Skip to Content

raceAhead: The America Donald Trump Doesn’t See

Last night at the Republican National Convention, Donald Trump shared a dark, terrifying vision of an America in decline, with hordes of “illegal immigrants with criminal records” who were “tonight roaming free to threaten peaceful citizens.” This was a law and order manifesto short on specifics but long on declarative statements. “I have a message for all of you: The crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon, and I mean very soon, come to an end,” he said.

But also last night, a young voter heard a different sort of message: That he was smart, valuable, and most importantly, employable.

“I’m good with people, from all walks of life,” Chris Johnson, 18, told me. “I’m a really good communicator and I’m very ambitious.”

Johnson was one of hundreds of young men of color, ages 18-29 mostly, who had visited a unique job fair called the BMOC Summit, in Oakland, CA yesterday. It was the first in a series of similar events supported by the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance (MBKA), which is an independent, corporate sponsored, non-profit group that looks to find creative ways to remove barriers for African American and Hispanic boys and young men. (It’s independent from the federal initiative called My Brother’s Keeper that was launched by President Obama in 2014.)

Blair Taylor, former senior vice president and chief community officer at Starbucks, joined MBKA in April 2016 as its first CEO. He says that one of the most important things the organization can do is help recruiters and leaders understand the hidden strengths that are buried inside complicated lives.

“When you get these young men to tell you their story – ‘I watched my brother die in my arms, I take care of my younger sister, I work two jobs after school, my mother is in prison,’ whatever – you see what they’ve gone through to get to that point.” A typical recruiter sees these stories as a lack of success. Taylor says these are stories of ambition, achievement, and resilience. “We help recruiters, who don’t usually know people like this, to ‘shift their prisms’ from the deficit model,” seeing only what is missing from resumes, “to the asset model.”

Johnson has lived mostly in foster care and hasn’t finished high school. In fact, he hasn’t been enrolled in a while. “I move around a lot,” he says. “Foster care … it’s hard to keep up with your transcripts.” But at the Summit, he was coached in interview techniques, got a free tie (and tying lesson) at the tie bar, a quick style check, and opportunities to talk to mentors and recruiters. “They told me to smile more,” he says of the best advice he got.

I’ll be posting a longer story about the confluence of forces that made this event possible on Fortune – with photos of Johnson and his new, gray tie – later today.

But if you can’t stand the suspense, here’s the good news: He got two job offers, one from Macy’s and one from Starbucks and he’s thinking of taking them both. “I love fashion,” he says. “I love clothes and I love to draw.” Plus, he gets people. “I’m really excited.”

On Point

The shooting of a black, unarmed therapist was accidental, say policeThe story about a black, unarmed therapist who was shot by police while attempting to soothe his also unarmed adult autistic patient, just keeps getting worse. Now, the police say that the shooting was accidental, and they had actually intended to shoot the autistic man. If you haven’t seen the video, you should.

Native Americans arrested illegally to please tourists, a new lawsuit alleges
A  lawsuit charges that a raid against Assiniboine and Sioux tribe members living in a small Montana town was illegal and horrific. Mass arrests were conducted to clear the town of Wolf Point in advance of an annual tourist “rodeo” event, as part of a design to make the city appear whiter to appeal to the largely white tourists, says the suit. Some 50 people were held without charges in makeshift pens, with no bathroom facilities or air conditioning. It’s an annual thing, evidently, called “the wino round-up” by the locals.
The Daily Beast

A white sheriff and a black educator talk about race and policing
A conversation between Dave Favro, a sheriff from Clinton County, near Plattsburgh, N.Y., and Dr. J.W. Wiley, the chief diversity officer from SUNY Plattsburgh, became an object lesson in how hard it is to talk about race, community, and history. Strongly positioned on opposite sides of the race and policing debate, the two men dig deep. “If you are not struggling with it, that’s the concern,” Wiley said. “How can you really understand what Black Lives Matter is about if the only perspective you care to have is the one you’ve always had?”
North County Public Radio

Are federal pre-k programs really helping poor kids?
A researcher from Vanderbilt University says that pre-k education programs, paid for by federal dollars, aren’t reaching the kids who need them most. And the programs themselves are flawed, says researcher Dale Farren. In late 2014, the Department of Education announced 18 grants totaling $226 million to states, which have so far reached 33,000 children. The latest budget, not yet finalized, would add $250 million more.

Facebook encourages Chicago kids to code
It’s a long-term play, for sure. But Facebook, under fire to diversify its engineering talent, is stepping up efforts to help kids as young as eight get excited about a future in computers and coding. This summer, the company is holding events to promote their TechPrep site, which helps kids learn programming. Chicago’s big appeal: Their public school system has made learning to code a graduation requirement.
Chicago Tribune

The Woke Leader

Lee Atwater’s Southern Strategy predicted Donald Trump
Whether it’s a history lesson or a reminder, this recently recovered audio interview with Lee Atwater, the charismatic and divisive Republican campaign consultant who helped elect Reagan, is astonishing.  The Nation puts the interview into context and explains why the race-baiting dogwhistle – now used in images, speeches, and push polls – can reliably drive conservative voter behavior.
The Nation

The escalating clashes with police are deeply rooted in our history
Jelani Cobb movingly explores the escalating “call and response” of racial violence described by the recent shootings in Louisiana, Minnesota, and Texas. “Harm inflicted upon innocents as retribution for other harmed innocents is bad mathematics. The grief isn’t dimmed, it’s compounded like interest.” It feels insurmountably hard, at the moment, to address a criminal justice system with a long history of delivering pain instead of justice to black citizens, and fear instead of understanding to white ones.
The New Yorker

San Francisco’s black population is disappearing
Once a thriving center of black culture and life, San Francisco’s black population has dwindled precipitously. One of seven residents was black in 1970. Today, it is nearly one of 20, most living in public housing. Although there is much discussion, there is little agreement on what, if anything, to do.
New York Times


As you enter positions of trust, dream a little before you think.
—Toni Morrison