CEO DailyCFO DailyBroadsheetData SheetTerm Sheet

The legacy of the first openly gay presidential candidate

March 2, 2020, 6:31 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.

South Bend’s ambitious former mayor, Peter Buttigieg, ended his historic presidential bid last night. He was the first openly gay man to run for the office. “Today is a moment of truth,” Buttigieg said from South Bend, Indiana. “The truth is the path has narrowed to a close, for our candidacy, if not for our cause.”

Buttigieg is a young white man in a sensible blue suit, a quietly polished overachiever who exhibited enormous courage as he won hearts, minds, and votes. (Just not enough, particularly among Black voters.)

But, as Tim Teeman notes in this opinion piece for The Daily Beast, this historic candidacy received constant friction from the intra-LGBTQ debates over the kind of gay man Mayor Pete represents:

“It has been, simply put, exhausting and not a little depressing, with Buttigieg’s candidacy seen in starkly polarized terms: a celebration of progress or an indictment of heteronormativity; a gay man standing on the American national stage, speaking eloquently about his own struggle for self-acceptance; or just another privileged white man able to ‘pass’ without offering much to LGBTQ people who are not what he is perceived to be.”

Buttigieg’s identity has been mocked, his earnestness dissected, his attempts to bring an Obamaesque cadence to his rallies derided. His heartfelt confession —  that he’d struggled well into his 20’s to come out, saying, “If there was a pill, a pill that I could take and not be gay anymore, then I would’ve jumped on it” — was singled out by critics as a dangerous admission of self-loathing.

The Atlantic’s Spencer Korhhaber puts it like this: A “gayer” candidate “might be more idiosyncratic in their style, and more confrontational toward straight voters, and would boast a yet-bolder political agenda.” But that candidate might not have had Pete’s success with so many different types of voters.

And yet Pete’s performance of queerness had a varied reception too. “On one end of the Buttigieg reaction spectrum is the homophobic voter in Iowa who tried to reclaim her ballot after being told, during the caucus, that the candidate she just cast a vote for is gay,” he writes. “On the other end of the spectrum are queer commentators taking offense at his inoffensiveness.”

Can you be a trailblazer if your presence doesn’t offend your oppressors? If your words don’t move the people who were once willing to allow you to be marginalized into a new allyship?

“Finding a space between, a path spanning accommodation and authenticity, is what queerness has often meant,” says Kornhaber, in defense of Buttigieg’s legacy.

Buttigieg’s husband Chasten brought a distinct joy, openness, and love to his own surprising role as a first-ever. It is a historic legacy of an equal sort.

Before Pete Buttigieg ended his campaign last night, his husband set the emotional stage. “About a year and a half ago, my husband came home from work and told me, well, he asked me, ‘What do you think about running for president?’ And I laughed. Not at him but at life. Because life gave me some interesting experiences on my way to find Pete.”

Chasten Buttigieg’s coming out story, which he does not tell often or as easily, was different from his more buttoned-up husband’s. His was one of bullying, sexual assault, and an estrangement from his family. “There’s a lot of baggage there, a lot of hurt, and he was so patient,” Chasten tearfully told The Washington Post about his courtship with Pete, in an interview last May. “I’ve never felt so seen.”

So it made sense that Chasten would relish the chance to help his husband run for president, despite all the terrors.

“After falling in love with Pete, Pete got me to believe in myself again,” he told the crowd last night. “And I told Pete to run because I knew there were other kids sitting out there in this country who needed to believe in themselves too.”    

Ellen McGirt
@ellmcgirt
Ellen.McGirt@fortune.com

On Point

Rep. John Lewis returns to the Edmund Pettus Bridge to commemorate “Bloody Sunday” It was a surprise appearance for the civil rights icon; after Lewis had been diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer in December, it was unclear if he would be able to attend the annual commemorative march in Selma, Alabama. His appearance electrified the crowd. "Fifty-five years ago, a few of our children attempted to march ... across this bridge. We were beaten, we were tear-gassed. I thought I was going to die on this bridge,” he said in an emotional speech. "We must use the vote as a nonviolent instrument or tool to redeem the soul of America." On March 7, 1965, Lewis had his skull broken by white police officers during the now-famous march for voting rights, from Selma to Montgomery.
CNN

