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raceAhead: Tone-Deaf In Davos

January 24, 2019, 8:42 PM UTC

I’ve been following the activities at World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland from my own wintry lair in the Midwest, so I thought I’d flag a couple of things for you.

First of all, I walked a little taller after reading my colleague Claire Zillman’s most recent in situ report in which she called out some glaring inconsistencies in the annual event. She also asked some critical questions.

The annual meeting of business and world leaders is noble in its mission of trying to solve some of Earth’s biggest problems, but the meeting itself and the surrounding circus are, at times, guilty of tone-deafness that can border on hypocrisy. For instance, WEF is peddling a “Globalization 4.0” theme amid protectionist trade wars and the rise of populist regimes. It fosters talk of combating climate change—with input from leaders who arrive by private jet. And on Tuesday, Joseph Lubin, founder of blockchain software technology company Consensys, wore a “Women in Blockchain” t-shirt to speak on a Consensys-sponsored blockchain panel with…no women.

More here on how she challenged the panelists to explain how they planned to address the blockchain tech’s—”with its claims of vast, world-changing potential”—obvious lack of diversity.

You can also find Zillman’s assessment of the gender pay gap, and why companies struggle with it here.

I’ll end with this wonderful moment of courage and clarity, from sixteen-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg, who has galvanized students around the world to hold their leaders accountable through activism and “school strikes for climate,” which occur every Friday.

With Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff as her wingperson, she stood and addressed a crowd as part of a panel with Bono, Christiana Figueres, Jane Goodall, and Kengo Sakurada.

“Some people say the climate crisis is something that we will have created, but that’s not true,” she began. “Because if everyone is guilty, than no one is to blame. And someone is to blame. Some people, some companies, some decision-makers, in particular, have known exactly what priceless values they have been sacrificing to continue making unimaginable amounts of money. And I think many of you here today belong to that group of people.”

On Point

Department of Labor: Oracle owes $400 million to women and employees of colorA new DoL audit shows that the company “continued to systemically discriminate against employees and applicants based on gender and race,” and steered certain applicants to jobs at lower positions, while showing extreme preference for visa-holding immigrants. The report is a result of a random 2014 audit which identified the behavior. The company uses a variety of tactics, including using prior salary histories to determining starting pay, and favoring visa-holding recent graduates who are paid less than their native born counterparts. The takeaway: “Once employed, women, blacks, and Asians are systematically underpaid relative to their peers.”Bloomberg Law

Sheila Jackson Lee steps down from two posts amid allegations she fired an aide for reporting a sexual assault
Rep. Lee, a Democrat from Texas, is stepping down from her role as chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation and chair of a House Judiciary subcommittee, after a lawsuit brought by a former aide who worked in her congressional office was fired after she alleged she was assaulted by a supervisor and wanted to pursue legal action. In addition to being asked to step aside from key roles, the accusation is causing problems with advocacy groups and other Democrats, who were prepared to ask her to step down from the Judiciary Committee’s crime, terrorism, homeland security, and investigations subcommittee.
New York Times

The new Gawker’s only two reporters quit
Maya Kosoff and Anna Breslaw, the first two hires Gawker tapped to resurrect the brand under the Bustle Digital Group, resigned abruptly citing issues with recently-named editorial director Carson Griffith. Among the issues were her casually racist and offensive tweets that were re-published by Splinter, inappropriate office emails, and Griffith’s perceived insensitivity to issues of diversity and inclusion.
The Daily Beast

Spike Lee credits #OscarsSoWhite for his Best Director Oscar nod
It’s a wonderful and honest boost for April Reign, the woman behind the hashtag that put Hollywood power brokers on the hot seat. “Well, let’s be honest. This would have not happened if there was not the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite,” says Lee. “What that campaign did, it made the Academy understand that they had to diversify their membership.” As a result, Moonlight had a shot. “If you want to go back to 1989, that membership was not feeling Do the Right Thing.”



The Woke Leader

Stop blaming single black mothers
London-based PhD researcher (and single mother) Miranda Armstrong explores the long-standing notion that female-led black households produce children inclined to criminal behavior. Her essay is a response to reporting on a recent murder committed by an 18-year-old black teen. The complaints are common: Black single mother households disproportionately take public resources, then fail to provide discipline, nurturing, and critical character-building parenting. Besides being damaging, these charges are often untrue, says Miranda. “Among the sons of single mothers I met during my study were diligent university students, ambitious graduates, and talented men pursuing creative vocations,” she writes. "Moral panics about Black single mother households have eclipsed attention to lived experiences within these family units.”
Media Diversified

Inside James Baldwin’s FBI files
Baldwin has correctly emerged as a seminal thinker in today’s civil rights movement, particularly around criminal justice and the Movement for Black Lives. “He is a kind of queer father to those of us coming of age in the post-post-civil rights era, a symbol of the intersection of black art and black activism, and evidence that one can be confronted by years of state violence and still survive,” explains Charles Stephens, in this review of a new book by William J. Maxwell called James Baldwin: The FBI File. Baldwin first came under FBI scrutiny in 1961, after he spoke at an African liberation event with an undercover agent in the audience. What followed were years of pursuit, yielding nothing. “The files read less as boring, bureaucratic, lifeless memos, and more as obsessive and paranoid recordings by Hoover and his underlings,” he says. And that is what is so instructive.

The wee drum majorettes of Cape Town
They’re known as “drummies,” young marching and dancing girls, who have been performing on the streets of Cape Town, South Africa, since the 1970s. If they’re lucky, they get tapped to be part of a squad starting in the first grade. But for the young drum majorettes of Dr Van Der Ross primary school, located in one of the more dangerous areas of  Cape Town, the drummies are thriving and winning under some very difficult circumstances. Click through for a great photo essay.
The Guardian


I sincerely hope I shall always be a credit to my race and to the motion picture industry.
Hattie McDaniel, the first black Academy Award Winner, 1939