 2:36 PM UTC

Netflix dropped the entire fourth season of its runaway hit, Orange Is the New Black, on June 17th. As soon as it was humanly possible to have binged all 13 episodes, a flood of think pieces, reactions and reviews appeared online along with an outpouring of emotion from fans on social feeds.

OITNB has been a fan favorite specifically because of the diverse cast of extraordinary actors who embody lives and realities that are typically never seen in mainstream programming.

So, you can imagine the reaction when the writers of the show tweeted a picture of themselves wearing orange, in support of gun rights legislation.

Turns out, they’re almost entirely white. Twitter collectively turned their heads and squinted, then snorted. “Inclusion starts on the page. With no Black ‪@OrangeWriters, one shouldn’t be surprised by what happened in Season 4, despite casting,” tweeted #OscarsSoWhite creator April Reign in response to the photo.

So far, the production has avoided a major hashtag meltdown, but the disappointing reveal has resurrected important questions about diversity in television writer’s rooms.

A recent report released by the Writers Guild of America West (WGAW), appropriately called “A Renaissance in Reverse,” reveals that things have stalled badly for underrepresented groups. They make up less than 13% of the writer’s rooms working today. (They get paid less, too.) And a new investigation from Variety found that the showrunners for the fall television line-up are 90% white and 80% male.

“We’ve been working at this problem for a while,” says Lisa Takeuchi Cullen, who knows how hard it can be. Cullen writes and pitches television pilots for a living, and in the last few years has successfully sold five dramas to major studios. Only one pilot was produced, and that’s as far as it got.

It’s now a $6 million treasure safely housed in the CBS vault, despite a diverse dream team cast: Audra McDonald, Jorge Garcia, Hope Davis and Charlie Cox. “It makes you wonder, are they just ticking boxes when they buy a pilot with a diverse character? From a diverse writer?” she says. “What’s it going to take to get these stories on the air?”

Cullen is a member of the diversity coalition of the WGA East, who have been working on a surprising and potentially effective solution: Legislation.

Click here to read more.

On Point

Native American tribe sues Anheuser-Busch
The Lumbee tribe of North Carolina has named Anheuser-Busch and a regional distributor in a lawsuit, claiming ads using the tribe’s logo and slogan were used without permission to advertiser Budweiser beer. It was particularly offensive “because alcohol abuse is often associated with Native American culture,” says the tribe.

Say goodbye to the annual raise
Turns out, meager annual increases do nothing for employee morale and retention, and neither do awkward annual reviews – specifically if an employee needs support or development.  Companies like Adobe and GE are searching for ways to replace the model, but reading between the lines, this development is an opportunity for leaders to design feedback and compensation systems that actually help diverse teams work better.

Motivational trainer doled out beatings at Chinese bank
 Hired by a bank to help rural employees in China achieve “performance breakthroughs,” a motivational trainer  either beat, shaved the heads, or cut the hair of several employees who completed his training with low scores.  When a video of the ordeal made it online, a public outcry ensued. No word on how the annual review of the bank official who arranged for the training went.

Black congresswoman introduces bill requiring drug tests for wealthy taxpayers
Rep. Gwen Moore, a Democrat from Wisconsin, says there is too much shaming of welfare recipients, and it's time to get real about who benefits from government programs. “Top 1% Accountability Act” would require anyone claiming itemized tax deductions of over $150,000 in a given year – like home mortgage deduction and health care costs- to pass a drug test. The former welfare recipient notes,“This bill will level the playing field for drug testing people who are the recipients of social programs.” 
Think Progress

White congressman takes aim at Harriet Tubman
Iowa Congressman Steve King has offered an amendment to a spending bill that would block the U.S. Treasury from redesigning any currency, in effect nullifying a plan to replacing Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill with abolitionist Harriet Tubman. King says the change is racist and sexist. "This is liberal activism on the part of the president that's trying to identify people by categories," said King. "He's divided us on the lines of groups."

White anchor fired for racial comments files discrimination suit
Wendy Bell, a local Pittsburgh newscaster, who was fired after posting on her Facebook page racially “insensitive” comments about the shooting of five black people in a poor neighborhood, has filed a federal lawsuit claiming race discrimination.  "Had Ms. Bell written the same comments about white criminal suspects or had her race not have been white, Defendant would not have fired her, much less disciplined her,” says the suit.
NBC News


The Woke Leader

What black people hear when white people critique Beyonce
Lawrence Ware tackles a much-discussed subject both online and in real life: When do white people need to mind their own business? (See above.) But Ware takes it beyond unwelcome Beyonce-shaming or sports fan trash talk. Instead, he weaves in white supremacy theory from bell hooks with the threatening rise of Trump-style nativism. He sees change happening. Now, instead of being silent in the face of white commentary, “Black folks are beginning to no longer center whiteness in their dress, speech and lifestyle choices,” he writes. “We are not biting our tongues when we disagree with our white cohorts.”
The Root

First Nations humor hits home 
In a funny-until-it-makes-you-cringe video, Wab Kinew, an Anishinaabe author from Ontario walks through five stereotypes that he insists his fellow Canadians must give up if they are ever going to get along. The brief riff manages to highlight both personal and political realities that the indigenous First Nations people experience.

Taking Black Twitter on a date
Black Twitter is known for its collective commentary on current events and its creative use of meme-speak. All of this plays out beautifully in this short video helmed by director Xavier Burgin. Then follow #blacktwitterdate for commentary on the commentary.


If I could have convinced more slaves that they were slaves, I could have freed thousands more.
—Harriet Tubman