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raceAhead: On Being a Better LGBTQ Ally

June 25, 2018, 10:03 PM UTC
Gay Pride Parade, Warsaw.
Krzysztof Dydynski—Getty Images/Lonely Planet Images

I’m in San Francisco in final preparation for Fortune’s CEO Initiative, which gets underway tonight—beginning with interviews from Apple CEO Tim Cook and author Steven Pinker. You can watch the livestream of mainstage events here, look for Fortune coverage of the on-the-record portions from the event here.

But yesterday, I was lucky enough to be allowed to invite myself to march in the San Francisco Pride parade, a joyous event that welcomed church groups, community organizations, community figures and teeming floats created by corporate resource groups followed by sunscreened employees and their families, all wearing pride shirts.

It was the first time I’d ever thought to march myself, a realization that made me re-think how infrequently I’ve found a way to be a public ally in the past. Eyes opened. I was reminded how important the act of showing up can be. It meant so much to be welcomed into a space where being present was not only enough, it was my job.

But, I’m also keenly aware that there were other marches in cities that are not as open as San Francisco, where despite ongoing challenges in the U.S. — bathroom bills, religious objections to serving LGBTQ customers, rising violence and the transgender military ban — the marchers and supporters had a baseline expectation of safety.

In other places, LGBTQ people and allies took to the streets to address these issues in communities where they were unlikely to feel as safe.

The Ukranian gay pride parade in Kiev ended in violence, for example, as marchers were attacked by far-right protesters, who hurled smoke bombs, rocks, and bottles before they started throwing punches at the marchers. Some thirty people were arrested, more were injured.

And things were tense in Rome, as the march came just days after Italy’s new families minister declared that gay families have no legal standing. “It’s very important that we’re here because we need to respond and show that it’s not true that we don’t exist,” one marcher told The Guardian. “We’re people who can have families, and when we say family, all we mean is love.”

It’s all a good reminder that under-represented communities cannot effectively fight for their rights to exist without the help of their friends.

For a helpful reminder on how to be an ally to LGBTQ colleagues every day, check out this handy post from Lifehacker. You can find a more general guide to supporting the civil rights of anyone who is different from you in this Guide to Allyship, an ongoing collection of suggestions originally created by designer Amélie Lamont.

But if you only have time for a quick video explainer from one of the most delightful creators in human history, spend a couple of minutes with Franchesca Ramsey, actor, writer, YouTuber, podcast star, and former Nightly Show correspondent.

“Imagine your friend is building a house and they ask you to help,” she begins. You, who have never built anything will need to start with some protective gear. But more importantly, you’ll need to “listen to the person in charge, otherwise, someone is going to get seriously hurt.” This is what being an ally is. You want to fight for the equality of a marginalized group you’re not a part of, but you need to get in formation. “We need your help building this house,” she says. “But you should probably listen so you know what to do first.”

On Point

A transgender woman was asked for her identification in order to use the bathroom in a restaurantCharlotte Clymer says she understands that her story could have ended differently for someone else; she’s white, financially secure and a seasoned advocate with the Human Rights Campaign. So when a manager in a DC restaurant confronted her as she attempted to use the bathroom of her choice, she knew her rights and was able to assert herself. Click through for the entire story, which escalated into nasty fight. In a twist, Clymer herself called the police and was able to get the validation she needed that identification to use a public restroom was not a legal requirement. “I’m not the kind of person who calls cops, but at that point, I didn’t know what else to do,” Clymer wrote. “In D.C., a city celebrated for its LGBTQ culture, inclusivity, and protections, it stunned me that a business could so openly discriminate against transgender people.” Her story, which began as a Facebook post, elicited an apology from the restaurant chain’s chief executive and a promise to retrain the staff on the law.Washington Post

