raceAhead: Newly Elected Officials Are Poised to Make Change

January 11, 2019, 6:34 PM UTC
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez stands in front of a microphone, speaking to a crowd in Boston.
BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 01: New York Democratic congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaks at a rally calling on Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) to reject Judge Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court on October 1, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. Sen. Flake is scheduled to give a talk at the Forbes 30 under 30 event in Boston after recently calling for a one week pause in the confirmation process to give the FBI more time to investigate sexual assault allegations. (Photo by Scott Eisen/Getty Images)
Scott Eisen—Getty Images


Here’s your week in review, in haiku



Kevin Hart’s over

it! Done. Finito. Moving

on. It’s fine! Case closed.



Is Beto running

or just gumming? The Molar




Please delete these words

if they do not spark joy or

a Netflix series



To fly or not to

fly? To eat or not to eat?

Shut-down dilemmas



Imagine a world

of cherished black girls, and no

R. Kellys in sight


Have a peaceful and dilemma-free weekend.

On Point

A new commissioner in townAngela Conley became one of Hennepin County, Minnesota’s first black commissioners this week, and one of two black women ever elected to serve in the county’s 166-year history. Like many historic victories this cycle, she beat a longtime incumbent. Conley needed public assistance years ago, and now, she’s determined to make sure no one is left behind. “This seat belongs to the people who look like me and have traditionally been shut out of this room,” she told the Star Tribune. And in the baddest of badass moves, she swore her oath with her hand on Michelle Alexander’s book “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” instead of a bible.Star Tribune

Why Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez continues to draw fire
It is officially over the top: Conservatives have twisted themselves into pretzels to poke holes in the 29-year-old former bartender’s origin story, and worse. Writer Adam Serwer offers a helpful list of possible reasons why; legitimate ideological differences and plain old-fashion sexism are explored. But race plays a role in some of the drama, and the expertly-stoked anger against "undeserving minorities" masks a not so subtle belief that people of color take away from "real" Americans and then stick them with the tab. It’s what lies beneath that’s so toxic. “When people of color enter elite spaces, they make those with unearned advantages conscious of how they’ve been favored by the system,” he explains.
The Atlantic

The lead in Newark's drinking water is at an all-time high
The term used by experts was “jaw-dropping,” as the lead levels in the city’s water supply hit the highest level in 17 years. Newark’s water department is poised to be sanctioned by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection; the city has already been facing a lawsuit from the National Resources Defense Council for its ongoing problems with the water. The federal standard for lead in the water supply is 15 parts per billion. The highest levels detected in the recent Newark tests averaged 47.5 parts per billion.
New Jersey.com

The first non-Native American assailant in Oklahoma has been convicted by Tribal authorities
It’s a big deal. Due to long-time restrictions in the Violence Against Women Act, tribal authorities were barred from arresting or prosecuting a non-Native person for crimes committed on tribal land. Instead, they would be forced to find a neighboring agency to take the case. Justice, inevitably, denied. American Indian and Alaska Native women are five times as likely to be victims of domestic violence as white women, and reports indicate that non-Indians commit the vast majority (96%) of sexual violence against Native women. But thanks to important recent amendments to the VAWA, today in Oklahoma, Antonio Martinez-Juarez is surprised to find himself sitting in a Muscogee (Creek) Nation jail for domestic violence against a Tribal member.
News on 6


The Woke Leader

When you’re born an American problem
Susan Harness was just a little girl, a little American Indian girl, when she was taken away from her mother and given to a white family to raise. She was part of the “Indian Problem” as defined by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and forced assimilation was the proposed solution. But for Harness and the many thousands of other adoptees—including three of her siblings from whom she was separated—it was a path to permanent alienation. “I felt stupid, inept and ‘less than’ in the white world; I felt shame,” she writes in this essay about her memoir Bitterroot: A Salish Memoir of Transracial Adoption. And the experience of forced removal has cemented ugly stereotypes, says the author and cultural anthropologist. "We are remembered for not being white enough… We are remembered for being poor and costing the government too much money… We are remembered for being too broken to raise our own children.”
High Country News

A new report shows that environmental organizations are falling short of their diversity goals
In some cases, they’ve lost ground. The second annual "Transparency Report Card", from independent advocacy campaign Green 2.0, was released this week, and the results were mixed. While the representation of women increased somewhat, racial diversity declined among full-time staff, decreased slightly among board members, but grew from 14% to 21% among senior staff, reports The Chronicle of Philanthropy. But we're not actually sure what's happening because not all environmental groups share their data. “This is a solvable problem. In the 21st century, we don’t have a supply problem, we have a demand problem," says the Green 2.0 founder Robert Raben. "It is inconceivable to me that some key environmental organizations refuse to talk about the subject, and by talk about the subject in this case I mean report their data." 
Chronicle of Philanthropy

A skee-wee “screech” hits all the wrong notes
A white Washington Post reporter was live-tweeting Sen. Kamala Harris’s book tour yesterday, when she failed to recognize the signature sound coming from the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority sisters in the room, who greeted the Senator with the skee-wee call. “Member of her Howard [University] sorority are in the room, and screeched when she mentioned her time there. Did not expect to hear screeches here.” So, she was taken to Twitter school and later apologized. The AKA Sorority, Inc was founded at Howard and is a 100-year-old service organization, with a network that is both powerful and beloved. The skee-wee call has been used since 1941 and has been registered as a sensory trademark since 2017. Shontavia Johnson, a lawyer and Associate VP for Academic Partnerships and Innovation at Clemson University, breaks down the trademark news here, more history below.


It's really important, I think, because it makes us more aware of how we treat each other, of how we value or devalue each other, and it makes us own it. It holds white supremacy accountable, but also makes us accountable because it demands we see how we've internalized what white supremacy has taught us about our self-worth and how we act on each other in ways that reflect what we've been taught.
Jesmyn Ward

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