raceAhead: A Muslim Soldier, Matt Damon and Brexit Ugliness


No matter how you feel about Hillary Clinton, having a woman accept, for the first time, a major U.S. party’s nomination for the presidency was an extraordinary thing.

She delivered her acceptance speech after a roster of music, emotional endorsements and tributes, including a touching introduction by her daughter, Chelsea Clinton.

But in the march to the main event, one short set of remarks stood out. They were delivered by grieving father Khizar Khan, who stood with his wife Ghazala, and made sure Donald Trump understood the true case for diversity.

“Tonight, we are honored to stand here as the parents of Captain Humayun Khan, and as patriotic American Muslims with undivided loyalty to our country.

Like many immigrants, we came to this country empty-handed. We believed in American democracy – that with hard work and the goodness of this country, we could share in and contribute to its blessings.”

Their son, Army Captain Humayun S. M. Khan, was killed June 8, 2004, by a suicide bomber while fighting in Iraq. Captain Khan is buried in Arlington National Cemetery, and was posthumously awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. He was an ordnance officer, and so much more.

I took a moment to read the official record of his death, service and interment at Arlington Cemetery. I’m glad I did. It offered a moving tribute from a grateful nation, but also clues to the spirit of inclusion that Captain Khan was able to cultivate within his command.

“The Muslim chaplain who led the Nimaz-e-Janaza after the military honors, specifically highlighted the ethnically-diverse group that had come to pay its respects to Captain Khan. He was one amongst the growing number of Pakistani Americans in the U.S. Army.”

The official record also includes a republished story from The Washington Post, A Peacemaker is Laid to Rest.There were more details of his service, including his work training Iraqis for security jobs, and specifically, the care he took of his charges in his final moments.

“When an orange-colored taxi drove toward them, Khan ordered his soldier to “hit the dirt,” said his father, who received details of his son’s death from his commanding officer.

“‘Where did his strength come from to face such a danger instead of hiding behind a pole or booth or something?'” his father said.”

I’d like to believe it was a similar strength that propelled Mr. Khan to stand at a podium on national television, pull a copy of the Constitution out of his pocket and tell a candidate who purports to believe the worst of his Muslim family, that he wasn’t afraid either.

Said Mr. Khan:

“Donald Trump, you are asking Americans to trust you with our future. Let me ask you: Have you even read the US constitution? I will gladly lend you my copy. In this document, look for the words liberty and equal protection of law.

Have you ever been to Arlington Cemetery? Go look at the graves of the brave patriots who died defending America – you will see all faiths, genders, and ethnicities.

You have sacrificed nothing and no one.”

Sometimes inclusion needs a strong defense.


Programming note: I’ll be on vacation next week, and my wonderful colleague Jeremy Quittner will be filling in. He’s got great things planned. Please keep those tips and suggestions coming in to raceAhead@newsletters.fortune.com

On Point

People still unclear about the slavery thingDays after Michelle Obama said in her DNC speech that the White House had been built by slaves, the debate rages on. Politifact, the Pulitzer Prize-winning fact-checking media organization, rated her claim as true. “Shortly after we published our fact-check, we began receiving complaints from readers,” researcher Louis Jacobson said. Rather than simply defend the fact-check, they posted reader counter-arguments as well. Read it and weep.Politifact

College-educated black Americans more likely to face discrimination
Although the reasons are still being debated, about 81% of black people with at least some college experience say they’ve faced discrimination or been treated unfairly because of their race, compared with 59% who have never attended college, says a new Pew Research Center report. Nearly 50% of black Americans say their college experience has made it harder for them to be successful.
Pew Research Center

Matt Damon gets serious about diversity
Actor Matt Damon took a direct hit to his good-guy reputation for some racially insensitive remarks he made during the most recent filming of his HBO series, Project Greenlight, which recruits talented unknowns via a contest to get a film deal. His production company, co-founded by actor Ben Affleck, has now partnered with the Media, Diversity and Social Change Initiative at USC’s Annenberg School to cast a wider net for submissions. Only 2% of entries came from people of color and 8% from women, which surprised him, he said.
Seattle Times

When black and brown isn't beautiful on social media
Some 38% of Hispanic people online use Instagram, and the number is nearly 47% for African Americans. Yet the filters that the platform offers often makes brown and black skin look awful in images– too dark, too light, or just plain anemic. A new set of photo filters called Tonr, created by engineers of color at the recent Vox Media Hackathon, aims to change that. Side note: The history behind photo filters, created when white images were the default, is fascinating.
Nieman Lab

The ugly cost of Brexit is racism unleashed
The incidents are awful and increasing: London diners refusing to be served by foreign waiters, dog excrement shoved into mailboxes, children hurling epithets at each other, people stopped on the street and harassed if they don’t speak English. Editors from The Independent reviewed a database of racist incidents compiled by a group of watchdog organizations, and the picture of hate they paint is grim.
The Independent


The Woke Leader

A native daughter says Chicago can’t be great until the needs of the poor are addressed
Award-winning novelist Sandra Cisneros says she will never move back to her home city, citing poverty, violence and a lack of resources. “I’ve been watching Chicago change for years,” says the 61-year-old. “But Chicago’s changes do not mean better for people like my family.” She published a prose poem in Chicago Magazine as an open letter to the mayor and a warning to all who love their city: That until you care for the poor, you will continue to lose your best talent.

Transparency can backfire
In a business world that is constantly calling for more transparency in data and processes, it’s wise to consider the downsides carefully, argues David DeCremer, a professor of management studies at the University of Cambridge.  You need clear rules about what and how data will be collected, he says, and to explain why the information the data may yield will be necessary.
Harvard Business Review

A moving obituary for Chief David William Beautiful Bald Eagle, actor and activist
His life reflected the complexity of the Native American experience. A musician, ballroom dancer, and prominent Hollywood actor - Dances With Wolves, among others – Bald Eagle had also been a paratrooper in Normandy on D-Day and won a Silver Star in World War II. He grew up to be the first chief of the United Native Nations, and his grandfather, Chief White Bull, led a charge against General Custer at The Battle of Little Big Horn. He died at home on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation in South Dakota at age 97.



I often found myself regretting my own existence, and wishing myself dead; and but for the hope of being free, I have no doubt but that I should have killed myself, or done something for which I should have been killed. While in this state of mind, I was eager to hear any one speak of slavery.
—Frederick Douglass

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