A tale of two Netflixes
These two news nuggets are technically unrelated, but do speak to the unique moment we’re living in now. On Friday, the company’s chief communications officer was fired after being called out for using the N-word in a meeting. “I’ve made a decision to let go of Jonathan Friedland…his descriptive use of the N-word on at least two occasions at work showed unacceptably low racial awareness and sensitivity, and is not in line with our values as a company,” said a memo from CEO Reid Hastings. It may actually be true: Click below for this extraordinary promotion piece Netflix put together earlier this month that speaks to their commitment to black creative talent. Essence was behind the scene as 47 of Netflix’s Black creators, actors, and directors from over 20 series, films, and documentaries assembled to announce “a new day in Hollywood.” Stranger Things star Caleb McLaughlin provides the stunning narration. “A day for our generation to see untold experiences of our Blackness,” he said. “A day when Black women are boldly the lead character, whether inmates or scholars. We’re not a genre because there’s no one way to be Black.” You'll get goosebumps.

America Ferrara is curating and editing a new book of essays on the immigrant experience
America Like Me: Reflections on Life Between Cultures will be a star-studded affair and will include reflections from Roxane Gay, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Uzo Aduba, Michelle Kwan, Padma Lakshmi and others. “I have always felt wholly American, and yet, my identity is inextricably linked to my parents’ homeland and Honduran culture,” she said in a statement. She will also be donating a portion of the proceeds from the book to the Immigrants We Get the Job Done Coalition, which includes 12 nonprofit organizations that provide support to immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers throughout the United States. The book is out on September 25; click through to pre-order.
Entertainment Weekly

Making flexible schedules work for professional track employees
For anyone growing a family, living with a disability or caring for aging, sick or difficult relatives, a flexible schedule – even a no-travel option - that would help you manage your life while keeping you in the talent pipeline would be a godsend. Anna Auerbach of two-year-old Werk Enterprises Inc. is building a business helping employees find the career moves that work for them, while training hiring managers to better understand how to create an environment that is conducive to remote, part-time and job-sharing employees.“I couldn’t quite understand why there were so few women in leadership,” she says. “It’s so obvious and in your face.”

The Woke Leader

On learning to be an ally
I’ve spent a bit of time at The Bitter Southerner, a thoughtful online journal dedicated to giving cultural shape to the “new South.” To do that well, it seems, means to wrestle with the old one, and the scars of Jim Crow. I found many wonderful examples of white writers struggling to articulate the cognitive dissonance of being both from and of a place as complex as the American South, but start with Greenville, South Carolina’s Brad Willis. A moment in a candy store and a conversation about Charlottesville triggered an epiphany. “For all the ways I’d convinced myself that I was too privileged to speak, for all the ways I’d convinced myself that I couldn’t write words that mattered to the most important of causes, for all the ways I’d decided my silence would let others be better heard, I’d gone too far. I’d disengaged.”
Bitter Southerner

To stem the rise in hate crimes we must speak up
Though it may be no comfort, this dynamic is not new to the post-Trump world. “Throughout American history, the ascendance of political racism—the use of explicit prejudice to energize voters and win elections, often as a backlash to the social and economic advancement of black Americans and other nonwhite groups—has brought corresponding waves of racial violence,” says Jamelle Bouie, in Slate. He walks through a helpful list of how white resentment has been “weaponized” throughout the years, noting that they are always tied to a political climate that normalizes racism and defines the country in narrowly ethnic terms. “This is why social and political sanctions against racism have historically been so important,” he says.“[W]e tolerate the public expression of racism at our own peril. Embedded in racism is an eliminationist impulse that grows out of the explicit call for exclusion.”

Algorithm accurately reconstructs human faces from the brain waves of monkeys
This is a fascinating piece with a lot of implications for a world that’s increasingly driven by algorithms and other magical technologies. Researchers from the California Institute of Technology have successfully recreated human faces by studying groups of specialized neurons in the brains of macaque monkeys that appear to work together to recognize an individual face. The monkeys were shown photos, while their brains were being scanned. With each neuron encoding a different aspect of a face, researchers were able to recreate the faces the monkeys saw by using signals from just 205 neurons with astonishing accuracy.


It takes no compromise to give people their rights…it takes no money to respect the individual. It takes no political deal to give people freedom. It takes no survey to remove repression.
Harvey Milk