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raceAhead: Waiting On Hurricane Florence

Storms are terrible things, and it looks like a monster is heading for the mid-Atlantic Coast.

Those in the know look to Waffle House for a guiding light. The 24/7 eatery has become known in storm circles for their Waffle House Index, a quasi-informal assessment of potential damage and local infrastructure vulnerabilities which they use to predict which stores can safely remain open. It’s even monitored by FEMA.

When Waffle House announces it will pre-emptively close a store in the path of a storm, the index has just gone to red. FiveThirtyEight puts it succinctly: If Waffle House closes, it’s time to panic.

The Waffle House storm center is activated and watching, the index for the region mostly green at press time. “Plan ahead and be safe #Florence,” they tweeted.

Despite President Trump’s glowing self-assessment of the government’s performance in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, there is plenty to be worried about. There are more than 750,000 homes in the path of the storm. If Florence delivers its deadly promise, property damage could reach $170 billion, according to real estate data company CoreLogic.

And then there are the pigs.

Hurricane Florence is on course to kill thousands of farm animals and trigger catastrophic waste spills across the entire region. It’s happened before.

North Carolina ranks third in the U.S. in poultry production and second in hog production, with more than 2,000 permitted swine farms and 9.3 million pigs. Their waste is held in marshy pits called lagoons and is used to spray on nearby fields. But even a little extra rain is a recipe for disaster. “It’s been a wet summer. Five weeks of almost continuous rain,” hog farmer Tom Butler told the News Observer. “I have covered lagoons. I can’t imagine guys with open lagoons.”

(Of course, the feces-rich pig business is a dirty one in any weather, the subject of much litigation, investigation, and reporting. Because the farms are situated near primarily low-income, African American rural communities, there have been longstanding charges of environmental racism, as well.)

North Carolina’s agricultural economy provides one-fifth of all jobs in the region and a lot of food to the rest of us. The majority of the farms have been told to expect at least two feet of rain, but even half that is problematic. “A majority of the crops are still in the field,” Mike Yoder, coordinator of emergency programs for the NC State Extension told The Washington Post. “[A]nd those guys will probably suffer as much or more as the livestock industry.”

In some situations, it seems, it’s a coin toss as to the safest course of action.

Thousands of incarcerated people, guards and staff will be forced to stay behind in evacuation zones in South Carolina and Virginia. (Things did not go well for incarcerated men in the Stiles Unit, a Texas state prison during Hurricane Harvey.)

Oh, and it looks like the climate change nonsense talk that’s been coming from lawmakers in the region is not aging well.

If the worst case scenario plays out, we will soon be awash with stories, some of the inspiring-true kind, but most of the hopeless variety: The newly unemployed, the desperately underinsured, the permanently displaced, the abandoned vulnerables, the GoFundMes for things that a wealthy nation should already know how to provide.

But for now, as they batten and flee, we pray to the higher power of our choice for the best possible ending. Good luck, everyone.

On Point

Study: Black people pay higher rent than white people for the same unitsIn a study to end all studies, researchers analyzed more than 400,000 records to determine rent differentials by race in identical housing in identical neighborhoods. Their findings suggest that households led by black people pay more across the country, a gap that increases with the percentage of white people in the neighborhood. In more diverse communities, black households pay a 0.6% premium for rental units. In neighborhoods with the highest percentage of white residents, black households pay a 2.4% premium.SSRN

New Hampshire is poised to send an Afghan refugee to their State House
For all the drama, this has also been an election season of extraordinary firsts. Safiya Wazir was born in Afghanistan; her educated parents feared and fled the Taliban, so they spent part of her young life in a refugee camp. She endured grade school bullying as an immigrant to the U.S. Now, she’s 27, married, pregnant with her third child, and preparing to focus on early childhood education and family issues for the district she loves. The lifelong community activist beat a four-term incumbent in a Democratic primary yesterday, a man who argued that her refugee status would hurt her with voters. If she wins against her Republican opponent in November, she would be the first refugee in the state to hold public office. More on her life here, more on the politics below.
Boston Herald

Latina speaking characters in film and television reach an all-time high!
It’s only 7%, and still, a mixed bag for representation of women in front of and behind the camera. According to the 21st annual Boxed In report from San Diego State’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, the 7% is calculated from female speaking characters (which dipped slightly, year over year.) So, out of all of the 4,833 speaking characters of any gender, Latina actors were only 2.8%. No other ethnic population has the greatest disparity between its real-life population and representation on screen.
Hollywood Reporter

Something to celebrate in inclusive programming?
Here’s the pitch: A comedy series starring a Muslim woman, with cerebral palsy, who navigates life, love, and career, all while trying to get her helicopter parents off her back! Funny and relatable right? That’s the big bet that ABC is making while developing comedian and disability activist Maysoon Zayid’s new comedy series called Can-Can. If it makes it to air, it will be a breakthrough in representation for both people with disabilities and Muslim Americans. (Annoying parents, sadly, are overrepresented in modern entertainment.) It matters that Zayid, who is writing the series, will be playing herself: Only 5 percent of characters with disabilities in TV and film are played by actors with disabilities.
Bustle

 

The Woke Leader

More Serena
Steph Curry: Serena showed grace and class at US Open; The referee speaks! “I’m fine with it,” says Carlos Ramos, basically; And yet: Other umpires are considering refusing to officiate her matches; Oh no they didn’t: Australian newspaper the Herald Sun, reprints the clearly racist Serena cartoon on its front page – along with other cartoons of famous people – under the headline, “Welcome To PC World.” What’s all the fuss? Click below for Claudia Rankine’s definitive 2015 profile, The Meaning of Serena Williams.
New York Times

Black women are tired
It’s a combination of things that make us so; a history of trauma baked into our bones, a sense that the world is crumbling anew, worse, that it is crumbling in ways that are personal to us. And, most professional black women exist in spaces for whom this pain is either invisible or too “controversial” to acknowledge. This is the theme of this heartfelt essay by Shontel Horne who recalls the fatigue that overtook her when she heard the news of the shooting death of worshippers at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC. She shares personal accounts of other women, our attempts to comfort each other via social media, and the growing body of research that shows the toll that very real aggressions, micro and macro, takes on women of color. “The constant stress and exhaustion of simply existing as a black woman can pose very real psychological and physiological responses that can threaten one’s mental and physical health,” she writes.
Pop Sugar

Full representation in the workforce linked to positive GDP
The US doesn’t allocate talent well, argues, Dan Kopf, which leaves an awful lot of economic benefit on the table. He cites analysis from Chicago and Stanford economists who show that improved access to skilled jobs for women and people of color accounts for around 25% of all economic growth from 1960 to 2010 – 80% of the gains from better education and 20% of the gains from less discriminatory employers. What would be at stake if employers drop barriers even further and access to education was equal? GDP per capita growth of 15-20%, say the researchers. What say you? asks Kopf.
Quartz

Quote

We sat in the open attic until the sky brightened from a sick orange to a clean white gray. We sat in the open attic until the water, which had milled like a boiling soup beneath us, receded inch by inch, back into the woods…. We were a pile of wet, cold branches, human debris in the middle of all of the rest of it.
Jesmyn Ward