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How To Have a Tough Conversation About Race

“If you had told me on July 1 that I’d be spending most of my time talking about race and thinking about how to solve these big problems, I wouldn’t have believed you.”

So begins the tale of Tim Ryan, once a newly minted U.S. chairman at accounting titan PwC, with a 100-day plan to set big goals and bond with his new leadership team. Then, on July 5th, Alton Sterling was shot by police in Baton Rouge, LA. The next day came the shooting of Philando Castile, whose death was live-streamed by his girlfriend. The next night, the world watched in horror as a disturbed veteran killed five police officers during a protest in Dallas. My second feature in Fortune’s new February issue focuses on what Ryan and his team decided to do next.

With those searing events, Tim Ryan’s 100-day plan went into the dustbin. “I got the team together and asked what they thought we should say or do about what was happening,” he says. “I knew it had to be something.”

That “something” started as a series of emotional, company-wide conversations about race that continue to this day and have transformed PwC leadership and emboldened employees. It has also changed the way the firm thinks about leadership development for PwC and the world. PwC plans to make its anti-bias training, already mandatory for new employees and those who are being promoted, available to the public for free.

Since July, Ryan, 51, has been thinking about other ways to share what the company has learned, including with clients and competitors. At first blush, his pitch sounds ridiculously naive: “Wouldn’t it be great if all the CEOs of the Fortune 500, who employ millions of people in the United States, came together and acknowledged that, notwithstanding everything we’ve tried, we can do even more about race?”

Wouldn’t it be great? Please click through, then forward this story to every Fortune 500 CEO you know. Maybe even some you don’t.


(Note: PwC sponsors Fortune’s RaceAhead newsletter.)

On Point

The Secret Service settles a long-standing racial discrimination suitThe class action lawsuit, which dates from 2000, was brought by 100 black Secret Service agents who alleged that the agency had “fostered a racist culture,” while routinely promoting white agents over more qualified African American candidates. While the agency admits no wrongdoing, lump-sum payments to some of the plaintiffs are as high as $300,000. The details of the suit paint a picture of entrenched, if casual, racism; white agents made racist jokes, even using slurs to refer to black foreign dignitaries.Washington Post

SCOTUS to Texas on voting rights: The decision still stands
The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal by Texas that would revive a strict, voter-identification requirement that a lower court determined had a discriminatory effect on black and Hispanic voters. The 2011 decision further directed the state’s lower court to find a way to remedy the statute’s discriminatory elements. The law, passed by a Republican-led legislature and signed by a Republican governor, was challenged by the Obama Justice Department and numerous civil rights groups.

Worried students reunite with family in Mexico, preparing for possible deportation
ABC News and the Associated Press profiles a handful of the hundreds of thousands of young people who were protected from deportation by the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA program, which gave work and student permits to immigrants who came to the U.S. as kids and who were living in the country illegally. Recently, some DACA recipients, many of them college students, traveled legally back to Mexico for the first time for emotional reunions with family, and to prepare themselves for an uncertain future.
ABC News

President Trump moves forward on the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines
Trump signed executive orders to expedite approval of the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Keystone Pipeline, the full texts of which have not yet been made public. Trump also signed a notice saying that all the materials used in the construction of the pipelines were to be fabricated in the U.S., though it is currently unclear how that particular provision would work. Former President Barack Obama had stopped work on both projects in part because of environmental concerns.

Republicans seek to criminalize peaceful protests in eight states
Lawmakers in eight states are seeking new legislation that will make it illegal for protestors to peacefully gather; North Dakota has added a provision that would allow a motorist to run over a protestor who is blocking a road, street or highway—as long as it is done “unintentionally.” It’s hard to determine how all of this will square with the First Amendment, but Diversity Inc. has a detailed look at the eight proposals. The other states are Iowa, Michigan, Washington, Minnesota, Colorado, Virginia and Indiana.
Diversity Inc

The Woke Leader

When nobody gets arrested at a protest
While millions of women marched around the globe on Saturday, nobody seems to have been arrested. “It was a triumph they attributed to civility, to good behavior, even to the superiority of their gender,” says writer Jess Zimmerman. Not so fast, she says. She takes us back as far as the march of the “bonnet-wearers” during the French Revolution to examine an extraordinary phenomenon: When white women march, the police typically protect them. “Yes, the marchers on Saturday were well-behaved. But when has that ever mattered?”
New Republic

An interview with the woman in one of the most shared photos from the Women’s March
Angela Peoples is the 30-year-old co-director of an LGBTQ equality organization called Get Equal. The photo in question shows her in front of the capitol holding a sign saying, “Don’t forget: white women voted for Trump.” Behind her, women in pink hats take selfies. The photo has become emblematic of the racial tension that exists in the feminist movement and points to the work that still needs to be done. In this candid interview, Peoples explains why she went to an event she had reservations about, and what she thinks needs to happen now. “Without an effort by white women especially to make sure those spaces are reflecting the diversity of women and femme people, we’re not going to make the progress we need to.”
The Root

The global diversity in the way humans think
Much of the research on the way humans think has been based on the study of psychological subjects who were WEIRD, a handy acronym for western, educated, industrialized, rich and democratic. Turns out, making the way WEIRDs think a universal standard is a real problem. If you reach out to other parts of the world or even other parts of a country (rural versus urban, for example) you’ll encounter people who think very differently. Some of the most notable differences involve individualism vs. collectivism—or whether you consider yourself independent from, or intertwined with others. A strong need for individual success brings with it consumerism and overconfidence, for example. A fascinating must-read.


At least I had frost on my nose, boots on my feet, and protest in my mouth
—Jack Kerouac