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Trump’s Tweets Trigger a Conversation About Racism: raceAhead

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So, I lied to you.

I said you could meet me in Aspen for our amazing Brainstorm Tech conference which is kicking off today. But as things would have it, my mother needed emergency surgery, so she’s in the hospital and I’m writing from her bedside in South Florida, instead. She says hello to you all, which is a hopeful sign.

So, a slightly shorter, later, and more frantic newsletter today. 

All that said, I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least address President Trump’s remarks on his Sunday morning Twitter stream. While we were waiting for the still unexecuted (?) deportation raids to begin, instead, we got this:

“So interesting to see ‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world,” Trump wrote on Twitter, “now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run. Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how.... .it is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!”

There has been a lot of commentary on the subject, not to mention a trending hashtag: #RacistInChief.

Simply put, asking people to “love us or leave us” and  “go back to their ‘shithole countries,’” or some such, is a tried and true racist trope, always. Of the four Congresswomen in question, Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna S. Pressley, only one was born outside of the U.S., not that it matters.

I’ll let you sort out the politics because they’re still unfolding. To put it mildly.

But a tweet caught my eye that I thought framed the issue clearly and with rigor.

Ibram X. Kendi is an extraordinary author, a professor at American University and the director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University. He won the National Book Award for his outstanding book Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas In America. He knows racism. He knows history. He’s got a clear vision. So, his tweets get my attention.

This time, it was also a preview. His upcoming book is called How to Be An Antiracistwhich promises to offer a much needed corrective to the idea that declaring oneself not-a-racist is not enough to solve the mess we’re in.

“As we rightly call the POTUS racist for attacking four Congresswomen of color this morning, we should not be calling ourselves “not-racist” as Trump calls himself,” he tweeted. “If we don’t want to be like the #RacistInChief, then we should be striving to be antiracist.”

It was the start of a good conversation and a productive idea. 

“The beauty of anti-racism is that you don't have to pretend to be free of racism to be an anti-racist,” tweeted writer Ijeoma Oluo in response. “Anti-racism is the commitment to fight racism wherever you find it, including in yourself. And it's the only way forward.”

On Point

Breaking: Uber sets diversity and inclusion goals  The company published its third diversity and inclusion report and finally set some specific goals. They’ve had some progress; the company is now 9.3% black and 8.3% Latinx compared to just 8.1% black and 6.1% Latinx last year. But, those numbers are slightly misleading. Uber’s tech team is just 3.6% black, 4.4% Latinx and 2.7% multi-racial, and they’re almost entirely missing from leadership positions. Non-Asian people of color are way overrepresented in support roles, like customer service and leasing specialists. In fact, there are nearly twice as many white men as there are black and Latinx people, hence this goal: Uber aims to increase the percentage of underrepresented employees at levels L4 and higher to 14% in the next three years. Techcrunch

Chanel hires its first diversity and inclusion officer  Inclusion is the new black at the luxury brands these days. (The joke was right there, in plain sight. I’m sorry.) It’s a brand new role and will be filled by Fiona Pargeter, who was previously Head of Diversity & Inclusion for Swiss Bank UBS across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Hypebeast has a good list of the other brands who have gotten on board, or who have needed to. You may remember Gucci’s blackface sweater and Prada’s blackface keychains, but I’d missed the backlash against fashion brand Off-White ™ after they published images on social media that showed one of its company parties to be made up almost entirely of white employees. Lol.  Hypebeast

Missy Elliott is back, y’all  Ashley C. Ford is a beautiful and insightful writer, and when she is given a subject as expansive as Melissa Arnette Elliott, better known as Missy, then the meeting of the minds is sublime. The multiple-Grammy award winning singer-rapper-producer is about to be back with new music, long-awaited, but she came prepared to talk about her long and unlikely journey to stardom. Yes, it’s a tough one. The physical abuse her mother experienced, the sexual abuse she experienced, not enough money, no connections, big talent, “too fat for the army” — but the themes sound fresh in this conversation. One of many precious tidbits: What she did with her first big check. “I didn’t even buy myself a house first. I bought my mother a house. Put a Bible in the soil and built it from the ground up.”  Marie Claire

On Background

The Smithsonian has asked to preserve the artwork of migrant children held in detention at the border  The drawings are disturbing, and some show pictures of sad faces behind bars. “The museum has a long commitment to telling the complex and complicated history of the United States and to documenting that history as it unfolds,” the museum shared in a statement to CNN. Renee Romano, a history professor at Oberlin College, ticked through the times the U.S. government separated children or dehumanized families, including enslavement, Native Americans and Japanese in internment camps. “I think it’s an amazing stance, honestly, by the Smithsonian, and a brave stance, to say that this is historically significant,” she said. CNN

The missing letter in D&I Keesha Jean-Baptiste, the Senior Vice President o, talent engagement and inclusion at the 4A’s agency, draws attention to an essential missing element in the D&I conversation in the advertising world: Equity. It’s equal access and fairness, yes but it’s also about making a plan. “Equity is focused, intentional correction of imbalances,” she says, specifically around race.“By acknowledging the importance of gender diversity over racial diversity, we’ve actually widened the inequity between white women and women of color and between white men and all people of color.” She provides a blueprint to guide your thinking, but this caught my eye: Add ‘cultural competence’ to your job descriptions. “We need to start thinking of cross-cultural competence as a critical ability, something as teachable and necessary as presentation skills,” she says.  Ad Week

Quote

“How and why did racist ideas become, literally, our common sense — in which racist ideas make sense to us, and antiracist ideas seem radical, extreme, and completely nonsensical and illogical?”

Ibram X. Kendi