What the Tech Summit Needs to Accomplish

A bevy of technology executives are meeting with President-elect Trump today, the first in what’s likely to be a long and awkward relationship with the man who both uses their platforms and derides them at every turn. Alphabet CEO Larry Page, Apple CEO Tim Cook, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, and SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk, are all slated to attend. IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, also in attendance, plans to discuss her pledge to hire 25,000 “new collar” jobs in the years ahead.

Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Trump’s platform of choice, was not invited.

Tech writer and entrepreneur Anil Dash has written a strongly worded memo to the company chiefs that’s worth a read. He digs into the role technology needs to play in the lives of citizens in the Trump era—refusing to assist in the creation of a Muslim registry is a great start, he says. But two points jumped out at me as he reminded leaders that their diverse customers and (hopefully diversifying) employees are watching what these CEOs say and do:

“State your explicit and specific rejection of Trump’s rhetoric. If your company talks about working with the Trump administration, it’s imperative that you first state that Trump has made racist, sexist, Islamophobic and divisive remarks, and the work being done does not excuse or accept these ideas. (Yes, you have to put this in the press release. Get used to it.)”

“Restate the boundaries of acceptable behavior within your own organization. When announcing cooperation with government agencies, reiterate to your employees that behaviors like committing (and joking about) sexual assault at the workplace, promoting religious discrimination, demonizing communities on the basis of race or ethnicity and advocating political violence against political leaders are firing offenses—even in an era when we have a president who has done all of these things.”

While this is a great rallying cry for inclusive leadership, it’s an even greater one for authentic transparency. Now, more than ever, leaders need to be more vocal about what they believe, what their company stands for, and how those beliefs are expressed in the way they choose to do business. Leaving things up to misinterpretation, as Rometty herself recently discovered, is not an option.



A short note on Aleppo, Syria:

The horrors of the final siege in Aleppo unfolded online and in real-time yesterday, as residents of the besieged city took to their social feeds to update the world, and in some cases, to say goodbye to their loved ones. People on the ground are reporting mass executions, and some 20 women have committed suicide rather than be raped.

In addition to your regular news sources, consider adding these to your reading list. Some are from long-time analysts, and I found them helpful.

On Point

The problem with Ta-Nehisi CoatesThe first serious critique to emerge from Coates’s lengthy analysis of the Obama legacy began, as things do nowadays, as a series of tweets. But Tressie McMillan Cottom is no random tweeter; she’s a writer, author and assistant professor of sociology, and I link to her work often. She flips Coates’s thesis on its head, and nails it: Obama was possible not because he was raised by white people and came to believe that their “better angels” would prevail with regard to race, but because white people forgot, at least for a while, that he was black. “White voters allowed Barack Obama because they allowed him to exist as a projection of themselves,” she writes.The Atlantic

The women who transformed the Disney princess
Revolutions don’t begin in a day, and cartoon princesses don’t morph from wasp-waisted wraiths in need of rescue into action heroes by themselves. It took a village of iron-willed women (and some men) to make sure Moana had muscles and Mulan got the armor she needed to fight. And did you know that the original Disney animators, hired in the 1920s and ‘30s, were collectively known as The Nine Old Men? By the 1980s, new visions for female characters slowly began to emerge, and the seeds of a more modern view of female power were planted.

Grit is no solution for systemic disadvantage
When we ask a young student to sit still, focus up, dig deep and show some gumption, we are ignoring the difficult journey many of them take to get to the classroom. For kids who are exposed to any sort of trauma—including racism and poverty—grit, as it is currently defined, is simply not an option. Stop teaching it in the classroom, say some experts. “We are asking students to change a belief system without changing the situation around them,” says one researcher. The problem is amplified when young kids begin to assess their classmates as grit-deficient. A must read.
The Atlantic

New research: Your response to racism will vary based on where you live
An eight-year study of five different minority groups around the world shows that people’s responses to overt situations of racism will vary by their sense of “group strength”—a measure of their collective identity—as well as their perceived need to assimilate. When people stand up to discrimination, “They know the quest for recognition of their value and their dignity is a legitimate claim,” says one researcher. Cultures that acknowledge diversity, even when that concept is under siege—as in the U.S.—produce people who are prepared to confront injustice. “They put their racial identity above their national identity, which is not the case in Brazil.”

The Woke Leader

Casual racism, an upscale private school, and realizing that you’re that “black friend”
As one of the few black students in a prestigious private high school in St. Louis, writer Leah Thomas chose to embrace the other benefits the school provided beside college preparation. “I learned from an early age how to assimilate and code-switch in unfamiliar environments,” she says. But when a current student received an apology from the headmaster after complaining publicly that the school had been unwelcoming to Trump supporters, she revisited some of the slights she suffered that went unaddressed. Other alums were unimpressed. “I realized my entire experience was defined by some of my classmates seeing black people as less than human.”

Hey, will Trump cancel your edgy podcast about race?
Podcasts are seeing a real growth in number and influence, and podcasts about specific subjects, like race, are finding audiences who relish the opportunity to listen into candid conversations between people like them. So, when Julio Ricardo Varela and Maria Hinojosa, co-hosts of In The Thick invited fellow podcaster and comedian Hari Kondabolu on to their show to talk about race and the road ahead, things were both funny and real. “Podcasting and radio are these incredible places for resistance. … It’s an incredible place where you can actually say what you want to say,” says Kondabolu. And yeah, he thinks Trump will pull the plug.
In The Thick

A film about depression, isolation and love
“I’m not sure how it all started,” says Tyler Simmonds, a filmmaker and entrepreneur. “But I can tell you what it felt like.” So begins his moving short film that does more to portray the emotional state of a person living with –and nearly dying from - depression than any explainer I’ve ever encountered. Simmonds, who experienced an often deep depression for nearly ten years, shows us the loneliness of being disconnected from the loved ones who are all around you. “Together we can improve mindfulness and help end the stigma around mental health,” he says.


You were born where you were born and faced the future that you faced because you were black and for no other reason. The limits to your ambition were thus expected to be settled. You were born into a society which spelled out with brutal clarity and in as many ways as possible that you were a worthless human being. You were not expected to aspire to excellence. You were expected to make peace with mediocrity. 
—James Baldwin

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