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raceAhead: On the Kroger Shooting, Pipe Bombs, and Civil Rights Under Attack

We are living in terrifying and exhausting times.

Example one: A man police believed to be responsible for a deadly shooting in a Louisville, Kentucky-area Kroger supermarket on Wednesday is in custody.

According to the arrest citation, Gregory Bush, 51, “pulled a pistol from his waistband and shot (a man) in the rear of the head and again multiple times as he lay on the floor.” The man, Maurice Stallard, was the father of Kellie Watson, who works for the city as the mayor’s chief racial equity officer. He’d been shopping for poster board with his 12-year-old grandson.

Later, in a confrontation with an armed bystander in the parking lot, Bush said: “Don’t shoot me. I won’t shoot you. Whites don’t shoot whites.” He then drove away.

Example two: Also on Wednesday, Bloomberg Law (registration required) reported that the Justice Department had informed the U.S. Supreme Court that businesses can discriminate against workers based on their gender identity without violating federal law; specifically that current civil rights protections barring sex discrimination on the job do not cover transgender people.

Example three: Suspicious packages containing what appeared to be pipe bombs shocked the nation and dominated the news cycle as they began appearing at the offices of critics of President Trump and CNN. Among the mail bombing targets, so far, are former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former president Barack Obama, former CIA director John Brennan, current billionaire George Soros, former attorney general Eric Holder, Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., actor Robert De Niro, and former vice president Joe Biden

All this was just yesterday.

We are all under an extraordinary amount of stress. But if my conversations with raceAhead readers are any indication, people worried about equity and inclusion are feeling these times particularly acutely, worried about renewed threats to their lives and livelihoods or those of others with whom they’re allied. I spoke with an exceptional partner-track professional recently, a Latin American immigrant with an enviable set of credentials, who has been unable to reassure her colleagues and direct reports that they are safe and welcome in a country that has become openly hostile to their very existence. They know they are not, and want to leave the U.S. and she sounded exhausted.

There are no easy answers except to keep doing the work and fanning the flames of courage when you find it, particularly in public leadership. (How long does it take to put together an open letter or an amicus brief? Asking for an underrepresented community.)

But it also seems like a good reminder to both check out, and check in.

First, check out of the fray if you can, and take care of yourself in whatever way works for you. (Saying ‘no’ to things is a good start, I’m told.) Then when you can, check in with the people around you.

For that, the best advice I’ve ever gotten comes from David Kyuman Kim, a professor of religious studies and American studies, and co-founder of Love Driven Politics, a collective of academics, artists, spiritual leaders, and other bold souls who are dedicated to exploring loving and humane responses to the anger, divisiveness, and cynicism in American politics.

When things are difficult, he says, “We have a responsibility to draw our attention to co-workers, to community members and ask a simple question—‘how are you doing?’” he says. “And then listen, really listen, as if you don’t already know the answer.”

On Point

Black and Latinx students are underrepresented at premiere public universitiesA 2018 Hechinger Report analysis finds that more than a third of U.S. states have at least a 10- point gap, defined by race, between high school graduates in a state and admission into a prestige public school in the same state. These universities, they argue are the best the public education system has to offer, a high-quality and affordable option for state residents. “But when it comes to equitably serving the state’s residents, whose taxes fund these top-flight universities, many fall far short of their stated missions,” they write. Click through for an interactive map to see how your state stacks up.Hechingerreport

Should media publish mugshots?
It’s not an insignificant question, particularly for local papers like the Times of Northwest Indiana, which gets a much-needed influx of ad revenue from the mugshot galleries that accompany its crime reporting. But the problem, explains Columbia Journalism Review, is that there is no followup to these stories, and in the many cases where charges are dropped, or worse, police make a mistake, the enduring images can ruin lives. “[S]ome media ethics specialists argue that newsrooms should contextualize such images for readers, articulate the public service value of disseminating them, and pursue the stories of their subjects after the photos are taken,” says Corey Hutchins.

American kids need to get moving
Data published by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association and the Aspen Institute find that kids in the U.S. ages 6-12 are still not physically active enough. Only some 23.9% of kids participate in a high-calorie-burning sport, and kids from low-income households were half as likely to play team sports as those coming from households earning $100,000 or more. Part of the problem is a woeful lack of trained, competent coaches, but a big issue is the hyper-competitiveness that’s crept into organized sports for kids. Some athletes can afford the expensive gear and to travel to play other teams; everyone else is left behind. “If we’re really looking at being a more inclusive and healthier society, we should probably get these kids playing together more out on the field—everybody, not just certain populations that can afford it,” one expert tells The Washington Post.
Washington Post



The Woke Leader

How two male cheerleaders broke the glass ceiling at the NFL
This is a fascinating and often delightful story, one that explores the history of professional cheerleading—once an all-male activity—while pointing out the current elephant in the room. “The NFL, as an organization, continues to fumble urgent conversations around player protests and domestic violence, not to mention cranial health,” points out Karen Valby. “And a string of high-profile class-action lawsuits over the past five years has laid bare how positively uncheerful a cheerleader’s life can be.” But dancers gotta dance, and it’s one of the biggest stages in the world.  If you don’t have six whole minutes for this read, enjoy the photos.
Fast Company

Here’s how the tech wealthy think about philanthropy
Wealthy donors from the tech sector bring a lot of cash, optimism, and the desire to transform entire sectors in a quest for global impact. But, despite the wattage from big-time donors like Bill and Melinda Gates and the (Chan) Zuckerbergs, the tech class as a whole isn’t unusually generous, this analysis finds. But for the outliers, there is a mix of styles in play, like grandiose big swings—into space, life-extension, and the eradication of all disease—while others focus closer to home, on communities and people. Author Tracy Kidder collected the way tech philanthropists tooted their own horns, selling innovations that are“universal,” “futuristic in vision,” “disruptive at their core,” “fundamentally game-changing,” and able to “revolutionize every aspect of everybody’s life.” But is all this awesomeness actually working?
Philanthropy Roundtable

What words were first used the year you were born?
Merriam-Webster, the dictionary with true social media savvy, has created a function called “Time-Traveler,” which lets you find out when words were first used in print, which is a fascinating way to think about the culture we were born into. Me? Bait and switch, business class, fender bender, miniskirt, Oval Office, ramen, soft core(!), and undercapitalized. Explains a lot.


I am a person of color, working-class, born to a single mother, but I stand before you tonight an artist, an actress and a sister and a daughter, and I believe that it is important to name the multiple parts of my identity because I am not just one thing, and neither are you.
Laverne Cox