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I’m on my way to the Great Place to Work For All Summit, sure to be rich fodder for many columns to come. Check my Twitter feed for more. Today, Fortune‘s newsletter editor Karen Yuan kicks off Super Tuesday with an important reminder that in an all-white, all-Baby Boomer field, representation matters more than ever. — Ellen McGirt
On Super Tuesday, the field of major Democratic candidates has narrowed down to Biden, Bloomberg, Sanders, and Warren. While speculations float over tonight’s voting outcome, we must note that it’s already the triumph of the white candidate. The most prominent candidates of color have dropped out. (Tulsi Gabbard is still in the race.)
But one of the most novel candidates of color has stayed relevant to the election—since suspending his campaign a few weeks ago, Andrew Yang has, for the second chapter of his political career, joined CNN as a political commentator. For the biggest day of voting in the election, Yang has already put in his two cents: “He may have a nearly insurmountable lead in the delegate count by mid-March,” he said of Sanders’ post-Super Tuesday run. Yes, Biden’s South Carolina win and slew of recent endorsements makes this sound a bit crazy, but the point isn’t that Yang’s analysis is right or wrong—it’s that he’s a talking head on TV at all.
Before the election shifts its focus onto white candidates once and for all, let me put on the record this: Andrew Yang is the most visible Asian American in politics in 2020.
Yang’s continued foothold in U.S. politics is expanding America’s view of Asian Americans and what’s possible for them on a national stage. Asian-American political leaders like Judy Chu and Ted Lieu serve in Congress, but Yang is one of the few Asian Americans to catapult himself into the spotlight of presidential candidates.
And it’s especially radical that, as an Asian American, he was one of the most charismatic candidates in the race.
“Research shows that Asian American men are often stereotyped as too passive, docile, and timid for leadership roles—too “nerdy,” if you will,” says Adia Wingfield, a sociology professor at Washington University in St. Louis who examines inequality in professions. “This stereotyping can work to their detriment when it comes to attempts to advance to high-ranking positions. Seeing Andrew Yang as a candidate for presidency will ideally offset some of these misconceptions.”
He fist-bumped, danced, and crowd-surfed his way up the polls. One of the archetypes of the presidential candidate is the family man with machismo—and Yang, while representing a demographic whose masculinity is frequently undermined, embodied that fully on the campaign trail, with his wife and sons in tow. He walked a fascinating and effective balancing act between the trope of the nerdy Asian (“I am the math guy”) and that of the chummy, back-slapping, All-American dude—two cultural images historically opposed from one another.
That’s subversive, and not just for politics—though Wingfield added it was important to acknowledge that Yang did not enter the election through traditional politics.
raceAhead has discussed it before: While Asian Americans make up a significant amount of America’s professional world, they make up a scant amount of leaders in that world. In fact, they’re the least likely group in the U.S. to be promoted to leadership, whether that’s in politics, tech, or other business fields. Only 16 Asian CEOs make up this year’s entire Fortune 500.
“Asian American men frequently confront the stereotype that they do not have the ‘killer instinct’ required for leadership roles,” Wingfield says. “Stereotypes about their passivity and complacency work to their detriment.”
Yang was not expected to make it to the debate stage. He was not expected to raise the amount of money and support that he did. And he was not expected to outlast Cory Booker or Kamala Harris, the other major candidates of color. The surprise over Yang’s success is, in fact, “the general characterization of Asian Americans in leadership roles,” Buck Gee, a former Silicon Valley executive and advisor on Asian-American career advancement, says.
“This was not overt racial discrimination where people did not feel that an Asian American should not or cannot be on the stage,” Gee says, “but it was implicit bias that visible Asian American leaders are certainly welcome, but not expected.”
As an outsider, Yang has had to grapple with how to present his identity. Yang’s particular performance of Asianness—as an affable, almost race-neutral everyman—wasn’t welcomed by some, who criticized his tendency to avoid speaking on thorny topics related to race or issues affecting Asian Americans.
“Race remains a difficult if omnipresent subject in American politics, and it may have been challenging for Yang to find a way to incorporate a discussion of his racial identity into his personal, professional, and political narratives,” Wingfield says. But being silent over how issues affect Asian Americans doesn’t mean those issues are absent, she adds. “It just means that they remain unresolved.”
Still, the experts I spoke with say Yang has made a lasting positive impact on Asian Americans in leadership, for the most part.
“Andrew Yang’s candidacy bent the arc of leadership in America,” Thomas Sy, a psychology professor at University of California Riverside who studies leadership, says. “However small, this subtle shift in trajectory may create a broader podium for future Asian Americans leaders, as well as other minority leaders.”
Gee says he found the reaction to Yang from Asian Americans, while not without critique, largely positive—proving that they are “desperately looking for Asian American role models in visible positions of leadership.”
And Yang himself has reflected on his visibility. Speaking of his own legacy, he told Politico: “One of my goals in the campaign was imagining what it’d be like for me as a young Asian American kid turning on the TV and seeing an Asian American presidential candidate on the debate stage.”
