Puerto Rico’s Victory: raceAhead

July 25, 2019, 6:19 PM UTC

Today is July 25. It is also Puerto Rico Constitution Day. 

The holiday commemorates the day in 1952 that the Constitución del Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico officially went into effect. The timing was poignant even then: On the same day in 1898, the United States invaded and seized Puerto Rico as part of the Spanish-American War. 

July 25 has long been a special day of remembrance, the foundational event that makes a de-colonization effort necessary; and one that has never gotten the traction it deserves.

Now, it is also “RENUNCIÓ!” day.

Puerto Rico’s Gov. Ricardo Rosselló resigned last night in a recorded message posted on Facebook. It came after days of widespread protest sparked, in part, by a chat scandal which included his top aides, and that permanently damaged the public trust. 

In some ways, the resignation was a cheat. 

Rosselló’s government was ridden with scandal—six officials were arrested on criminal charges earlier this month. Island citizens had long suffered under a twelve-year recession, made worse by his administration’s alleged economic mismanagement, and woefully inadequate public services.

And the end was near: Puerto Rico’s House speaker, Carlos “Johnny” Mendez, told Nuevo Dia that his team believed the leaked texts—misogynist, homophobic, and dismissive of the loss of life after Hurricane Maria—also showed that crimes had been committed. As a result, impeachment proceedings had begun.

But today is a new day offering proof that “the people” can hold corrupt leaders accountable.

There’s terrific on-the-ground coverage of the news here, here, and in Spanish here. For first-person accounts, follow #RickySeFue.

Since it’s also Constitución Day, you might join the celebration from your desk by reviewing the document’s Article II, which is the Puerto Rican Carta de Derecho (Bill of Rights).  

It’s a quick but inspiring read.

Some of the language will be familiar, some a bit outdated. Some of it is particularly modern: Wiretapping is specifically prohibited, no person under age 16 may be incarcerated, and collective bargaining is guaranteed. 

But so much of it reflects the aspirations of the time it was written, a mid-century ideal of a society that could prosper while protecting clearly enumerated human rights: The right to work, to adequate living conditions, to social protections, to be educated, to special care for mothers and children, to be free from discrimination.

It was also a call for the dignity that comes from economic self-sufficiency, which is worth a special toast on Renunció Day:

“The rights set forth in this section are closely connected with the progressive development of the economy of the Commonwealth and require, for their full effectiveness, sufficient resources and an agricultural and industrial development not yet attained by the Puerto Rican community.”

On Point

Breaking: Boris Johnson is still racist Now that Boris Johnson is the British prime minister, journalistic “reminder” pieces—the wearier version of “explainers”—are being published to make sure people remember Johnson’s true self. The Guardian’s Kehinde Andrews was out of the gate early with this analysis of Johnson’s past transgressions (Piccaninnies? Really?) but more importantly, how Britain’s Conservative party has evolved. Over half its members—who are 97% white, and average age 57—believe Islam is "a general threat to the British way of life." The Tories’ problems with Islamophobia are so stark that Sayeeda Warsi, a former party chair, admitted she "could not encourage" Muslims to join the party. The Guardian

Bernie Sanders to NAACP: No to reparations Sanders appeared to have a good showing at the NAACP Convention’s presidential candidate forum on Wednesday. He was the sixth presidential candidate to appear. After moderator April Ryan asked him to explain his continued lack of support for reparations, he was quick to say he supports legislation to study the issue. But: “Here’s my fear. The Congress gives African American community $20,000 check, and say ‘Thank you, that took care of slavery, we don’t have to worry about anything more.’ I think that’s wrong, I want to build, rebuild the distressed communities in America.” The study should come in handy because based on this, I’m not sure he understands how reparations could work. Mediaite

Asian investors push for gender diversity on boards, leadership The pressure is coming from global fund managers and it’s working. Legal & General Investment Management, the U.K.'s biggest asset manager, has begun voting against 19 Japanese companies without female representation on their boards or within executive ranks; France’s AXA Investment Managers is having “one-on-one” meetings with companies in Japan, China, and India to push them on their inclusion plans. Click through for all the good work being done, but know there’s a long way to go: A report from Corporate Women Directors International on the world's 200 largest companies found that only 7% of Japanese firms and 4.8% of Chinese firms had women on their boards. Nikkei Asian Review

On Background

Research: Strict schools are contributing to the school to prison pipeline issue New research from Stephen B. Billings of the University of Colorado, Boulder, and David J. Deming of Harvard, studies how schools with high suspension rates have negative effects on all students, but primarily boys, and black and brown students of all genders. The negative impacts include lower grades and graduation rates. “Students who attend a school with a 10% higher number of suspensions are 10% more likely to be arrested and 12% more likely to be incarcerated as adults,” they find. An eye-opening read, h/t Brown University’s Matthew KraftNBER

Today’s essay: 'The Crane Wife' By now you may have stumbled upon this piece from The Cut that documents a truly bonkers lapse in oh-so-many judgments from a Harvard professor and the grifters he let nearly destroy his career, steal his house, and upend the life of his family. Let this essay, from the sublime novelist and teacher CJ Hauser, be a palate cleanser. It tells the story of how she reconstructed her life after she broke off her engagement with a man that we come to find out was never worthy of her. Her awakening is part confessional, part cautionary tale, and all solidarity. Here’s to the thirsty, the needy, the high maintenance women, and the people who love us. May we always find a way to drive our own boats. Enjoy. (Bring tissues.) The Paris Review

A famous slave trade vessel comes back to life Lancaster University lecturer and historian Nicholas Radburn worked with a team from Emory University to create a 3D model of an 18th century slaver ship called L’Aurore. According to reviewers, it is a digital depiction of the horror that 600 humans endured during the months they were imprisoned. Radburn is a co-editor of "Voyages: The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database," which documents some 36,000 trans-Atlantic trips. But drawings and other data don’t really tell the tale, he says. The video experience allows the viewer to board the ship, which set sail from La Rochelle in France in August 1784 to Africa and then on to what is now Haiti. “We hope it will provide teachers, museum curators, and the general public with a different way of thinking about the slave trade that goes beyond existing images,” says Radburn. University of Lancaster

Tamara El-Waylly helps produce raceAhead.


“Everyone I know is one step away from an economic catastrophe, an unthinkable daily pressure that is not relieved by ever-worsening economic forecasts. I’ve lost hope of ever feeling economically secure, and take every day as it comes. This is my ‘new normal.’”

Mónica Pérez Nevarez, Bayamón, Puerto Rico

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