COVID-19 imperils working Americans and by extension, all of us Amanda Mull makes it plain: millions of vulnerable working-class folks and gig economy workers have a lot more to worry about than the threat of a deadly virus. “For all but the independently wealthy in America, the best-case scenario for getting sick is being a person with good health insurance, paid time off, and a reasonable boss who won’t penalize you for taking a few sick days or working from home,” she writes. The people who stock your shelves, prepare and serve your food, drive you across town or check you out at the grocery store are not in a position to stay home because they aren’t protected by paid-leave laws and can’t afford to lose an hourly wage. Now what?
The Atlantic

Health care researcher discovers that your private health care data is at risk on Facebook Private Facebook groups have become a sanctuary for people coping with health conditions for which they need support, but would like to keep private — everything from cancer to depression, addiction, HIV diagnoses and beyond. Andrea Downing, a tech project manager and breast cancer advocate, runs the BRCA Sisterhood, a private Facebook group for women who have a gene mutation that puts them at risk for breast and ovarian cancer. Working with a cybersecurity expert, she discovered a loophole that would let allow developers, marketers and anyone else download the membership lists of her group, and by default, any others. In a flash, everything about their lives, including mastectomy photos, were available. "In less than an hour, I had extremely personal information that could be used against these women," the researcher told CNN. "The kinds of things that they don't tell their husbands about in some cases."
CNN

Flavor Flav fired from Public Enemy over Bernie Sanders rally For fans of Public Enemy, this is Yoko Ono-level drama, and frankly, a little painful. The dismissal happened after Flav sent the Bernie Sanders campaign a cease-and-desist letter over Chuck D’s appearance at a Bernie Sanders rally in Los Angeles yesterday. “While Chuck is certainly free to express his political view as he sees fit — his voice alone does not speak for Public Enemy,” the letter says. “Those who truly know what Public Enemy stands for know what time it is. There is no Public Enemy without Flavor Flav.” Flav has not endorsed any candidate. The letter reveals the longstanding rift between the two. “Flavor chooses to dance for his money and not do benevolent work like this. He has a year to get his act together and get himself straight or he’s out,” said Chuck D in response. Chuck D is the sole owner of the Public Enemy trademark.
Rolling Stone

 

On Background

How to deal with the really problematic people in your life This is a fascinating review of a book I confess to not have read (yet) that combines organizational psychology, negotiation science, conflict resolution and counterterrorism expertise to help you manage the thorniest, recurring conflicts in your life. Optimal Outcomes, a new book by organizational psychologist Jennifer Goldman-Wetzler, offers eight practices that if mastered sound promising. You’ll learn what an “optimal outcome” is, how rational problem solving won’t help you get there, and how to draw a “conflict” map, which helps identify key players and the forces that pressure them. I focused on the concept of "shadow values." And if you want to understand the “weird” behavior of others, understanding their unstated values is a good place to start.
Quartz

The embedded racism in the Electoral College It is the secret irony of complaints about racial entitlements, argues Wilfred Codrington III, a fellow at Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law: They exist, but they benefit white voters. “For centuries, white votes have gotten undue weight, as a result of innovations such as poll taxes and voter-ID laws and outright violence to discourage racial minorities from voting," he says. “But America’s institutions boosted white political power in less obvious ways, too, and the nation’s oldest structural racial entitlement program is one of its most consequential: the Electoral College.” While there are plenty of valid reasons to constrain executive power and diminish the temptation of corruption, in advocating for the electoral system, the slaveholding South held significant sway. He quotes future president James Madison: “The right of suffrage was much more diffusive in the Northern than the Southern States; and the latter could have no influence in the election on the score of the Negroes. The substitution of electors obviated this difficulty and seemed on the whole to be liable to fewest objections.”
The Atlantic

Where are the people of color in academia? Their Winter 2017 issue alone is worth the subscription to the Harvard Educational Review, a quarterly publication. Every article focuses on race or identity in some focused way, but if you only have time for one, start with this one from academics Özlem Sensoy and Robin DiAngelo, who identified the concept of “white fragility.” They rigorously examine the hiring practices of predominantly white universities to discover why their dreams for diversity are never fulfilled. “We argue that through a range of discursive moves, hiring committees protect rather than unsettle Whiteness. In so doing, they actively close the gates against racial diversity,” they write. Culture fit – we’re looking at you.
Harvard Educational Review

 

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

Quote

“Our too-young and too-new America, lusty because it is lonely, aggressive because it is afraid, insists upon seeing the world in terms of good and bad, the holy and the evil, the high and the low, the white and the black; our America is frightened of fact, of history, of processes, of necessity. It hugs the easy way of damning those whom it cannot understand, of excluding those who look different, and it salves its conscience with a self-draped cloak of righteousness.”

Richard Wright, from his autobiography, Black Boy, 1945