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raceAhead: Inclusive Candidates Win At The Polls, The First Transgender State Legislator, Uber’s New Rules of the Road

Tuesday’s elections appear to be, almost across the board, a victory for candidates with inclusive messages and profiles.

Hoboken voters elected Ravinder Balla as mayor, making him the first Sikh mayor in New Jersey history. He was also one of several New Jersey candidates who had been targeted by anonymous, racist campaign fliers. Balla, who wears a turban, appeared on posters that said, “Don’t let TERRORISM take over our town!” Two other candidates, Jerry Shi and Falguni Patel were elected to the Edison, NJ. school board despite openly racist leafletting imploring voters to “Make Edison Great Again,” including a specific complaint about cricket fields.

The allegedly “completely unelectable” Larry Krasner, a longtime civil rights attorney who has represented Black Lives Matter and who has sued the police department, was elected as Philadelphia’s district attorney.

Vi Lyles is now Charlotte, North Carolina’s first female African-American mayor. “With this opportunity you’ve given me, you’ve proven that we are a city of opportunity and inclusiveness,” she told supporters.

Kathy Tran, who was barely two when she came to the U.S. with her parents as refugees from Vietnam, became the first Asian-American woman to join Virginia’s House of Delegates. The workforce policy expert, so alarmed by the activities of the Trump administration, did much of her canvassing with her four children in tow, her youngest just nine months.

Tran was part of a wave of Democratic candidates – many now elected officials – who are also raising young children. Having families has traditionally been a barrier for younger women seeking office. But as women find themselves drawn to public service, they’re also finding creative ways to support each other and muddle through — like a Slack channel dedicated to helping them brainstorm solutions to thorny issues like breastfeeding while canvassing and campaigning with toddlers.

New Jersey and Virginia both elected black lieutenant governors; Sheila Oliver is New Jersey’s first, while Justin Fairfax in Virginia, a former prosecutor, is the second African-American to win statewide office.

But Virginia stole the spotlight in many important ways.

Democrat Ralph Northam beat Ed Gillespie, who relied on tough-Trumpian rhetoric about immigration and gang violence in his campaign. The closely watched contest boasted the highest voter turnout for a gubernatorial election in twenty years. “Virginia has told us to end the divisiveness, that we will not condone hatred and bigotry, and to end the politics that have torn this country apart,” said Northam in his acceptance speech.

In a stunning upset, progressive candidates also picked up at least fifteen seats in the Virginia House of Delegates, including Elizabeth Guzman and Hala Ayala, who defeated Republican incumbents to become the first two Latinas elected to the Virginia House.

But the Shakespearean moment of the night belongs to former journalist Danica Roem, 33, a singer in a metal band, devoted stepmother, and now a new state legislator. She also ran as an openly transgender person. If she takes office, she’ll be the first openly transgender person to run and win state office.

In a poignant twist, her opponent was incumbent Robert G. Marshall, a 73-year-old conservative firebrand, now best known for his failed effort to put forth a bill designed to regulate which bathrooms transgender people use. While he cheekily referred to himself as Virginia’s “chief homophobe,” he also misgendered Roem throughout the campaign and refused to appear on stage with her face-to-face.

“Discrimination is a disqualifier,” Roem said. “This is about the people of the 13th District disregarding fear tactics, disregarding phobias . . . where we celebrate you because of who you are, not despite it.”

On Point

Let’s take a few minutes to celebrate Althea Garrison, the first transgender person to win state officeWith Roem’s victory, the designation of “first” is now a point of contention. But it was Garrison who was the first transgender person to win and serve in state office, in Massachusetts, in 1992. Garrison, who is black, ran on the Republican ticket and served one term from 1993-1995. Though she was not public about her status at the time of her election, her achievement is no less notable. She has since run for numerous offices under various party affiliations, and has become known as a “perennial candidate.” And, she’s still running.Wikipedia

Former felons share their feelings on having their voting rights restored
Sam Levine, the Associate Politics Editor at Huffington Post, was on the ground in Virginia yesterday, capturing the reactions of former felons who had their right to vote restored by former governor Terry McAuliffe. Last year, McAuliffe unilaterally removed voting restrictions for more than 168,000 former felons, a decision that the governor-elect says he will continue. Several were voting for the first time. “I’m a taxpayer, I go to work every day. It feels good. It’s a special day for me,” said Theodore Dortch, 37, who was voting for the first time. Wali R. Bahar recalled the people who fought for his right to vote. “I feel like I’m standing on the shoulders of giants,” he said. Levine’s full story is here, and you can see all the short video interviews in his Twitter feed below.

