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raceAhead: Race in Six Words or Less, When White People Emoji, and a Million Dollar Startup

No essay today! I’m sliding into a couple of mental health days and handing the reins over to Fortune’s Stacy Jones and Laura Entis who will take you to the end of the week.

Stacy, who is familiar to many of you already, is also Fortune’s lead data editor, so I expect she will be dropping some knowledge along those lines.

But I wanted to take a moment to thank Laura, who has been raceAhead’s utterly unflappable editor for the last six months. She’s leaving Fortune for her next great adventure, and she will be greatly missed. Laura brings sensitivity, insight, and grace to her work, and has saved me from myself more times than I can count. And, when the subject matter is challenging, as it often is, it has been such a comfort to have her on the other end of the line.

Her work is here, follow her here.

Thanks to both of them, and to all of you.

Next week, when we’re back together, I’ll be reporting from Fortune’s Most Powerful Women 2017, and I’ve got some good stuff planned. Follow the action here.

Finally, there is one other conference-related matter that you may want to bookmark. Next March, global business leaders will be working closely with design and architecture titans at the 2018 Brainstorm Design Conference in Singapore. It’s an unprecedented event, organized jointly by the editorial teams behind Fortune, Time, and Wallpaper* magazines, with the support of the DesignSingapore Council (Dsg) and Singapore Economic Development Board. While design thinking as a driver of business innovation will be top of mind, so will inter-disciplinary solutions for the many urgent issues the world now faces. Click through for the speakers and the working sessions, you’ll get smarter just reading it.

On Point

Talking about race in six word storiesIf you want to feel good about something today, then check out this project from the great Michelle Norris, the former host of NPR’s All Things Considered. The Race Card Project is her attempt to “examine and interrogate America’s racial DNA,” and it’s gorgeously simple: Use just six words to describe your experiences or questions about race and identity. She’s captured 50,000 submissions over seven years. There is also a two minute video of Norris talking about the project at The Aspen Ideas Festival. “We are more divided in terms of how we interact with each other.” How can we understand each other?The Atlantic

Meet the 14th African American female startup founder to raise $1 million or more
Kristina Jones is the co-founder of Court Buddy, a legal start-up that matches people with vetted solo attorneys based on their budget. (Also, how did this not exist before?) She is also the and 14th African American female founder to raise $1 million or more — ever. We know how that keeps happening, though. Or maybe not. “I think that being the cofounder of a sound, fast-growing business that has revenue and a growing number of users, and that I just happen to be African-American and a woman, helped,” Jones told Lisa Wang of SheWorx in this lively Q&A. “Now we have such an amazing and diverse group of investors and we love that!”

When white people use emojis of color
Yes, it’s complicated. Megan Rose Dickey became confused when texting with a friend who used darker toned emojis. Had she mistakenly believed a person of color to be white? When the answer was no – her white friend was just feeling sort of tan – she mused aloud on Twitter. Is this okay? How should I feel about this? It turns out it’s really complicated. Smart people brought up minstrel history, talked about the practice as a badge of solidarity, and thought it was okay if the usage was in reference to a beloved person of color, like Prince. And plenty of white people had a take, though there was no clear consensus on the yellow emoji. But in a world where citizens are drowning and shooting each other, does it matter? Hard to say.

How to add diversity choices into your binge-watching schedule
Mediaversity is a new site that reviews television and films based on how well they represent diverse gender, race, LGBTQ stories and characters. The site was created by Li Lai, a graphic designer from New York, who felt the need to respond to last year’s awards seasons. “What really solidified this idea for me was last year when I was watching Oscar nominees and critically-acclaimed TV shows,” Lai told Vice. “Right in a row I watched NarcosGame of Thrones, and The Revenant. All of them had awful portrayals of women.” Lai relies on a diverse team of bloggers and grades shows from A+ to F. Master of None fans will be happy. Modern Family and Silicon Valley fans, not so much.

The Woke Leader

A black man tries to understand the KKK
Daryl Davis is a musician, actor and author with an unusual claim to fame: He’s a black man who has befriended Klan members to better understand their extreme racism. While this particular “let’s meet the Klan” gambit isn’t new, Davis has been at this for some time – his first heart to heart was in the late 1980s, and he wrote a book about his experience in 1998. He’s attended Klan funerals, even spoken at Konvocations, and some of his stories are really…hard to hear. While some people have renounced their ways, some never will. “What I’ve learned is that whether or not I’ve changed minds, talking can still relieve tensions,” he says. “Violence happens only when talking has stopped.”
Washington Post

Old age in America is not for the faint of heart
If you’re lucky, wear your seatbelt, and eat right, you may live to a ripe old age. Unfortunately in the U.S., that increasingly means living with an economic insecurity that borders on poverty. “I’m going to work until I die, if I can, because I need the money,” said Richard Dever, 74, who has been traveling the country doing itinerant jobs maintaining camp grounds, and such. He is one of 9 million seniors who are still working, a number that has more than doubled since 2000. During the same time period, Social Security benefits have lost nearly a third of their purchasing power. Blame recessions, the disappearance of defined benefit plans and longevity, but increasingly wealthy retirees are being waited on or looked after by poor ones. Seasonal worker programs aimed at the over-65 crowd may or may not be helping.
Washington Post

I’m just jawning my way through life, tbh
Native Philadelphians, like any good home-town pridesters, are quick to proclaim the specific awesomeness of their architecture and customs, but especially their linguistic quirks. For example, “water” and “creek” are, according to Dan Nosowitz, “wooder” and “crick” in Philadelphia vernacular. But “jawn,” a local word which seems to mean anything and nothing, is unlike any word in any human language. “It is an all-purpose noun, a stand-in for inanimate objects, abstract concepts, events, places, individual people, and groups of people. It is a completely acceptable statement in Philadelphia to ask someone to ‘remember to bring that jawn to the jawn.’”
Atlas Obscura


We’re told we’re nothing if we don’t have a mansion and dress like a movie star. It’s hard on a young person to not think that’s the game. … You can boil all the world’s problems down to greed. (For the rich), the money’s not enough and they seek power. It’s gone into the hands of really shaky people who don’t care who they hurt in their quest to have more money than they’ll ever need.
—Tom Petty