Michael Bloomberg is set to take the debate stage

February 19, 2020, 6:05 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.

I like to imagine that the Democratic presidential candidates group chat is on fire today.

Michael Bloomberg will be onstage for tonight’s Democratic debate, the first appearance for him, but the ninth for his competitors who have taken the only path available to non-billionaires. Most expect they will come out swinging at the man who has cut to the head of the line.

There was a time when it was hard to imagine that Bloomberg’s own words wouldn’t be enough to derail his bid, but because we live in an upside-down world, those norms have given way long ago. Now, a beleaguered pragmatism from those eager to unseat President Donald Trump appear to make Bloomberg immune to serious scrutiny: Our billionaire is less bad than your billionaire.

That said, there’s much to consider.

Bloomberg’s past words and deeds have been reported afresh since he launched his hat into the race. Numerous lawsuits citing allegations of misogyny, discrimination against women, and a hostile workplace culture at his firm were recently documented by the Washington Post in some detail. It included a now-famous story of a former saleswoman who alleged in a suit that Bloomberg told her to “kill it” when he learned she was pregnant.

There is also his surveillance of Muslim New Yorkers, an ugly cousin to the stop-and-frisk policing tactic for which the former New York City mayor has apologized. This, he continues to defend.

The NYPD program, which baited, spied on, and secretly recorded Muslims, was exposed by a Pulitzer Prize-winning series from the Associated Press in 2011. It confirmed the worst fears of Muslim residents, writes Rowaida Abdelaziz in HuffPost, a wound which his candidacy has reopened. “Many are not only skeptical of Bloomberg as a candidate but also fear the possibility that his rise could lead to more policies that target Muslims at the national level.”

He has yet to fully account for his misrepresentation of the cause of the 2008 recession, and his willingness to remove the racism from redlining.

A video has surfaced of Bloomberg cynically (and grotesquely) dismissing transgender rights as a toxic subject for Democratic candidates trying to reach conservative voters. “If your conversation during a presidential election is about some guy wearing a dress and whether he, she, or it can go to the locker room with their daughter, that’s not a winning formula for most people,” he said in remarks made at a conference held by the Bermuda Business Development Agency in March 2019.

After Buzzfeed News drew attention to the mostly-ignored YouTube video, the campaign scrambled to reassure voters of Bloomberg’s LGBTQ+ bona fides, including a transgender civil rights bill signed into law his first year as mayor. “Mike is running to defeat Donald Trump and reverse the many policies he has implemented that attack the rights of the transgender community,” the campaign told NBC News.

Tonight, we’ll find out how Bloomberg will fare in his first-ever vetting by his peers as a presidential candidate, whether his past—be it allegations of misogyny or his mayoral record—will be fully examined, and whether his immunity will hold.

Stay tuned.

Ellen McGirt

On Point

Can San Francisco be saved? This is the poignant question my colleague Adam Lashinsky seeks to answer in this important long read; the same city that’s been home to a tech-fueled wealth boom is also plagued by persistent homelessness, and a housing market so inflated that no teacher, cop, or working person can afford to live there. Years of trying to fix the city’s affordable housing and related issues feels like so much “Whac-A-Mole,” and decades of "unique left-vs.-left politics" has ground progress to a halt. Part of the current fight includes staving off market rate housing and the gentrification that it inevitably brings. “Our concern is that Chinatown is the Mission in 1998,” says the deputy director of the Chinatown Community Development Center of the once Latinx, now upscale condo-filled neighborhood. “Chinatown has a deep, historic identity tied to a people-of-color community.”

Opera has a blackface problem The Metropolitan Opera’s recent announcement that soprano Anna Netrebko will star in a much-anticipated production of Aida for its opening night gala this season has raised eyebrows among inclusion-focused opera lovers for two reasons. First, it was a missed opportunity to cast a Black soprano to play the role of the Ethiopian princess. But more to the point is that Netrebko has been known to enthusiastically apply skin-darkening makeup for the role—even posting Instagram photos of her in costume, which she was then forced to defend: “Black Face and Black Body for Ethiopien [sic] princess, for Verdi['s] greatest opera! YES!” But, notes culture writer Helen Holmes, “Blackface and opera are historically intertwined to this day in a way that continually boggles the mind.” I suppose a fat lady singing joke is in order here, but who has the energy?

