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raceAhead: Congress Gets More Diverse

If you believe the data that suggests diverse organizations and teams are smarter, make better decisions, are more fiscally successful and bring more innovative products to market, than the prospects for better political governance in the U.S. look brighter today.

While there were plenty of highs and lows on a busy election night, the overall result is a growing field of representatives who, in some important ways, better reflect the faces and feelings of the American population.

Here’s a quick list:

  • Guam has elected its first female governor, it’s first openly gay lieutenant governor, and has a new women-led legislature.
  • Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia are Texas’ first Latinas elected to Congress, and the first women elected to a full term in Congress in more than 20 years. New York’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez became the youngest woman ever in Congress. New Mexico’s Michelle Luján Grisham became the first-ever Democratic Latina Governor.
  • Speaking of New Mexico, the state is poised to have the first U.S. House delegation comprised entirely of people of color.
  • Kansas voters elected Sharice David, the first openly gay person to represent the state, and now one of two Native American women ever elected to Congress. (The second is New Mexico’s Debra Haaland.)
  • Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib and Minnesota’s Ilhan Omar will become the first Muslim women in Congress. Omar is also the first Somali-American House member and a former refugee.
  • Colorado’s Jared Polis will become the country’s first openly elected gay governor .
  • Ayanna Pressley will become the first black woman to represent Massachusetts in Congress. Jahana Hayes, a former national teacher of the year, became the first black woman elected to the Congress in Connecticut. At 31, Lauren Underwood was the youngest black woman running for Congress this year. The former public health nurse won her Chicago race in a white, conservative district.
  • Antonio Delgado, a Harvard School graduate and Rhodes Scholar who had been called “a former big-city rapper” like it was an accusation, appears to have won his bid for New York’s 19th Congressional district.
  • As New York’s next attorney general, Letitia James became the first woman in the role, the first black person in the role and, get this, the first black woman to be elected to statewide office in New York.
  • Oh, and Massachusetts voters opted to keep protections for transgender and non-binary people in place, Florida eliminated the lifetime voting ban for some convicted felons, and Nebraska and Idaho voters chose to expand Medicaid coverage for low-income residents.

I’m barely scratching the surface.

I know that fans of Texas’ Beto O’Rourke or Florida’s Andrew Gillum were disappointed in last night’s results, and it looks like two races in Georgia will drag on for awhile: Both House candidate Lucy McBath, who lost her son to gun violence, and gubernatorial hopeful Stacey Abrams are still crunching the numbers.

In Abrams case, it’s a little more than crunching, of course.

But now that the midterms are over, it will soon be time for these elected officials to get to work. That’s a whole different ball game, isn’t it? Perhaps it’s time to sponsor a GoFundMe account to send bias-mitigation trainers to Capitol Hill and beyond, to make sure everyone’s on the same page.

You know what they say—diversity is being invited to the party, but inclusion is being asked to dance.

Cha, cha, cha.

On Point

Problems at the polls? Oh, we had a fewVice has put together a partial list of some of the polling problems reported around the country yesterday, including some alarming ones in Georgia, which included long lines and malfunctioning machines. The Washington Post finds that civil rights groups and government officials fielded thousands of reports of voting irregularities over the course of the day, much of which played out online. Which got me thinking. Shouldn’t the flip side of the “your elders died so you could vote,” appeal be: If your elders worked hard to prevent people from voting, shouldn’t you take it upon yourself to help fix that?Washington Post

AI can help find unregistered voters
While others correctly worry about voter suppression, data scientist Jeff Jonas believes that focusing on the voter rolls would be a valuable addition to a fraught conversation. Jonas has created software used in a multistate project called the Electronic Registration Information Center, that identifies eligible voters in each state. Since 2012, the group has found 26 million eligible but unregistered people and helped clean up some 10 million names of registered voters who have moved, died, or are on more than one list. The ERIC is a non-profit organization, brought together originally by the Pew Charitable Trust, and launched with the help of election officials from blue and red states.
New York Times

Residents of a wealthy enclave in Atlanta voted on whether to secede yesterday
Eagle’s Landing is a gated community of very expensive homes anchored by a stately country club, a neighborhood in the city of Stockbridge, Georgia. (That the fight scenes in Black Panther were filmed in a nearby quarry is just one of the odd elements of this tale.) Yesterday, the tiny enclave voted on a measure to make themselves their own city, removing their clout and tax dollars from the more modest, African American communities that comprise the rest of the Stockbridge metro area. “This would be a completely unprecedented move in Georgia—taking chunks of one municipality to produce another municipality—and one that would help further calcify the steep levels of segregation seen across the region,” reports Brentin Mock for CityLab. Oh, also, last year, Stockbridge elected its first black mayor and all-black city council.

The Trump administration is putting childhood obesity programs at risk
Michael Rosenbaum, a professor of pediatrics and medicine at Columbia University Medical Center, says that obesity numbers are going the wrong way in the US, up 34% to 40% in adults and from 17% to 19% in children between 2007 and 2016. In this opinion piece, he argues that legislation can and should play a role. The 2012 Stop Subsidizing Childhood Obesity Act, which would have routed federal subsidies away from advertisers who promoted unhealthy food and toward better nutrition programs for low-income schools has never come up for a vote, he says. But, “In addition to blocking pending legislation, the Trump administration is actively working to undermine effective children’s health programs that already exist.”


The Woke Leader

Happy Diwali, slackers
I’m sorry to inform you that you probably didn’t break the Guinness World Record for the number of clay oil lamps lit in celebration of the Festival of Lights known as Diwali this year. That achievement goes to the Indian city of Ayodhya, whose citizens lit 301,152 lamps to start the annual celebration, no doubt banishing the darkness long enough to delight any aliens who were passing by. They did not, however, delight the neighboring state of Haryana, who has held the record of 15,009 lamps lit since 2016. Game on.

An Instagram feed recalls pre-gentrified Austin
For years, archivist Alan Garcia has watched as the Latinx and black neighborhoods of his Austin, Texas home give way to luxury condos and upscale stores. Gone are the mama-and-papa businesses, cantinas, and a beautiful way of life. “In 2015, a family-owned piñata store was demolished to make way for a SXSW party, the location later becoming the home of a cat café,” notes Christina Noriega in Remezcla. But his Instagram feed, ATX Barrio Archive, is his attempt to document the city’s history and fading culture. “The thing that really bothers me is that there is no time to document what was there,” Garcia says. “There’s no interest in respecting what was there and what is being destroyed.”

He’s bringing civics back. So all the citizens will know how to act
Educator Eric Lieu says that Americans are illiterate in power—what it is, how it works and why some people have it and others don’t. His idea? Make civics “sexy,” meaning compelling as a personal concept, like it was during the Civil Rights Movement. This TED talk was filmed in the aftermath of Occupy Wall Street (but before the Movement for Black Lives) but he hits all the right notes for what can happen when we use fresh thinking to inspire all people to participate in shaping society.


May the festival of lights be the harbinger of joy and prosperity. As the holy occasion of Diwali is here and the atmosphere is filled with the spirit of mirth and love, here’s hoping this festival of beauty brings your way, bright sparkles of contentment, that stay with you through the days ahead.
Happy Diwali