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What Would Help Puerto Rico?: raceAhead

August 28, 2019, 6:51 PM UTC

Hurricane Dorian is set to hit Puerto Rico’s leeward side later today, aiming to bring heavy rains and wind to the areas hardest hit by Hurricane Maria in 2017. 

While the storm is not as strong as Maria, it will be hitting an area that’s still blue-tarped, scarred, and vulnerable, with insufficient power and fragile infrastructure. “There’s already so much damage on the ground from (Maria) that this isn’t going to take a lot to make a significant amount of damage, especially flooding,” Ken Graham, the director of the National Hurricane Center told CNN.

The island is also bracing for a storm of tweets from President Donald Trump, who has been widely criticized for an inadequate federal response after the devastation of Maria. They’ve already begun. 

“Wow! Yet another big storm heading to Puerto Rico. Will it ever end?” the president wrote on Twitter yesterday. “Congress approved 92 Billion Dollars for Puerto Rico last year, an all time record of its kind for ‘anywhere.’”

And then this today:

“We are tracking closely tropical storm Dorian as it heads, as usual, to Puerto Rico. FEMA and all others are ready, and will do a great job. When they do, let them know it, and give them a big Thank You—Not like last time. That includes from the incompetent Mayor of San Juan!” he tweeted.

While the president repeatedly gives himself high marks for federal generosity after the deadly storm, he’s completely wrong. According to federal data, some $42.7 billion was allocated for Puerto Rican disaster relief, and only $13.8 billion has reached the island. 

The $92 billion number he refers is closer to the total number allocated for disaster funding for all the U.S. states and territories. 

Even if you’re willing to overlook the math, Puerto Ricans don’t share his rosy self-assessment. 

An in-depth survey taken last year by The Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation found that 80% of Puerto Rican respondents say the president did a “fair or poor” job in responding to Hurricane Maria. Some 54% believe that the federal response to the storm was worse for the island than it was for affected mainland areas, and 61% believe that they would have had a better experience if Puerto Rico was a state. 

So, in addition to getting our thoughts and prayers ready, it might be worth getting some political slogans ready, too. 

It took Hurricane Maria to alert nearly half of U.S. mainlanders that Puerto Ricans are also American citizens, but second-class ones at best. They can serve or be drafted into the military and pay federal payroll taxes, but receive fewer benefits, can’t vote in federal elections, and have no representation in Congress.  

Puerto Ricans have been divided on the benefits of full statehood for decades. But in recent years, the number in favor has been steadily increasing, and it appears a majority may now approve. They also seem prepared to be heard: They’ve recently forced a dramatic restructuring of their government through massive public protests.

Last summer, Puerto Rico’s House representative-in-name-only, Jenniffer González-Colón, filed legislation that would transition the territory into the nation’s 51st state by 2021. She called it a civil rights issue.  

Rep. José E. Serrano (D-N.Y.), one of the 14 Democrats and 21 Republicans who co-sponsored the bill, said that “Puerto Rico is in a colonial relationship with the United States, look at what happened after Hurricane Maria. . . they are an afterthought.”

So now the president is facing both a tropical and topical storm.

Trump remains “an absolute no,” on the subject of Puerto Rican statehood, a position that until now, seems to have few political implications for him. But it’s not hard to imagine a scenario where this revolú becomes an actual revolución.

On Point

Asylum-seekers sent to this border town are targeted by criminals As part of the (ironically-named) Migrant Protection Protocols, migrants are sent to wait at various cities along the Mexican border until they can make their case to an immigration judge. One such border town is Nuevo Laredo, where the 4,500 asylum-seekers have become easy targets for cartels. It’s a place, Cesar Antunes tells NPR, that “is more dangerous than San Pedro Sula, Honduras," the city “where [he] fled from." There are reports of ambushes, blackmail, and kidnappings—such as the disappearance of Aaron Mendez, a pastor who ran a shelter for migrants, taken for apparently refusing to hand them over to extortionists. NPR

The unexpected rise of Coco Gauff The 15-year-old tennis star signed on with New Balance less than a year ago, who were banking on the potential she showed as a junior player. But her strong showing at Wimbledon in July and her victorious outing at the U.S. Open is making her sponsors quite happy. "We were thrilled with the results," Evan Zeder, the marketing manager of the tennis division at New Balance, told The Undefeated. "It happened just a lot earlier than we expected." In addition to New Balance, she has marketing deals with HEAD tennis and newly woke Barilla pasta. The Undefeated

