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raceAhead: Harvard Under Fire, Having a Ball With Levar Burton, The Lies of Thanksgiving

November 22, 2017, 5:54 PM UTC

Your week in review, in haiku



Having a Ball with

Geordi’s feed? Forging a new

frontier of stupid.



Abusers exit

stage left. From a trickle to

a stream of justice?



How do you say, “don’t

let the door hit you on the

way out,” in Shona?



To be the one who

kept Keith Partridge up at night:

I think we loved you.



Take just a moment

To be where and who you are.

Grateful here and now.


RaceAhead returns Monday, November 27. Have a happy and restful holiday. We are grateful for you.


On Point

The fight between the Department of Justice and Harvard University appears to be escalatingAt issue is an investigation into the University’s affirmative action policies. While initially the probe was believed to be focused on discrimination against white students, the emphasis seems to be on discrimination against Asian Americans. The Civil Rights Division, which has accused Harvard of "delays and challenges to the Department's authority,” is threatening to sue if it doesn’t receive requested documents by December 1.Buzzfeed

Net Neutrality is under fire, here’s what you need to know
New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman has written a lengthy open letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, decrying the process by which public comments were gathered on the issue. He’s alleging fraud. “In May 2017, researchers and reporters discovered that the FCC’s public comment process was being corrupted by the submission of enormous numbers of fake comments concerning the possible repeal of net neutrality rules.” You can check and see if a fraudulent comment was placed in your name here. While Data Sheet colleagues Adam Lashinsky and Aaron Pressman make a good case that there’s there’s nothing to fear, I’ll give the last word to performer and writer W. Kamau Bell, who believes that a fair and open internet has allowed makers to flourish in a technological age. His argument? We might not have had Issa Rae without it.  
New York Times

Facebook continues to allow housing ads that exclude protected groups
Speaking of companies that have inordinately benefited from a free and open internet, Facebook is back in the news for continuing to let housing advertisers exclude users by race and other categories. ProPublica found last year that it was possible to target housing ads only to white people, an option which Facebook vowed to fix. It hasn’t. Last week the investigative team bought ads excluding certain groups like blacks, single moms of teens, people interested in wheelchair ramps, Jews and Spanish language speakers. All of these groups are protected under the federal Fair Housing Act, explains ProPublica. Every ad was approved in under three minutes, except for one that sought to exclude renters interested in Islam. It's not that it was denied. It took a bit longer to get the green light: Twenty-two minutes.

Angry Trump fans mistake trolling NBA-dad LaVar Ball with national treasure LeVar Burton
The president has been lashing out publicly for not receiving adequate thanks for getting three UCLA basketball players — including Ball’s son, LiAngelo — out of a Chinese jail after they were charged with shoplifting. Ball, who is no stranger to controversy, went on CNN to defend himself, which triggered the subsequent online mix-up. While Burton, the beloved creator of Reading Rainbow, among other things, has been a good sport, the incident has earned a spate of “reading is fundamental” and “we don’t all look alike” jokes. What’s not funny is the number of times the president has chosen to attack private citizens of color.
Huffington Post

The Woke Leader

What were the “first settlers” really celebrating?
History, we now know, is a web of lies, (not always) written by the victors and amplified by marketers. Turns out there is plenty of mythmaking around the earliest Thanksgiving celebrations, which were largely local and not nearly as inclusive as history books might have us believe. And it wasn’t a turning point: The relationship between the English and the local Wampanoag people quickly deteriorated and led to a brutal war. The official nationalized version of the holiday didn’t happen until 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation in the hopes that the unifying imagery of Pilgrims and Indians coming together to eat, would heal a nation torn apart by the Civil War. Oh, and pumpkin pie once triggered a nineteenth century culture war. Enjoy! And pass the Yankee values, please.

How to handle Thanksgiving as the non-black guest
This hilarious “user guide” to a black family Thanksgiving spills all the tea on the specific rituals and personalities you might find if you’re invited to a black household for the holiday. Written by beloved food historian Michael Twitty, it is clearly satire but filled with genuine affection. Rules include what to bring (it’s gotta be something, as long as it isn’t pumpkin or parsnips), who to sit near, how to load your plate and what to expect for amusement. “Expect an elder to ask a young child to dance, perform, recite a poem or read from the Bible against their will for the entertainment of other elders.” But most of all, expect to feel welcome. “We love Non-Black guests. So be prepared for the “Naw we don’t do handshakes,” and deep breast hugs. Get air before you go in.”

Five ideas for creating an inclusive workplace
Michele Perras, Director, Global Ecosystem and Alliances for Pivotal Software, offers five tips for building inclusive cultures, drawing on her fifteen years of experience in Silicon Valley, and her more recent work on Pivotal’s Diversity and Inclusion council. All are helpful and straightforward, but number four — listen to your employees — is one that lots of smaller organizations tend to give the short shrift. “Listen to them, ask why, and don’t assume to know what they need,” she says. “At Pivotal, we heard that employees were seeking discussion and connection locally. With 20 offices worldwide, we wanted to support bottom-up initiatives, and encouraged people to form Grassroots groups.” She also suggests ten questions to ask your employees now, and they are excellent. You might even use them to break the tension at the holiday dinner table. Hint, hint.


With one mind, we turn to honor and thank all the Food Plants we harvest from the garden. Since the beginning of time, the grains, vegetables, beans, and berries have helped the people survive. Many other living things draw strength from them, too. We gather all the Plant Foods together as one and send them a greeting of thanks.
—Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address