raceAhead: Twitter’s Ongoing Diversity Problem

January 18, 2019, 6:17 PM UTC

Here’s your week in review, in haiku.



Who will save the world?

Nancy P., A-O-C, Prez-

for-life, Cardi B?



The cries grew stronger.

Mitch better have my money!”

Through dark, empty halls.



Where are the children

fleeing, wretched, tempest-tost?

How many are lost?



Where were you when you

first learned the word “suborn”? We

are all lawyers now.



A March, at bottom,

will always be the language

Of the unheard. Listen!


Have a righteous long weekend. RaceAhead returns on January 22.

On Point

Facebook manager quits, calls out colleagues who harassed her about diversitySophie Alpert was happy running the open-source project for Facebook called React, but announced last week that she would be leaving the company citing harassment for her views on diversity. Alpert was criticized after commenting that the Facebook board has too many white men on the company’s internal social network. Then, on Blind, an anonymous workplace app, Alpert was confronted with transphobic messages and told that she should be fired. Alpert, who is transgender, wrote about her reason for leaving in a Facebook post. "I want to spend my time at a place willing to push further on diversity and inclusion,” she wrote. “One where it's not OK to write on Workplace that white privilege doesn't exist.”CNBC

Study: Black and brown women are the most abused demographic on Twitter
The study comes from Amnesty International, and it's called the Troll Patrol, a fascinating alliance of human rights researchers, tech experts, online volunteers, and cutting edge AI. The result is a crowd-sourced database charting the online harassment of women. The project surveyed millions of tweets received by journalists and women in politics in the U.S. and U.K. in 2017. Women of color, (black, Asian, Latinx and mixed-race) were 34% more likely to be mentioned in abusive tweets than white women; of that cohort, black women were 84% more likely to be targeted than white women. 
Amnesty International

Mr. Johnson goes to Washington
Chuck Johnson, a self-described “investigative journalist” mostly known for his support of white supremacy, conspiracy theories, and Holocaust denialists, met with two Congressmen yesterday to discuss DNA. He claimed to be advocating for genomic research, but had posted on Facebook that  Muslims are "genetically different in their propensity for violence or rape" and shared stories claiming that people of African descent "possessed a 'violence' gene.” Both Reps. Andy Harris of Maryland and Phil Roe of Tennessee were unaware of Johnson’s affiliations. Later, when asked, both condemned white supremacy and anti-Semitism.
NBC News

We need to talk about the Women’s March
Leave it to Rebecca Traister to help put the painful allegations of anti-Semitism against Tamika Mallory, one of the four national co-chairs of the now-annual national march, into perspective. (It’s scheduled this year on January 19, in Washington, D.C.) Traister recaps the charges, which are complicated and involve Mallory’s relationship with Louis Farrakhan. But Traister does a masterful job explaining that the movement is doing the necessary work of processing the fights and frictions that come up when a diverse group of people come together, particularly if white, heteronormative affluence is not centered. The March “has been built around the expression of disagreements and provocative arguments about the biases, inequalities, and resentments that wind up getting replicated in any progressive coalition,” she writes. Her take: Show up, keep arguing and keep marching.
The Cut


The Woke Leader

“I believe in the physical power of poetry, of language"
Poet and linguist Natalie Diaz, a 2018 MacArthur Foundation fellow, who identifies an Indigenous, Latinx and queer woman, says she hopes her work can help others find a way to acknowledge the pain of their erasure, but also, “the way we deserve love.” Her art was formed on the Reservation (Mojave), a place which was both troubled, yet filled with a communal love and culture that makes it possible to survive an often painful world. In one collection, When My Brother Was an Aztec, she talks about her real brother and the “brother” who exists on the page, an imagined figure who was strong enough to bear the weight of her feelings. “How do you love and sometimes unlove a family member who’s an addict?” she asks in this short, but utterly inspiring video.
MacArthur Foundation

A descendant of a large-scale enslaver asks: What is my duty now?
John Miller, a Pittsburgh-based writer was saddened but not surprised to learn via Ancestry.com that his great-great-great-grandfather, a Texas farmer named Augustus Foscue, had prospered by enslaving 41 people. Miller struggled to write about how this discovery affected his family. “My mistake, typical of white Americans, was treating slavery as if it were a mystery buried in the past,” he writes. Now that the family knew, he felt that he needed to do more. “Confession was not atonement,” he writes. Turns out, there is a small but growing number of descendants of slaveholders who are attempting to track down the descendants of the enslaved for the purpose of making reparations. Coming to the Table, a non-profit dedicated to bringing these communities together, even has a guide. What did Miller decide? Click through.
America Magazine

Making a different case for diversity in tech
Todd L. Pittinsky, a professor of technology and society at Stony Brook University and a senior lecturer at Harvard, points to an affirmative case for diversity that moves past typical “business case for…” language. For starters, diversity makes people feel good. “Put simply, the negative emotions that tend to go along with bias — fear, anger, contempt, and the like — are damaging,” he says. Diversity done right, which can elicit feelings of admiration, comfort and kinship, not to mention a sense of novelty and adventure, can drive innovation. “Replace those [negative] feelings with positive emotions and we all will benefit,” he says. 


Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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