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WHO chief to racist insults: ‘I don’t give a damn’

April 10, 2020, 7:42 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.

RaceAhead is back from break! A quick refresher: We’re now on a twice-a-week schedule, landing in your inbox Tuesdays and Fridays. And we will be adding new sections over the coming weeks. In today’s email, check these out:

  • Coronavirus in the community, a quick roundup on the pandemic’s latest impact on communities of color
  • The big number, the news of the week captured in one, well, big number
  • Mood board, because sometimes a picture is worth a thousand emotions

Also in the news, a mic drop from the WHO chief and a victory for voting rights in Florida. Plus, turns out, this coronavirus era is a test of leadership character…that Shea Moisture just passed.

But first, your week in review, in Haiku.

Please, pass the brisket
closer to the laptop’s eye.
I can still taste the

love from a distance.
Why is this spring different 
from all other springs?

An inter-faith plague
has claimed the season. For the
first time, the bitter

herbs, the Easter hams,
the iftar sweets will be set
on empty tables.

These are hard things. Look
to the season for clues: New
growth, a patient peace.

Wishing you a peaceful and patient weekend.

Ellen McGirt

On point

“I don’t give a damn” This is what World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had to say this week, after sharing the news that he’s been receiving racist insults and death threats for his efforts to curb the COVID-19 pandemic. He said that the personal attacks had been going on for some three months. “I’m proud of being Black,” he said, throwing up his hands.

Coronavirus response is a leadership litmus test Make way for a new metric for the best companies lists coming your way this year: How did your company treat its employees, customers, suppliers, partners, and community during the pandemic? “I expect it to be the defining criteria for business performance in 2020,” JUST Capital founding CEO Martin Whittaker told Alan Murray on the latest episode of Fortune’s Leadership Next podcast. JUST Capital is focused on stakeholder capitalism, and typically ranks publicly traded companies based on performance on key issues related to their workforce, their customers, and the world at large. They are now studying the corporate world to see who is getting things right. Whittaker has recently tested positive for the coronavirus and was experiencing mild symptoms during the conversation.

Shea Moisture launches $1 million fund for coronavirus relief The Community Commerce fund is an extension of an existing initiative designed to support women of color founders and entrepreneurs. The new fund will include cash grants and e-learning support for eligible entrepreneurs and small businesses. "During this unprecedented time of upheaval, small businesses are being disproportionately affected. For SheaMoisture, which was once a small business, the power of community and entrepreneurship is close to our hearts," said Cara Sabin, CEO of Sundial Brands in a statement. 
USA Today

Federal judge extends voting rights to all formerly incarcerated people in Florida The decision was another setback for embattled Governor Ron DeSantis, who has been seeking workarounds to the 2018 Florida constitutional amendment restoring voting rights to formerly incarcerated people. The ruling affirms that all people with felony convictions can vote, even if they have fees or fines related to their incarceration. Last year, the Florida legislature said paying fines and fees was part of serving a sentence, critics say the measure is a de facto poll tax. The impact is real: The order applies to an estimated 1.4 million men and women. 
Washington Post

Coronavirus in the community

On background

Universities around the country were built on stolen Indigenous lands In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Act. It gifted struggling colleges across the country “public domain lands,” which were then used to raise funds. The land, stolen from Indigenous communities, was the equivalent of roughly 11 million acres—the size of Connecticut and Massachusetts combined—and cut up into 80,000 parcels across the country. For two years, High Country News has tracked down nearly all the Morrill Act parcels, “identified their original Indigenous inhabitants and caretakers, and researched the principal raised from their sale in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.” Twelve states still own unsold Morrill land, including revenue-producing mineral rights. There are 52 land-grant universities in all. Is yours one of them?
High Country News

Harlem through a painter’s eyes Alice Neel moved from bohemian Greenwich Village to Harlem in 1938, a move that might have put her growing career as an artist and tastemaker in jeopardy. Instead, she became an important chronicler of a renaissance that would shape the world. This wonderful profile helps to explain both who she was and how she worked. She called herself a “collector of souls” and her portraiture reflected a deep curiosity about the world that was both intimate and compassionate. “For Neel herself, everyone was equal in all their idiosyncrasies and racial differences,” New Yorker critic Hilton Als told The Atlantic. “Everyone was a member of her club. She painted people no matter what their color, creed, or social standing, and this is what makes her oeuvre so unique.”
The Atlantic

Breaking: We get more creative as we grow older We live in a world that worships and rewards youth, the unencumbered geniuses who fire off screenplays in a weekend or launch world-changing tech from a dorm room. But many of us grow more creative and courageous with time. (And now, many of us have time to spare, right?) Here’s one data point: The average inventor in the U.S. files a patent application at 47, and the highest-value patents typically come from inventors over 55. The New York Times interviewed Dr. John Goodenough, who co-invented the lithium-ion battery at 57, and asked him for some ancient wisdom. Now, at 94, he’s still creative, and he credits faith, patience, and gratitude for his many breakthroughs. “You have to draw on a fair amount of experience in order to be able to put ideas together,” he says. “I’m grateful for the doors that have been opened to me in different periods of my life.”
New York Times

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

The big number


“In Michigan, Black residents were 2.8 times more likely to die of COVID-19 than we would expect based on their population in the state, and in Chicago, they were 2.4 times more likely to die. And while the Black populations makes up 33% of Louisiana’s overall population, they have experienced 70% of all deaths.”

—From the APM Media Lab's latest and ongoing project, The Color of Coronavirus. Currently, race and ethnicity data are available for just 38% of U.S. COVID-19 deaths, and only seven states have released this data disaggregated by race and ethnicity.

Today's mood board

"The Negro and His Many Disadvantages and Burdens," 1897
Courtesy of The New York Public Library