Chicago’s growing talent pipeline for people of color in tech It’s an experiment in creative recruiting, in the form of a cutting edge program run by re:work training, a nonprofit that helps major tech companies find qualified talent outside of the places where they typically recruit. The free eight-week program in part teaches participants to “speak Silicon Valley”—learning jargon and norms, and walks them through mock interviews. Re:work CEO Shelton Banks says it’s one answer when tech titans say they don’t know where to look for Black and brown talent. “Black and Latinx communities are filled with untapped talent that must overcome historic wage imbalances, undervalued housing markets, and poorer quality schools,” he says.
Chicago Sun Times

Sharon Choi in her own words She was briefly famous mostly for being Academy Award winner Bong Joon Ho’s gracious interpreter, but it’s hard to believe she won’t get there on her own. In this Variety exclusive, Choi tells her story—a student filmmaker plucked from obscurity to speak for her hero on a 10-month journey from premieres and film festivals to the Oscars. “Driven from one crowd to the next, I shook hands with hundreds of people whose eyes shone with the excitement of having watched a special film,” she writes. “Moments alone were still riddled with the absurdity that I was sharing hand sanitizers with a man whose films I’d organized movie nights for in college. Somehow, despite having only micro-short films to my name, I got sucked into the heart of Hollywood.”

On Background

The trouble with Russell Simmons Please don’t miss this extraordinary long read by journalist, poet, activist, and filmmaker Kevin Powell. Powell grew up enthralled by the hip hop world Russell Simmons helped make, and grew up to be a music journalist who understood what Simmons meant: “[He] is the walking, breathing logo of manifesting something from nothing, of winning on his own terms—the very definitions of hip-hop.” But Simmons is also credibly accused of rape and sexual assault—or is he?—and is now living in extradition-free Bali, and making vague noises about men’s rights in the wake of #MeToo. But hip-hop is complicated, inextricably linked with misogyny and violence, operating in a world which undervalues women, but Black women most of all. Powell goes everywhere he needs to go… and I found myself holding my breath in sections. This piece, and an interview with Simmons, comes in advance of a new documentary featuring Simmons’ accusers, now set to debut on HBO. It’s a film that Oprah briefly signed on to executive produce, until she suddenly changed her mind. Why?

Shen Yun, explained If you live in one of the cities where the Shen Yun dance troupe performs, then you will appreciate this “review” from Jia Tolentino. First and foremost, it’s affirming: You’re not dreaming, you are being bombarded with pastel-themed, over-the-top advertisements day and night. And they work! “The ads have to be both ubiquitous and devoid of content so that they can convince more than a million people to pay good money to watch what is, essentially, religious-political propaganda—or, more generously, an extremely elaborate commercial for Falun Dafa’s spiritual teachings and its plight vis-à-vis the Chinese Communist regime.” Who knew?
New Yorker

bell hooks on feminism today: “Patriarchy has no gender” So many patriarchal men, especially white men, really felt like feminism had taken something from them,” says author, activist, and educator bell hooks, in a candid interview in Bust. At the time, she was talking about recently elected President Donald Trump, which she called a setback for feminism. But she was addressing a society which has become comfortable hating and fearing powerful women. The setback, and any more to come, should surprise nobody. “Patriarchy has not been deeply challenged enough and changed,” she writes. “The sexism is so deeply, deeply embedded. If you think about public discourses on race in this past year, where are the big public discourses on feminism? They don’t exist.”

Tamara El-Waylly produces raceAhead and manages the op-ed program.


“There’s this enormous cohort of black and Latino males, age, let’s say, 16 to 25, that don’t have jobs, don’t have any prospects, don’t know how to find jobs, don’t know what their skillsets are, don’t know how to behave in the workplace where they have to work collaboratively and collectively.”

Michael Bloomberg

Read More

CEO DailyCFO DailyBroadsheetData SheetTerm Sheet