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raceAhead: July 1, 2016

This is a light and breezy dispatch, because I’m on my way to New Orleans for the Essence Festival. It’s my first time attending this annual phenomenon of music, culture, and real talk. For the thousands of mostly black women attendees, it has been a “don’t-miss” event for years.

I’ve been a by-stander to the extraordinary work the Essence team has done behind the scenes, and this Festival promises to outshine all previous years. Given where we are in the political and news cycles, I expect the conversations to be particularly rich.

Check out the speakers line up here. I’ll be doing my best to gather as much wisdom and intel for future dispatches. (Common, Ava DuVernay, Kendrick Lamar, Melissa Harris Perry – the whole world is coming to this thing.)

I’ll also be moderating a power panel on Saturday afternoon called, “Leading With Purpose,” a theme which has been shaping business conversations in 2016 like no other time in my career as a business journalist.

I’ll be speaking one-on-one with Bernard Tyson, Chairman and CEO of Kaiser Permanente. We’ll then be joined by three extraordinary women: Kimberly Blackwell, the Chief Executive Officer of the PMM Agency; Pamela Carlton, the President, Springboard, and Deborah Elam, President, GE Foundation & Chief Diversity Officer GE.

Anything you’d like me to ask the panel, or any bold faced name you’d like me to try to track down for you? Drop me a note at:

Follow the good stuff on Twitter at #essencefest, or check out my own feed @ellmcgirt.

Good holiday weekend to the Americans out there! RaceAhead returns on July 6.

On Point

Google releases new diversity report

Alphabet’s Google released its workforce diversity report yesterday. The percentages of non-white, non-Asian employees remained unchanged in 2015 from the year prior, the first time the company first revealed its diversity figures: 2% for African Americans, 3% for Hispanics, 3% for multiracial individuals and less than 1% for Native American and Pacific Islanders. Citing a wide variety of initiatives designed to improve those numbers, the company cautions: give it time.

Trump supporter doubles down on Native American stereotypes
Howie Carr, a surrogate for Donald Trump on the campaign trail, mocked Elizabeth Warren with a stereotypical “Indian war cry.”  The video is cringe-inducing for everyone except the people in the crowd, evidently.
ABC News

Stanford trial judge under fire for racial bias in sentencing
Judge Aaron Persky is now the subject of intense criticism after revelations that he recommended a three year sentence for a Latino man who pleaded guilty to a similar assault as the one committed by the former Stanford athlete, Brock Turner. Turner, who is white, received a six month sentence. The Guardian has been on the case since day one.
The Guardian

Asian Americans struggle with affirmative action
Whether or not affirmative action policies help or hurt prospective Asian college students has deeply divided the Asian American community of late. Some believe that race-conscious admissions are still essential; others feel they’re being targeted for exclusion. Alia Wong explains why things are so fraught and what options are on the table.
The Atlantic

Canadians “adopt” Syrian refugee families
Call it a loophole of love: In Canada, private citizens can band together in small groups and arrange to resettle –adopt, really – refugee families.  And they have done so, in droves. Jodi Cantor, Catrin Einhorn and photographer Damon Winter have put together an extraordinary report on how ordinary people working together can address one of the most pressing crises of our time.  And yes, bring tissues.
New York Times

Transforming HR departments
Tech writer Kavi Gupta makes the case that five roles will transform human resources departments and help ensure the success of modern, global companies. Three of them — the “diversity officer,” the “director of learning,” and the “manager of employee engagement” — must work together synergistically to design inclusion programs that foster understanding between different groups of people.


The Woke Leader

A novelist attempts campaign coverage
With a gorgeous nod to Mrs. Dalloway upfront, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the Nigerian novelist, has turned an unusual assignment – write a short story about the U.S. election – into a delicious peek into the inner workings of the Trump family.  It is both searingly funny and oddly touching. You’re going to want to pour a cup of tea for this one.
New York Times

An artist traces African roots in Cuba
The Italian artist Nicola Lo Calzo has developed a deep knowledge of the African diaspora, traveling around the world documenting the experience of cultures, like Haiti, who live with hidden legacies from a motherland they never knew. “Subjugation, slavery, survival . . . All those disappeared bodies brought back to life by their living and breathing descendants.” His latest work is “Regla,” is an exploration of African-themed expressions in modern Cuba.
The New Yorker

Confessions of a college essay writer
This one’s going to hit a bunch of nerves. Writer Jia Tolentino talks about the only “menial” job she’s ever been ashamed of: Writing college admissions essays for white, privileged and entirely un-challenged high school students in Houston, TX. She offers the other side of the affirmative action story, the one in which money and access helps rich kids delegate their success to others. She also explains, in detail, the admission process that ensnared Abigail Fisher at the University of Texas and set her on a path to the Supreme Court.


The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.
—Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie