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The Annual Equality Index Shows Little Progress for Blacks and Hispanics


On Friday, the National Urban League published its annual State of Black America report, and there is a much to parse for policymakers and voters alike. But this year, a new analysis of inequality in digital life puts employers in the tech sector back in the hot seat.

First, the numbers.

The report uses a benchmark called the Equality Index, based on nationally collected data from federal agencies including the Centers for Disease Control, National Center for Education Statistics, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the Census Bureau. It attempts to measure full equality with white people in the areas of economics, health, education, social justice, and civic engagement.

This year, the equality index for black people stands at 72.5 percent—unchanged from last year. For Hispanics, the number is 79.3%, up from 2017’s 78.5%. So, if the full promise of American life were a pie, brown and black people would be missing a hefty slice.

The data that make up the index captures the shifting experiences of people of color in fascinating ways. This year, the increase in the index for Hispanics was driven largely by an increase in civic engagement and voter participation in the aftermath of the 2016 election. That, and small gains in education, offsets losses in the social justice category.

For black folks, the apparent lack of progress masked one important improvement in the median household income gap this year, which brought black family incomes closer to white ones by one percentage point, or 61%. That might not sound like much, but if you have to pay more for broadband than your white peers (see below), it helps.

This year’s report includes a stand-alone analysis called the Digital Inclusion Index, which uses the same methodology as the main report, but measures digital equality in three areas: Digital skills and occupations (35% of total), digital access (35% of total), and digital policy (30% of total).

The findings will not surprise you. From the report:

Racial diversity in social media and technology companies is an area where the equality gap is starkly wider. As reported in the Digital Inclusion Index, in the vast majority of companies, fewer than five percent of the workforce is African American. By contrast, at least half of the workforce in these companies is white.

Education is partly a factor. For example, HBCUs don’t receive the funding that primarily white institutions do. And access to affordable broadband varies – in some cities where people of color are in the minority, the report shows that they pay more than their white counterparts for broadband. But for the most part, the report finds that people of color have largely bridged the technology gap in mobile, computer, and social media usage, which is great news. Yet, the companies whose products they use and platforms they contribute to don’t see them as potential employees.

It’s the skills and occupations piece that really worries the experts. At a time when the world is literally being transformed by technological innovation, shutting out talent of color will drive the equality numbers in the wrong direction.

“The digital and technological revolution is the axis on which the economy is spinning now,” Marc H. Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League (NUL), told The Root. “It is a transformation of epic proportions.”

But Michael Harriot, columnist for The Root is skeptical that anything is going to change. “Morial and the NUL are intent on convincing tech companies to partner with HBCUs to discover the wealth of talent in these institutions,” he writes. “The organization also wants to stress the necessity of workforce diversity to these companies.” It’s going to be an interesting exercise. “The facts are inescapable: Tech companies don’t hire black people,” he says.


On Point

A new IT’S ABOUT DAMN TIME venture fund launches to invest in people of color, women, and LGBTQ foundersThat is the gleeful nickname founder and managing partner Arlan Hamilton gave to the fund at the United State of Women 2018 Summit in Los Angeles, Calif. on Saturday. Hamilton, who has been a raceAhead VIP for awhile now, says the $36 million fund will invest $1 million at a time in underrepresented founders. “They’re calling it a ‘diversity fund,’” Hamilton tweeted Sunday. “I’m calling it an IT’S ABOUT DAMN TIME fund.” More about Hamilton here, more on the fund and her announcement below.Fortune

The hangover from Cinco de Mayo is cultural and it’s not going to stop
This year, it’s probably not the tequila. The annual oddity that has become the Cinco de Mayo celebration has become even more ripe for offense in the age of President Trump, explains writer Ella Cerón. Mexican-Americans are already on edge and are even less likely to feel comfortable with cultural appropriation or a celebration involving stereotypes – like the recent Baylor frat party complete with brown face, sombreros, and construction worker costumes. It’s not even Mexican Independence day, it’s the anniversary of the Battle of Puebla, an unlikely victory against the invading French army. But given the heightened tensions between the U.S. and Mexico—think: “rapists,” walls, and aggressive deportation tactics—it might be a good time to re-think all your conversations with Mexican-American friends and colleagues. “So yeah, it’s not quite the time to tell your Latinx friend that you remember all of eight words from your 10th-grade Spanish class, or that you really love chips and salsa,” she says.
Teen Vogue

What your genetic ancestry really says about race
Broadcasting DNA test results has become an odd type of spectator sport, sort of a cross between a gender-reveal baby shower and a lively game of Risk. But it’s also a fraught exercise in race and identity, as people increasingly try to associate themselves with an “underrepresented group” by way of a drop of genetic material. But as these DNA “reveals” increasingly become YouTube spectacles and Twitter memes, they obscure more about race than contribute to the conversation, says Amanda Hess. There’s even a meme that parodies 23andMe test results. “These jokes ridicule the idea that anything truly relevant about our social realities can be measured to a fraction of a percent. As it turns out, DNA tests reveal plenty about us — just not what they claim to,” she says.
New York Times

Unaddressed bias is a problem, in media and beyond
Journalist and filmmaker Shaminder Dulai shares a poignant story of being sent on an assignment on his first day at his first-ever internship, just a kid with a big dream and a press credential. He was visiting a home for a scheduled interview and the upscale woman who lived there mistook him for a  repairman. She’d missed his badge, the huge camera he wore, his lack of uniform—absolutely every possible clue—and that is his point. He was a brown-skinned guy who couldn’t have been anything but the help. Sometimes you just can’t see what’s right in front of you. “The same learning process that defines what a ‘cup’ is or what ‘green’ is also implants the ‘form’ of what race and its associated stereotypes dictate in the mind,” he says. And we all have these forms to some degree. But these biases do lasting damage, particularly at scale, that’s why diversity in newsrooms and in media really matters. “There is a very fine line between a racist and someone with an unexamined prejudice.”

The Woke Leader

Donald Glover is a genius; do not @ me
If you happened to catch Donald Glover’s star turn on SNL this weekend, you may have also caught Childish Gambino’s (his alter ego) most recent online song/video release, This is America. By the tenth time I’d watched it, sometimes with the sound off,  I was convinced that he’d created a work of monumental artistry and importance. By Monday, I was sure—people are still debating what they saw and what it meant. One of the most arresting moments was when Glover morphed his body into a very specific pose – that of the character of Jim Crow. As we wait for the think-pieces to be written, start with this background on Thomas Dartmouth “Daddy” Rice, who created Jim Crow, the first blackface minstrel character, in 1830. Here is the only video I could find of someone in blackface recreating the “Jump Jim Crow” song in a 1941 musical show. Oh the nostalgia.
USF Libraries

How comic books taught kids about the Holocaust
So, with all this Avenger talk in the air, it’s worth revisiting how important comic books and comic book characters have been to people throughout history. Here’s just one example: A surprising number of comic books tackled the subject of the genocide during World War II, and may have been one of the few publishing or education resources who raised the issue at all. “It struck us that comic books apparently were one of the ways in which American teenagers were learning about the Holocaust at a time when most of them were not learning about it in school,” says Holocaust historian Rafael Medoff, who teamed up with a famous comic book maker to create a Holocaust-related comic book in 2008. One of the advantages of the comic medium is that you can pace yourself with difficult subject matter. “The idea of this [book] was to take this down to smaller chunks so that people could endure it,” says his artist/partner Neal Adams.
The New York Jewish Week

Five ways to diversify your leadership
People leave organizations because of culture, say talent experts Steve Frost and Danny Kalman. Does your culture allow diverse talent to thrive? Their main point: One size fits all leadership development strategies tend to favor the dominant group, to the detriment of diverse candidate pools. Their best tips involve supporting strong candidates who are either uncomfortable working the room to sing their own praises, like introverts, or those who are already actively enhancing the business in employee resource groups.
DDI World


[Blackface performers are] the filthy scum of white society, who have stolen from us a complexion denied them by nature, in which to make money, and pander to the corrupt taste of their white fellow citizens.
Frederick Douglass