Uber CEO issues new rules of the road
Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber’s CEO, issued a new list of company values, which Recode reports was generated from 1,200 ideas submitted via two dozen employee focus groups which were then voted on 22,000 times. Here’s one: “We do the right thing. Period.” Here’s more. “We celebrate differences. We stand apart from the average. We ensure people of diverse backgrounds feel welcome. We encourage different opinions and approaches to be heard, and then we come together and build.” It’s a dramatic shift from the Kalanick-era rules which involved growth and literal “toe-stepping.” Khosrowshahi, who has had to officially ban beer keg throwing and parties which encouraged drinking until people vomited, shared his thinking.“For instance, ‘toe-stepping’ was meant to encourage employees to share their ideas regardless of their seniority or position in the company, but too often it was used as an excuse for being an asshole.”

Leonard Chang reveals the underlying racism in book publishing
A recent post in a publishing forum from successful novelist Leonard Chang reveals a manuscript submission process he describes as torturous and deeply racist. It is something he has come to expect from publishers. He offered up this critique from a legendary editor as an example. “The characters, especially the main character, just do not seem Asian enough. They act like everyone else,” it begins. “For example, in the scene when she looks into the mirror, you don’t show how she sees her slanted eyes, or how she thinks of her Asianness.” His advice to others: Move on. “Everyone gets stupid rejections, but there’s a special reward for those who soldier on in spite of them.” Twitter’s advice to others? Oh, we’re #AsianEnough, thank you very much.
Booklist Reader

The Woke Leader

On the resilience of small, rural churches
Bart Barber, the pastor of First Baptist Church in Farmersville, Texas, explains the struggles that small rural churches face under normal circumstances. A lack of resources and specialized training hamstrings pastors who are trying to help people deal with profound problems related to poverty, addiction, legal worries, marital strife, isolation, and despair. From that perspective, the mass shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, feels like a fatal blow. “The death of 26 members would traumatize any church, but for a church this size, it threatens the church’s very existence.” But he says that the same thing that makes small churches so vulnerable makes them resilient.“A single scandal involving a key personality can make an entire network of megachurches vanish without a trace in the span of a few months,” he says. “People are less likely to abandon the church they attended with their grandparents. I believe that members who have been on the sidelines will step up.”
Christianity Today

York, Penn. a year later
A year ago, York County, Penn. went for Trump in a big way. So much so, that some black parents opted to keep their kids home from school the next day, expecting a riot. “[H]ours after Trump claimed victory in the election, [racial tensions] boiled over as a group of white students held aloft Trump campaign signs and chanted in a hallway, ‘White power!’” One parent told the Boston Globe, “The country-fed boys, they’re hunters. I’m sorry, that’s what I thought. These city kids, they have guns. I thought it was going to be a big shootout.” York is a diverse county, but in dozens of interviews, residents lamented the now frayed connections and simmering resentments that belie the new normal. “The class resentments, racism, and xenophobia that became flashpoints during the election have hardened, not healed.” A must read.
Boston Globe

Handling the diversity question in a job interview
The Chronicle of Higher Education has published a thorough take on how hiring teams should ask “the diversity question” when vetting prospective department chairs or deans, and on the flip side, how candidates should avoid sounding trite. One tip: It matters who asks the question. “A minority candidate watching the lone minority on the committee ask the diversity question sends a signal that, if hired, this applicant will be burdened, too, with dozens of future tasks on committees — not because of any subject-matter expertise, but because of his or her race/ethnicity.” The advice is fully applicable to corporate hiring managers and executive job seekers. Subscription required.
Chronicle of Higher Education


There is a natural order of things, a natural order where gay marriage is an impossibility. For example, a woman’s arm is constructed at a certain angle so that she can adequately cradle a baby. This is the way we’re created. There are just certain things that nature intended.
—Robert G. Marshall