The racist response to the coronavirus

January 31, 2020, 6:13 PM UTC

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Happy Friday everyone! Etsy has met an important diversity goal, the racist response to the coronavirus, a building at Berkeley gets a new name, and a hate-spewing robocaller gets a big phone bill.

But first, here’s your breaking (dinosaur) news, in Haiku.

Fenn, who is nearly
four, wrote her first song. It is
about dinosaurs.

Her dad put it on
the internet and it made
everyone happy.

The dinosaurs don’t
survive, in the song or real
life. But Fenn found a

way to make the life
they did have seem beautiful.
It’s a “big bang” world

says Fenn. Make sure you
fall in love. And make sure you
always say good-bye.

Have a love-and-party-filled weekend.

Ellen McGirt

On Point

As the coronavirus spreads, so does racism As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases continues to rise, Asian people regardless of nationality are being targeted, isolated, and harassed in familiar ways. Marketwatch is reporting “No Chinese” signs in stores in South Korea, Malaysia, the U.K., and Canada. U.K. graduate student Sam Phan says people are making openly racist comments, even moving away from Asian people in public. “This week, my ethnicity has made me feel like I was part of a threatening and diseased mass. To see me as someone who carries the virus just because of my race is, well, just racist.” CNN’s Jessie Yeung makes a grim prediction. “Right now, we are only seeing early signs of a xenophobic backlash against the East Asian diaspora—tasteless jokes online, bad headlines, people acting fearfully in public. But if the 2003 SARS epidemic is any model to go by, these strands of xenophobia could potentially escalate into more dangerous, explicit forms of racism.”

Etsy has doubled the number of Black and Latinx hires in the past year While the company says it still has plenty of work to do, they’re showing steady progress. According to their latest diversity report, Black and Latinx employees represented approximately 15% of U.S. hires in 2019, mostly in their engineering ranks. At the end of 2019, Black and Latinx employees represented 11% of their workforce, up from 8.5% in 2018. Further kudos for the gender parity on their board and across their workforce. “Our progress on diversity hasn’t happened overnight. This really has been the result of longstanding efforts,” Etsy’s diversity chief told CNBC. “Diversity in the tech sector is a major area of concern.”
Etsy blog

Berkeley’s Boalt Hall will now be known as the Law Building It is a simple solution to an ugly problem. John Henry Boalt, for whom the building was named, was a nineteenth-century attorney with virulently anti-Chinese views, first revealed in a 2017 Berkeley law review article and  San Francisco Chronicle op-ed. Among other things, Boalt was a supporter of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, and once wrote that the Chinese were unassimilable liars, murderers, and misogynists who provoked “unconquerable repulsion.” The revelation prompted a lengthy review. “This is the first time a UC Berkeley building has had its name removed because the values of its namesake were so out of sync with those of our institution,” said UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ in a public letter. “I believe that removing the Boalt name from our law building—while still acknowledging our ties to the Boalt family—will help us recognize a troubled part of Berkeley’s history while better supporting the diverse membership of our academic community.”
Los Angeles Times

Racist robocaller intent on “causing harm” faces a possible $13 million fine The FCC says that Scott D. Rhodes, an avowed white supremacist who runs the website Road to Power, is responsible for a “barrage” of targeted racist robocalls, designed to sow hate in communities in the aftermath of troubling events, like the murder of a Brooklyn, Iowa college student by an undocumented Mexican farmworker and the violent aftermath of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017. The agency found that Rhodes was also responsible for 766 robocalls in October 2018 targeting Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum. It’s not clear if Rhodes will also be facing criminal charges.
New York Times

On Background

Remembering the Greensborough Four This week marks the 60th anniversary of the sit-in that created a movement, after four young men—Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair Jr., David Richmond and Joseph McNeil—staged a peaceful protest at the white’s only Woolworth lunch counter in Greensborough, North Carolina. Similar sit-ins spread to some 55 U.S. cities. Ten weeks later, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee was formed in Raleigh, which catalyzed civil rights organizing in the South. The lunch counter is now part of the Smithsonian, the old Woolworth is now the International Civil Rights Center & Museum.
Charlotte Observer

Men and women use cities very differently so we should design them that way Since most humans live in or near cities, it seems like a fairly important question: What do you use public transportation for? When Vienna asked the question in 1999, they got very different answers. Men went to work and came home. Women, however, used transportation for a wide variety of things, including shuttling kids, helping aging parents with errands, going to various appointments and the like. The answers led to some important design changes—like wider pavements and ramps—but lead to a bigger question. Why don’t we do a better job assessing how planning and policy decisions will specifically affect men and women?
FastCo Exist

Reminder: voter identification laws actually do suppress minority votes Voter identification proposals are sure to become an issue again, so this piece is an important reminder that they do have a chilling effect. Before 2006, no state required a photo identification, now seven states do and 36 have some version of a “photo ID requested” law on the books.” After the last presidential election, three political science professors shared data that shows a significant drop in minority participation when new voter ID laws have been implemented. The research in this area is still relatively new, but their findings are compelling. Click through for the methodology.
Washington Post


“I mean, why don't we turn off this video screen, walk out of this dark room, and talk with these...things directly, as we believe they've already developed their own language? All linguists know that the only way to learn an unknown language is to communicate with a native speaker, to point at objects and ask questions, and to answer their questions as well. We certainly will never understand what they are talking about if we don't knock on the door of that sealed container and say hello first.”

—From “Let’s have a talk,” a short story by award-winning science fiction and fantasy writer Xia Jia

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