The Guardian finds Texas is closing polling stations in Black and Latinx communities The Guardian based their analysis on a 2019 report by civil rights group The Leadership Conference Education Fund, identifying 750 polling sites that had been closed in Texas since 2012. Their analysis confirms fears of voting rights advocates: The 50 counties that gained the most Black and Latinx residents between 2012 and 2018 closed 542 polling sites, compared to just 34 in the 50 counties that have gained the fewest black and Latinx residents. Officials cite budget constraints and difficulty recruiting poll workers for the closures.
Black-owned business besieged by racist comments after appearing in a Target ad Bea Dixon founded The Honey Pot, a plant-based hygiene product, in 2014. Soon after, Target took a chance on the small business, placing the product in certain stores. Then, they invited Dixon to appear in a television ad about her business, part of a series called “Founders We Believe In.” She was appropriately inspirational. “The reason why it’s so important for Honey Pot to do well so that the next Black girl that comes up with a great idea, she can have a better opportunity. That means a lot to me,” she says in the ad. For some reason, her comments triggered a spate of negative comments on her review page. “Racist company. Black fragility on full display,” said one. Another said the “racially motivated component to the company,” made her uncomfortable. The fight quickly spilled onto social media.
Goldman Sachs steps up investment in Black and Latinx company founders It’s an expansion of its Launch with GS initiative, Goldman Sachs’ $500 million investment scheme aimed at connecting promising underrepresented company founders with resources and connections. The new Black and Latinx Entrepreneur Cohort is the first of its kind. “Black and Latinx founders collectively receive less than 1% of venture funding,” said Jemma Wolfe, head of Launch With GS, in a statement. “We believe that by engaging early with Black and Latinx entrepreneurs, we lay a foundation to support, scale, and invest in an important group of fast growing start-ups.” The cohort will participate in an 8 week program, ending in an invite-only showcase for key investors. raceAhead plans to follow this story, so stay tuned.
ACLU claims NYC’s ICE uses a rigged algorithm to justify the detention of all arrestees A new lawsuit filed by the New York Civil Liberties Union and Bronx Defenders claims that a software tool used to recommend whether people arrested over immigration violations should be let go or detained has been tweaked to recommend nearly everyone, even those of low risk to public safety. Using data obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request, the suit shows that from the years 2013-2017, the software recommended detention without bond for low-risk individuals 53% of the time; under the Trump administration, that number jumped to 97%. The suit is asking that ICE’s “Risk Classification Assessment” tool be ruled illegal and the status of all detainees reassessed by humans. The Intercept
Diversity and inclusion professionals, experts are exhausted This post, based in part on an open-ended survey conducted by the diversity consultancy The Winters Group, paints a stark picture of what D&I practitioners, researchers, and experts are facing: Collective burnout. “It’s never enough, is it? No matter what I do, it’s never enough. I don’t have enough capacity – financial, emotional, mental – to make positive impacts on everything that warrants it,” says one respondent. Frustration about being unable to make systemic changes turns to shame; dealing with people’s pain becomes overwhelming. “Now, I recognize that this work is a lot more intense and draining than I was expecting,” says another. “Once you begin working in the space, you quickly realize that D&I is personal for EVERYONE... Often times, people are in pain, and it is deep-rooted and palpable,” says another. Please read, share and check in with the inclusion-focused people in your life, whether they are working in an official capacity or not.
The Inclusion Solution blog
Kicking hate groups off of social media helps fight hate Well, what do you know? A new report from the UK-based advocacy group Hope Not Hate shows that de-platforming people who run hate groups minimizes their ability to raise money, recruit followers, and organize public events. But the practice is not without debate — charismatic alt-right members who haven’t been charged with a crime frequently invoke their right to free speech. One such figure, a white supremacist named Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, has had his reach curtailed from more than a million followers to some 42,000 after being kicked off Twitter, Facebook, and having his YouTube curtailed. “Deplatforming is not straightforward, but it limits the reach of online hate, and social media companies have to do more and do more now,” says the report.
A handy guide to cultural misappropriation Simon Fraser University in Vancouver has a thoughtful resource that can help people distinguish between borrowing themes for creative inspiration or tribute – which is good, and creating work that disrespects, or does unintentional emotional and economic harm to a group of people. That would be bad. These are not always easy aesthetic distinctions, but there are often legal ones. For example, the Navajo Nation owns 86 trademark registrations that prevent designers from appropriating their imagery.
Simon Fraser University
Tamara El-Waylly produces raceAhead and manages the op-ed program.
“My brother wasn’t murdered because he was white or because he was an activist. He was murdered because, to the people that murdered him, black lives didn’t matter. To a lot of people, they still don’t matter… [this case is] an opportunity for us to recognize history in the context of the present moment. Nothing is closed about racism in America.”
—David Goodman, brother of voting rights activist Andrew Goodman, one of three people who were murdered for helping register Black voters in Mississippi in 1964. Those murders remain unsolved.