Strategies for more inclusive marketing Lisa Sherman, the president and CEO of the Ad Council, says that consumers aren’t going to fall for half-hearted attempts at diversity in marketing and advertising images anymore. She makes the business case up front and cites some examples of brands getting it right. (“First Shave” by Gillette is one of raceAhead’s favorites.) The key moving forward, she says, is intersectional thinking, something few people who are stuck in "check-the-box" diversity strategies have mastered. AdWeek

Today: Ava DuVernay shares a film that is screened only at the NMAAHC The film, August 28, A Day In The Life Of A People is on permanent loop at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African-American History and Culture. But today, August 28, the filmmaker is making it available for viewing at her own website. The film shows six major events that impacted black people and that all fell on the same date in history. “Lupita, Regina, Don, David, Gugu, Angela, Andre, Michael, Glynn + a tremendous crew worked with me to create AUGUST 28 for @NMAAHC,” she tweeted. "For today only, you can watch the full film outside of the museum exhibit… August 28 is a day to remember. Always. xo."

On Background

How to get diversity right I was lucky enough to spend 30 soul-affirming minutes with Christopher Tkacyzk, the Chief Content Officer for Great Place to Work. He’s a podcasting natural and a former Fortune colleague, so the man knows how to ask the smart questions. We dished about who’s getting race right in corporate life (the risk-takers), the hot mess that Black History Month was, and the where we were the day that same-sex marriage rights were affirmed. (A shout of joy from Fortune offices!) But mostly we talked about what it means to be working for a world where everyone has a place. I usually don’t like the sound of my own voice, but this conversation meant a lot to me. Thanks for including me, Christopher, and for always doing the work. Great Place To Work Podcast

A ‘refuge’ for India’s exiled widows Some 40 million widows are "violently purged from their homes" yearly, according to the New York Times. In this feature, these women recount how, at the hands of the families of their deceased husbands, they’ve been subjected to abuse, forced starvation, and other horrors. But, as the mistreatment of widows gains more attention, shelters for these women have emerged. The facilities—some run by the government, others by non-profits—offer pensions, training, medical treatment, and other forms of help. One such facility is in Vrindavan, a historic city where widows have gathered since the sixteenth century, and where a number of shelters have been opened. But while the shelters signify a change, there’s still a long way to go. As Vinita Verma, a social worker, told the New York Times, there’s a "slow erosion of the conditioning" that made these women feel "unworthy of love." New York Times

Those who call the (now burning) Amazon home The Waiapi are an indigenous tribe that live in isolation deep within Brazil’s Amazon, a rainforest they consider, CNN says, to be “the lungs of the world.” As fires burn part of the rainforest in which they reside, the Waiapi also face being removed from their land. Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro—who is already criticized for his deforestation policies—wants to move the tribe from their legal territory to grant miners an opportunity to “exploit dormant deposits of copper, iron, and gold near their homes.” Such a move threatens not only the tribe’s future but the entire planet, says the Chief, Ajareaty Waiapi."We do not think about today, we think about the future," she told CNN. "Our concern is that if the forest is gone, people will also end.” CNN

Tamara El-Waylly helps write and produce raceAhead.

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"On Nov. 9, I turned off the news. Even trusted sites, like the New York Times, had to go dark—because it wasn’t just 'fake news' that had duped me, it was 'real news' too. I returned to my dog-eared James Baldwin, flashlight in hand, as the kids slept. I underlined new passages, wrote fresh margin notes atop fading ones. My mind made space for a thing called quiet. My habits returned to what Danielle Allen calls ‘slow reading.’ Fellow artists, let’s reject the rhetoric and infrastructure of ‘consumer content.’ Let’s renounce the toxic suck of the five-minute news cycle. Ours must be a practice of panoramic time. For we are a past we did not choose but inherited, and we architect the future with each new page we write. Let us nourish each other."

Quiara Alegría Hudes, author, playwright; wrote the book for the Broadway musical In the Heights; winner of 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Drama