The coronavirus is changing the race beat

March 31, 2020, 9:06 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.

We are living in deeply challenging times. So, for the time being, RaceAhead will appear in your inbox twice a week for the forseeable future. This will give me time to do deeper reporting into all the issues that matter to this community, including how the coronavirus pandemic is impacting our world. Through it all, I will maintain my focus on race, leadership, equity, and inclusion. 

That all said, the raceAhead team is taking this opportunity to iterate a bit. 

In addition to the now-familiar essays, op-eds, news roundups, and other historical items, we’ll also be adding some new elements to the newsletter. We think you’ll find them inspiring and useful.

But here’s the really good news.

At the heart of the revamped newsletter will be raceAhead’s Diversity and Inclusion Experts community on LinkedIn, a group of nearly 500 dedicated corporate practitioners, researchers, and other experts working across a variety of industries. 

These are the people who are doing the work. We’ll be looking for ways to help this group cross-pollinate their ideas and amplify their impact with their respective constituents. And, I’ll be tapping these experts for on-the-record commentary, data, and recommendations, which I will share with you in raceAhead.

We will also be taking their collective pulse about diversity in the workplace in a brief monthly survey called Data Point, which will be reported exclusively in raceAhead. Our goal is to turn their unique perspectives into a Net Promoter Score-style insight about the changing world that you can refer to.

Join us! If you have diversity and inclusion as part of your corporate job description, this group is clearly for you. Are you a consultant, researcher, educator, race beat journalist, or other person who studies inclusion issues? Please consider joining in. Are you implementing new ways of applying inclusion as a broader theory of change—think venture investor or philanthropist? We’d love to have you, too. And finally, anyone who does unpaid inclusion work, for example, as part of your participation in an employee resource group, we’d love to learn from you and support you.

Other than all this, all the good stuff will stay the same, we promise. raceAhead will resume April 10. Look for us every Tuesday and, of course, on Haiku Fridays. 

We are grateful for you.

Ellen McGirt

On Point

Equal Pay Day during a pandemic This year, the Equal Pay Day gap stands at 81.6 cents (and is even worse for women of color). Making less money than men means women have less resources and savings. And the COVID-19 pandemic has put this issue "in a new light," writes our Broadsheet colleague Emma Hinchliffe. "Think about what the long-term impact of the gender pay gap means during a crisis like the one we’re in now." Add to that the impact COVID-19 has had on certain industries, like the service and restaurant industries, where there have been significant layoffs. Women make up a large portion of those workforces (while still being underpaid).

It's Transgender Day of Visibility There are so many ways to mark this day, all of them involve becoming a better ally. Check out the Trevor Project’s Guide to Being an Ally to Transgender and Nonbinary Youth and The Human Rights Campaign for more. Then, head over to see (and share) this new body of work by visual narrator Texas Isaiah, in partnership with VSCO and the Marsha P. Johnson Institute. Every Image Is An Offering celebrates the unique beauty of the Black trans and nonbinary community, collaborative portraits taken of people as they live their lives, in homes, offices, parks, in either Oakland or Los Angeles. “It is essential to feature the everyday lives of Black trans people and to provide images that do not entirely disregard trauma but provide a fuller aspect of our lives,” says Isaiah.

Racial health outcomes during the pandemic This is just one of the threads we will be following more deeply now, and the early signs seem predictably grim. Discriminatory practices are baked into the federal government’s response, observes Dr. Uché Blackstock, a Brooklyn urgent care physician. For one thing, you could only get tested if you had traveled recently or had been in verified contact with someone exposed to the virus. For the most part, only white, affluent patients said yes. “We got all of these patients who would come in and had flulike symptoms but didn’t have the flu, and they probably had COVID-19,” she tells Slate. “But we weren’t able to identify them because the criteria is already biased.”

On Background

Remembering Marsha P. Johnson and the Stonewall movement The modern LGBTQ movement is largely thought to have been born one summer night in New York City, when patrons of the Stonewall Inn, the only place in the city where people of the same sex could dance together, fought back after a harassment raid by the police finally went too far. But while the protest that night (and subsequent Pride marches) were largely credited to white men, two trans women of color lead the way: Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera. Click through for some photos and true accounts, but both women kept the work alive. They ultimately co-founded the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, a group that worked with homeless drag queens and transgender women of color. Tragically, both died young, Johnson under suspicious circumstances.

Research: Strict schools are contributing to the school to prison pipeline issue This research from Stephen B. Billings from the University of Colorado—Boulder, and David J. Deming of Harvard, studies how schools with high suspension rates have negative effects on all students, but primarily boys and Black and brown students of all genders. The negative impacts include lower grades and graduation rates. “Students who attend a school with a 10% higher number of suspensions are 10% more likely to be arrested and 12% more likely to be incarcerated as adults,” they find. But the research raises important new questions about education in the time of quarantine. How can the school experience be different for students of color in the new normal to come? (H/T Brown University’s Matthew Kraft.)

It’s time to watch Lemonade again It’s been nearly four years since Beyoncé blessed Planet Earth with her visual album, a tribute to the labor and pain of Black women, with extraordinary nods to Southern gothic traditions, diasphoric explorations, and Black feminist signaling. How do I know all that? An extraordinary body of literature emerged after Lemonade’s release that illuminated the themes of the work, the influences that made it possible, and why it meant so much to so many. Pour yourself a cup of strong tea and click through the inter-disciplinary analyses compiled in The Lemonade Reader, written by both scholars and popular bloggers, who were still feeling the Queen’s touch when they wrote them.
Black Perspectives

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


“It is revolutionary for any trans person to choose to be seen and visible in a world that tells us we should not exist.”

—Laverne Cox, actor and activist, in an interview with BuzzFeed.

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