Disney+ Attempts to Address a Racist Past

November 15, 2019, 7:00 PM UTC

This is the web version of raceAhead, Fortune’s daily newsletter on race, culture, and inclusive leadership. To get it delivered daily to your inbox, sign up here.

Here is your week in review, in haiku.

I would like to run
for President, but maybe
I should look for a 

starter country first.
Mine has so many rules! And
there is so much pain.

Sometimes, when I read 
the news, my mind turns “Sondland
into “Shondaland.”

Then I think, “Oh wow!
You wouldn’t have to be a
John’ to get ahead!”

An inclusive land,
cleansafe, and fair, everyone
having a good time.

Have a clean, safe, fair, and joyful weekend.

Ellen McGirt



On Point

Disney+ attempts to handle a racist back catalog By the usual metrics, the new streaming service is a success, attracting 10 million subscribers on its first day. But they’ve made the interesting choice to add a disclaimer to some of their classic fare, like Dumbo and Peter Pan: "This program is presented as originally created. It may contain outdated cultural depictions." Time will tell whether this will be enough to keep people watching increasingly problematic material. I haven’t seen Dumbo since I was a kid, and I’d forgotten that one of the crows who originally taught the sweet elephant to fly was named Jim.

Mo’Nique sues Netflix for race and gender discrimination The actor filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court yesterday, claiming that the company low-balled her in negotiations for a comedy special. "Despite Mo’Nique’s extensive résumé and documented history of comedic success, when Netflix presented her with an offer of employment for an exclusive stand-up comedy special, Netflix made a lowball offer that was only a fraction of what Netflix paid other (non-Black female) comedians," says the suit, using Dave Chappelle, Amy Schumer, and Ricky Gervais as examples.
USA Today

The NAACP takes on Comcast The civil rights organization has weighed in on the case of media mogul Byron Allen, who sued Comcast for $20 billion in 2015 for refusing to air channels from his company, Entertainment Studios Networks. Allen claims the decision was racist, saying the channel carries white-owned channels of similar audience size. The suit worked its way up to the Supreme Court on Wednesday, and as part of their defense, Comcast is seeking a reinterpretation of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, that specifically prevents racial discrimination, "ensuring that '[a]ll persons within the jurisdiction of the United States shall have the same right... to make and enforce contracts ... as is enjoyed by white citizens.'" A decision in favor of Comcast would have wide-reaching implications, argues Derrick Johnson, the president and CEO of the NAACP in this opinion piece. Although SCOTUS-guessing is typically a bad idea, after an hour of oral arguments Wednesday, it seems unlikely that the worst-case scenario will play out.

Today is the second annual America Recycles Day It sounds like a beautiful idea, but critics are concerned. America Recycles Day is an initiative from Keep America Beautiful, a nonprofit backed by corporations that produce an enormous amount of plastic, including Coca-Cola, Nestlé, PepsiCo, and Altria. "Just like the fossil fuel industry, corporate polluters have been using recycling to justify ever-increasing production of single-use packaging," Denise Patel, the US and Canada program director of Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives tells The Guardian. "Lower-income communities and communities of color, who are the hardest hit and the least responsible, bear the brunt of a model that has brought us to the brink of the waste and climate crisis."
The Guardian

On Background

A new Glitch tool lets you track any Congressional bill or statement by topic Web developer Jason Crane had originally created his tracker to follow Congressional actions on gun violence. "I remixed my Congress tracker on @glitch so you can search for congressional bills or statements on the topics that are important to you, not only to see their responses to continuing gun violence,” he tweeted. Warning: For policy minded folks, it's a magnificent wormhole.
Congress On Anything

The woman who fed generations of civil rights activists turned 107 yesterday For many years, Leila Williams’s small dinette in Southwest Atlanta was "hallowed ground for black independence." People often waited in long lines for her classic Southern food. "What really stands out in my memory is her cooking, and actually how she reached out to so many people," her goddaughter Charlotte Webb told NBC affiliate WXIA. But among her regular patrons were civil rights luminaries whose names we know—like Martin Luther King, Jr., Julian Bond, and Congressman John Lewis—and many others, like Morehouse students, whose names are lost to history. "It was a place where they could strategize and spend quality time," Webb said. "That’s part of the legacy." Leila’s Dinette closed in the early 1990’s, and after years of vacancy, the space was resurrected as a collective commercial kitchen called Marddy’s, where local chefs and vendors can make and market their goods through their online and real-life marketplace. Marddy’s mission statement is a living tribute to Leila Williams' work.
NBC News

Inside James Baldwin’s FBI files Baldwin has correctly emerged as a seminal thinker in today’s civil rights movement, particularly around criminal justice. "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 James Baldwin: The FBI File, by William J. Maxwell. 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.

Tamara El-Waylly helps write and produce raceAhead.


"Today is ours, let's live it. / And love is strong, let's give it. / A song can help, let's sing it. / And peace is dear, let's bring it. / The past is gone, don't rue it. / Our work is here, let's do it. / The world is wrong, let's right it. / The battle is hard, let's fight it. / The road is rough, let's clear it. / The future vast, don't fear it. / Is faith asleep? Let's wake it. / Because today is ours, let's take it."

A poem by Beah Richards, recited by Ruby Dee (watch it here)


Share today’s raceAhead with a friend.

Did someone forward this to you? Sign up here. For previous editions, click here.

For even more, check out The Broadsheet, Fortune's daily newsletter for and about the world's most powerful women. Sign up here


Know a standout female leader at your company or another? Tell us about her! We’re taking nominations for Fortune’s upcoming Most Powerful Women Next Gen Summit, where we convene ascending leaders to converse about business, share advice, and connect with one another. It’s Dec. 10-11 in Laguna Niguel, Calif. They can register here.

Read More

CEO DailyCFO DailyBroadsheetData SheetTerm Sheet