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raceAhead: The Shrinking Middle Class

raceahead: the shrinking middle classraceahead: the shrinking middle class
If we want to ask deeper questions about the talent pipeline and opportunity, this is an important place to start.Andre Wagner for Fortune Magazine

And now, your week in review, in haiku



When your House is on

fire, you’ll remember the

ones who rescued you



Sometimes: God knocks on

your door so hard she cracks a

rib. Ruth’s lucky break



The sound of breaking

news drowns out all hope and sense:




On the other side

of The Wall, it will still be

Christmas. Holy night.



The shortest night does

lead to longer days: It all

gets brighter from here


Wishing you all a holiday season filled with love, renewal, and good vibes. RaceAhead is on hiatus until Wednesday, January 2, 2019.

On Point

Team Fortune examines the shrinking middle classPlease bookmark, read, and share this ensemble piece from Fortune, and expect more of this kind of reporting from us in the future. Nearly every person on staff touched some piece of this, and we brought in some extraordinary photographers to round out the perspectives. All respect to Fortune’s digital editor (and so much more) Andrew Nusca for taking the concept from drawing board to page. If we want to ask deeper questions about the talent pipeline and economic opportunity, this is an important place to start. The entire series is here; I recommend you start with this story about working-class single parents in NYC. Photos are by the great Andre Wagner, and it was written by Fortune’s Aric Jenkins, a young journalist who should be on your radar screen.Fortune

Quitting Wall Street to feed the homeless
Office workers eat plenty of takeout food during their long days at their desks. Some, in upscale professions like finance, order a lot of it. Wasting it seemed like a shame and a missed opportunity. At least that’s what Robert Lee thought, a one-time finance wunderkind on the rise. So he created Rescuing Leftover Cuisine, a non-profit which takes clean, uneaten food headed for dumpsters and diverts it to shelters and food support non-profits nearby. Last year, they saved nearly 800,000 pounds of food. Lee is the son of Korean immigrants who struggled to get by, but he diverted himself from a very promising career in finance to work on food insecurity full time. “They sacrificed everything in their whole lives to come to the U.S. for us to have the opportunities they didn’t have, so for me to squander that at a job where I felt I didn’t have an impact … would’ve been the real waste,” Lee said.

Spend some time with Celeste Ng
A novelist for a modern age, Ng uses her enormous platform to do more than bestow delight upon her legion of fans with her attention. She gets to work. She takes on trolls and other abusers, to raise up other authors and to support causes she cares about. Recently, she joined a group of writers auctioning naming rights to characters in upcoming works to raise money for a non-profit that reunites separated migrant families. Her novels have sold a combined 2.5 million units, and several of her works are being adapted for screens large and small. “Celeste has written a collection of modern women (and men) whose characters embody so many of the struggles and complexities of this time we are living in,” says Kerry Washington, who will be producing and starring in one adaptation for Hulu. 
New York Times

A graphic novel telling the stories of enslaved women resisters
Amba, Lilly, Sarah, and Abigail are not names most people know, but we should: They were part of a group who organized the New York Slave Revolt of 1712, a little-known incident that mostly credited men as leaders. Historian Rebecca Hall, a scholar-activist with both a J.D. and PhD, has spent much of her career uncovering stories of African and African American enslaved women, particularly those who led organized revolts. She’s co-created a graphic novel filled with extraordinary scenes of erased history, beautifully illustrated by comic artist Hugo Martinez. A successful Kickstarter campaign got the work picked up by the 37Ink imprint at auction.


The Woke Leader

The health of the many depend on the health of the few
I’ve been enjoying this ongoing series about public health by Boston University’s Dr. Sandro Galea, and not just because he occasionally sounds a bit like Mr. Spock. In this thoughtful piece, he recalls the fundamental message of Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, to remind us of the enduring message that’s buried in the heart of the classic tale. “Tiny Tim is in many ways a stand-in for the most vulnerable members of Scrooge’s society, those who did not share in the economic gains or improved living standards created by the Industrial Revolution,” he writes. For Ebenezer to be redeemed, Tim would have to live. But that’s not the fate of many of the most vulnerable members of society. Life expectancy in the U.S. has declined, and health outcomes are alarmingly variable by race, economic status, and education level. What will redeem us? 

I don’t know about you, but I’d like to visit Fergus Falls, Minn.
This is a schadendfreudian tale of a German journalist from Der Spiegel magazine who parachuted into a “real American town” for three weeks to explore the psyche of rural Americans in the aftermath of the Trump presidency. Written as a rebuttal by actual Fergus Falls residents, it tells a cautionary tale about clickbaity, stereotype-driven journalism (that also turns out to be riddled with errors of fact). But it ends up being a snapshot of the lives of the actual residents. It’s hard to write a story about regular people living their lives (unless Celeste Ng is on the case) so sometimes you need an enemy to kick you into gear. And this enemy appears to have been the real deal: In several instances supported by photos, Claas Relotius appeared to have just made stuff up. The twist: the things he made up would be totally credible to anyone who was prepared to believe that small towns are only made up of bible-toting rubes who will dress up in Western gear on any day ending in ‘y’.

Science: Play first, play hard, play now
This is the sage advice from Ed O’Brien, a professor at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. His lab conducted a series of surveys exploring people’s attitudes toward their preferred timing of leisure activities, particularly if they had other responsibilities looming, like an exam or deadline. People generally opt to finish work first, believing that they won’t enjoy themselves if they’ve got important work yet unfinished. Turns out, most people find leisure activities rewarding no matter when they’re scheduled. “Our findings suggest we may be over-worrying and over-working for future rewards that could be just as pleasurable in the present,” he says. “This is a problem, because, among other benefits, leisure improves our work,” he says. Professor O’Brien is clearly a very smart man. And he’s probably outside right now, romping with a golden retriever or something. What are you doing?


Christmas is a sad season. The phrase came to Charlie an instant after the alarm clock had waked him, and named for him an amorphous depression that had troubled him all the previous evening. The sky outside his window was black. He sat up in bed and pulled the light chain that hung in front of his nose. Christmas is a very sad day of the year, he thought. Of all the millions of people in New York, I am practically the only one who has to get up in the cold black of 6 a.m. on Christmas Day in the morning; I am practically the only one.
John Cheever