raceAhead: BlackRock’s Laurence Fink Would Like A Word With Your Boss

No essay today, as I’m racing to the finish line on a magazine story.

But I will leave you with a little inspiration from the world of big finance. It comes by way of Laurence D. Fink, the founder and CEO of the investment firm BlackRock, which manages some $6 trillion in investments through 401(k)s, mutual funds and other financial instruments.

It’s a pointed call to action to other leaders to get busy saving the world.

He’s written a letter, which he shared exclusively with The New York Times’s Dealbook column, which calls for a new kind of shareholder engagement, one that emphasizes long-term benefits, in lieu of short-termism and money-wasting proxy fights. “Society is demanding that companies, both public and private, serve a social purpose,” he said. “To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society.”

And, he’s made diversity a non-negotiable line in the sand.

“We will also continue to emphasize the importance of a diverse board. Boards with a diverse mix of genders, ethnicities, career experiences, and ways of thinking, have, as a result, a more diverse and aware mindset. They’re less likely to succumb to groupthink for miss or new threats to a company’s business mode. And they are better able to identify opportunities to promote long-term growth.”

The letter is being sent today to the chief executives of the largest public companies. I thought you’d like to be in the loop on this.

If you work for a large, public company, today would be a great day to ping your CEO and see what they have to say about the letter. Do let us know how y’all are planning to make those positive contributions to society. We’d love to help.

On Point

Opinion: Trumpism at odds with Martin Luther King’s philosophyWriter James Braxton Peterson, the author of “Prison Industrial Complex for Beginners,” and host of The Remix podcast on WHYY, explains how the current administration's operating system is radically opposed to King’s vision of American promise for all. “Whether it concerns poverty, racism, or war, Trump represents everything that King built a legacy to resist and reject,” he says. Click through for some more of King’s work that doesn’t typically get cited, like this passage from his first, public anti-war speech, delivered in April, 1967.“Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism,” said King.Fortune

Philip Roth has been reading Ta-Nehisi, y’all
The storied novelist has been retired for several years now, but he remains sharp and aware of world events, and has important things to say about things like the current unraveling around sexual harassment claims. Trump fans will not like his comparison between the fictional President Lindbergh in “The Plot Against America,” and the current president. But you’ll quite likely love his reading list: Ta-Nehisi Coates led him to Nell Irvin Painter’s “The History of White People,” which led him to Edmund Morgan’s “American Slavery, American Freedom,” and ultimately essays by Teju Cole. I can’t explain how Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography got in there, though, but good for him.
Positive News

New Zealand is working on a visa program for people displaced by climate change
Millions of people will eventually be displaced as climate change makes their current homes unlivable. Many of them are poor and live in low-lying Pacific islands. New Zealand, working with neighboring island communities, is considering how to create an effective new visa for environmental refugees. The new climate change minister says there is no current refugee category that can accommodate people fleeing rising sea levels.
Positive News

The Woke Leader

Jumping through hoops for hoop earrings
Sandra Garcia stopped wearing the joyous baubles when she was 17-years-old; by the time she was a grad student at Columbia, she was wearing only diminutive stud earrings. “I felt that wearing large hoops would make me stand out, make me seem too loud, too visible, too ghetto, too black,” she says. But after an image of a mural created by a Latina college student proclaiming, “white girl, take off your hoops!!!” went viral, she reconsidered. It's bigger than cultural appropriation -- women of color are judged for wearing the very things that are considered edgy and fashion-forward on white women. “Black style has to be contextualized differently in order to be seen as luxurious,” says designer Jameel Mohammed. But for Garcia, the hoops were about toning down her identity. “Earrings were easier to remove than my last name, my accent or my tendency to roll my eyes in dissent,” she says.
New York Times

When your token brown friend quits you
McSweeney’s excels at the funny-not-funny takes, and this is no exception. Anjali Enjeti does a terrific job of articulating the many ways brown people are misused as a diversity resource, either as a checked box – “I will no longer pretend to represent the ‘point of view’ of all brown people because brown people do not share the same points of view” – or a Google alternative – “When you want to know what DACA stands for or who the Rohingya people are or what mass incarceration is, you will need to search reliable online news sources yourself.” No need to comment, just post it to your feed and walk away.

On Martin Luther King’s sacrifice
Melissa Harris-Perry begins this poignant essay with a wish: If we could only stop time to give our heroes just a bit of joy. She focuses on a photo of King playing pool, looking uncharacteristically relaxed. “The photo inspires a happy fantasy of Dr. King retiring into raucous, old black manhood,” she says. His short 39 years were filled with “the work,” focused on social change and advocating on behalf of the poor and oppressed. And, as his final speech suggests, he was aware that his life would be cut short. “Strangely enough, I would turn to the Almighty, and say, ‘If you allow me to live just a few years in the second half of the 20th century, I will be happy,’” he said the day before he was murdered. She ends with gratitude. “I want him to be happy and to live long, but he chose instead to sacrifice to fight for a world for all of us who had not yet even been born.”


Do I automatically say it’s because the police officer is a racist and there’s some systemic race problem? No. I don’t think it’s a systemic race problem in this country. My own life experience. I’ve just seen in communities like Richmond, Virginia and in the United States military when I was a naval officer. I don’t see systemic racism in the military. I don’t see systemic racism in these communities.
Steve Bannon

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