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Boss: We Need To Talk

Lewis Wallace, an openly transgender man working in public media, says he was fired from his radio job at Marketplace after he re-posted an essay on his personal Medium account that his boss had initially directed him to take down. The title of the essay: “Objectivity is dead and I’m ok with it.”

It was an attempt to reconcile what Wallace understands to be the fundamental duty of journalism, while trying to, in his view, “adapt to a government that believes in ‘alternative facts’ and thrives on lies, including the lie of white racial superiority.”

Wallace claims he was told that the post violated his employer’s ethics code. Marketplace issued a statement to Harvard’s NiemanLab saying that it would not discuss personnel-related matters, but that “our journalists’ mission is to be honest, impartial, nonpartisan and independent in their work. Our team is a diverse group of professionals who have committed to that code of ethics.”

Wallace’s post is worth a read, and not just because it allegedly cost him his job. An excerpt:

Neutrality isn’t real: Neutrality is impossible for me, and you should admit that it is for you, too. As a member of a marginalized community (I am transgender), I’ve never had the opportunity to pretend I can be “neutral.” After years of silence/denial about our existence, the media has finally picked up trans stories, but the nature of the debate is over whether or not we should be allowed to live and participate in society, use public facilities and expect not to be harassed, fired or even killed.

Obviously, I can’t be neutral or centrist in a debate over my own humanity. The idea that I don’t have a right to exist is not an opinion, it is a falsehood.

On that note, can people of color be expected to give credence to “both sides” of a dispute with a white supremacist, a person who holds unscientific and morally reprehensible views on the very nature of being human? Should any of us do that? Final note here, the “center” that is viewed as neutral can and does shift; studying the history of journalism is a great help in understanding how centrism is more a marketing tactic to reach broad audiences than actual neutrality.

There’s a lot to unpack in his essay, but at the heart of his argument is an important distinction between accusing someone of believing the lie of white supremacy, and of enabling the lie in order to benefit from it. This is the core mistake that people continue to make he says, part of the reason why he was so wanted have the conversation publicly.

“Do I want to weigh in on whether or Donald Trump personally feels racism or white supremacy in his heart? No,” said Wallace, in a lengthy interview with Current, a news outlet that covers public media. “Do I consider white supremacy to be a false framework that we should reject as scientifically false and dangerous to all of us? Yes.”

He also observes that he’s now contributing to the epidemic of unemployment among trans people, who are unemployed at twice the rate of the population as a whole. Some 44% of working trans people are dangerously underemployed and living at or near poverty.

Regardless of your opinion on media objectivity or Wallace’s actions, we all have a stake in how journalism evolves. But this is really a story about inclusion. “I also believe that media needs to change to make space for the diverse voices it purports to desire within its ranks,” he said in a follow-up post on Medium.

Making space means finding ways to have the difficult conversations about how work actually gets done. And this is exactly what makes this story important fodder for leaders from every industry.

If you’re asking your employees or colleagues to operate within a system that makes them feel that they’re being asked to check their humanity at the door or renders them invisible, they may find a way, perhaps a public one, to bring that to your attention. If that feels like a threat, it’s going to be a bumpy ride for everyone. But if that feels like an opportunity, then not only might people thrive at work, but your market share might too.

On Point

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USA Today

An amazing new project highlights the work of black designers
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The Woke Leader

Poet Clint Smith has some thoughts about our “complicated history”
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Lyndon Johnson was both a civil rights hero and a racist
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MSNBC

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Amazon

Quote

[S]ociety has no business to permit degenerates to reproduce their kind…Any group of farmers who permitted their best stock not to breed, and let all the increase come from the worst stock would treated as fit inmates for an asylum…Some day, we will realize that the prime duty, the inescapable duty, of the good citizen of the right type, is to leave his or her blood behind him in the world; and that we have no business to permit the perpetuation of citizens of the wrong type.
—Theodore Roosevelt