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Blocking Out Words and Phrases and Clauses

It used to be a much shorter list.

That was my big takeaway when the Race/Related team from The New York Times started collecting the more bothersome words and phrases that are used in reference to race, many of which appear in the paper’s own Manual of Style and Usage.

Here’s what drove them nuts, for starters: Diversity hire, ethnic, person of color, exotic and urban. When Twitter got into the act, the list expanded rapidly to include Hispanic, the race card, African American, minority, Rachel Dolezal (oh Twitter) and the Black community.

Even playwright and actor Anna Deavere Smith weighed in:

“’Diversity’. ‘Multicultural’. ‘It’s time to have a honest conversation about race.’ Applying the word ‘playing field’,” she tweeted.

It also reminded me of the many words that have made me cringe over the years that have mostly disappeared from common business usage, except as artifacts. The last time I heard “high yellow” applied unironically was at a magazine-related work event when an ad executive was attempting to explain to his bored wife who this new presidential candidate was. “This guy Obamo,” he explained over plastic cups of wine. “You’ll know him right away. He’s high yellow, like her,” he said, jabbing a crab puff in my direction.

That wasn’t that long ago when you think about it.

Language comes at you fast, particularly in business. What terms and phrases have you put aside? Not just the ones that drive you personally nuts, but what changes have you made institutionally? E-mail me when you get a second with the details. And please say that you’ve banned “opening the kimono.” Also, pioneering. And “holding down the fort.” “Homosexual lifestyle.” See? The list used to be a lot shorter. I think it means we’re getting better at all of this.

On Point

Diversity matters in political journalismThis is the passionate argument from the incomparable Farai Chideya, a journalist who has covered the last six elections for CNN, NPR and FiveThirtyEight. “Being a black woman reporter who covers politics, race, and gender has made me unafraid to enter spaces where I am not particularly welcomed.” In her current role as a fellow at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, she’s seeking to quantify who covered the election, to learn whether political teams’ race and gender diversity had any impact on newsrooms. She shares her methodology in detail and raises some important questions for anyone who cares about journalism, which should be everyone. But for anyone who is planning to conduct a similar analysis in any industry, it’s a must read.Columbia Journalism Review

Univision: We are being shunned by GOP Congress
According to Enrique Acevedo, the anchor spearheading Univision’s coverage of the Trump administration, the network is having difficulty getting Republican congresspeople to appear on any of their shows. “It’s happened more since the inauguration. It’s harder to get access to Republicans than it is to get access to Democrats and I understand why that is,” he told Politico.“Republicans think they have more to lose going on Univision.” Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) have all waved off the network, only to appear later on Fox or CNN, he says.

U.S. Muslims are younger, more liberal and becoming politically active
As it turns out, there is little actual data about how Muslim Americans engage in civic life, despite the hot rhetoric of the presidential campaign. So a new survey from the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding offers rare insight into the Muslim American experience. Muslim Americans as a cohort skew younger – 37% of voting-age Muslims in America are under 30, and 80% are under 50 – and they tend to be both liberal and fairly religious. But now, they’re extremely anxious about their futures. And they’re getting engaged: “Many have started giving more money to their mosques and community centers, and others have joined, donated to, or volunteered with a civic organization for the first time,” with an eye to improving civil rights.
The Atlantic

Has someone checked on Aaron Sorkin?
Well here’s a head scratcher. While speaking on a panel at the Writer’s Guild Festival over the weekend, Academy-Award winning screenwriter and executive producer (“The West Wing,” “The Newsroom,” “A Few Good Men”) Aaron Sorkin fielded what should have been a now routine question about diversity and Hollywood. He was shocked, shocked to discover such a problem existed. “Sorkin asserted that Hollywood is a genuine meritocracy and that he was unaware of Hollywood’s existing diversity problem,” reported Variety. Wait, what? “You’re saying that if you are a woman or a person of color, you have to hit it out of the park in order to get another chance?” Sorkin said, asking the audience to help him sort it all out.

There are fewer than 100 black women executives in all of advertising
The numbers, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, are grim: There are only 93 black female executives in advertising, PR, and related agencies with more than 100 people, out of 8,734 total executives. Today, The Advertising Club of New York and Interpublic Group are hosting the first Summit on Black Women in Advertising, to outline the problem and brainstorm solutions. Any raceAhead readers who attend, please report back on whether the word “meritocracy” is used unironically.
Ad Age

Foreign students aren’t applying to U.S. colleges
According to a recent survey by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, applications from students in countries such as China, India, and the Middle East, primarily, are down this year at nearly 40% of schools. America just doesn’t seem as welcoming say representatives from the association. “Yes, we definitely are sounding the warning,” said the association’s deputy director. “We would hope that the [Trump] administration would say [to] cool the rhetoric a bit around immigration.”
NBC News

The Woke Leader

When The Sylvers met Groucho
For people of a certain age, the disco genius of the Sylver family – 10 gorgeous siblings from Watts who belted out memorable hits like Hot Line and Boogie Fever, defined the 1970s. But before they were famous, they were adorable kids singing for Groucho Marx on his hit show, You Bet Your Life. The wonderfulness starts at the 7:30 mark. Sure, they sing sort of a misogynistic song but hey, the 1950s were when America was great for that sort of thing. Groucho sure was a mensch, though. Enjoy. (h/t Bijan Bayne.)

John Maeda on redesigning leadership, live and in person
His resume is a whirlwind of impact, from the MIT Media Lab, to RISD, to Kleiner Perkins and beyond. Maeda has been a consistently inspirational thinker on how inclusive design can positively change business and the world. His most recent contribution to the conversation has been his annual Design in Tech Reporta revolutionary look at the impact that design has made on both corporate and entrepreneurial ecosystems, with the added benefit of revealing new trends in creativity and business. He’ll be keynoting a funder for young designers hosted by the AIGA, the professional organization for designers in D.C on April 11. By all means go if you can, he never disappoints.

How to be a better, smarter ally
Mashable’s Savonne Anderson has put together a list of some things that people frequently do or say that, despite good intentions, can marginalize the experience of someone else. Granted, this stuff can get complicated pretty quickly. Saying things like, “I don’t see color,” sounds magnanimous, but has the unintended consequence of erasing a big part of someone’s identity. And be careful when asking the only person of color in the room for their experience, that you see them as individuals, and not representatives of an entire race. “Asking one person about everyone who shares the same skin color wrongly assumes they all share the same story, and puts people of color in a position where they have to take responsibility for the experiences of people they don’t even know,” she writes.


Blinded by a deep liberal and religious tradition, few have acknowledged that, since October 1963, the path of the civil righters has been blocked by a veritable Wall of White Emotion. Lou Harris reported that the Negro IBM tabluators were unprepared, surprised, frightened and overwhelmed by the race hatred expressed in the responses of a representative cross section of the white population.
—C.E. Wilson, Negro Digest