What exactly is Google doing to fight racism?

June 19, 2020, 1:27 PM UTC

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Happy Juneteenth.

Yesterday in this space, my colleague Danielle Abril reviewed Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai’s pledge to increase black representation in the company’s senior ranks. Later in the day, Pichai spoke with another of my colleagues, Ellen McGirt, to elaborate on his views.

In a far-ranging interview, Pichai touches not just on the problems of hiring and diversity in Google’s executive ranks, but also how the company can make an impact in the wider world. Part of Pichai’s plan will direct $100 million to invest in black-led startups and capital firms. Part of Google’s response will be to rethink where it locates major offices, as well. Pichai mentions Atlanta, Washington D.C., and Chicago as places with more diverse populations and robust communities.

“It’s been a long journey,” Pichai says. “I’ve heard it before, but to hear stories, particularly in this context, it’s clear that there is systemic racism that permeates not just dealings with law enforcement, but be it housing, be it education, be it health care and in the workplace, right? And so I think the question is how can we capture the moment and translate it into attention and effort that sustains over time to create change.”

In other related coverage, please don’t miss our project “Working While Black: Stories from black corporate America,” which was developed by our brilliant newsletter editor Karen Yuan. These stories of real people’s experiences are equal parts moving and alarming. Hopefully they can also raise awareness and prompt changes in behavior and practices that have been too long in coming.

Much to think about, much work left to do.

Aaron Pressman




There is no bottom. Another of my colleagues, audience editor John Buysse, noticed something not quite right and rather horrifying in recent Trump ads: an upside-down red triangle symbol, the same symbol that was used by the Nazis to mark political prisoners in concentration camps. Facebook removed the ads, saying they violated its policy against organized hate groups.

Biff, splat, POW! The podcast economy remains hot, thanks to Spotify. The company on Thursday announced a partnership with WarnerMedia's DC Comics and Warner Bros. to produce and distribute an original slate of superhero-themed podcasts. I am here for "The Spiderman Experience," "Batman Needs a Friend," and "Making Sense of Kryptonite with the Man of Steel," but are you?

Takes one to know one. The annual Apple developer show, WWDC, starts on Monday with the company expected to unveil the next versions of all its various operating systems plus announce a transition away from Intel chips. At the same time, the controversy around Apple's treatment of developers like the email service Hey isn't quieting down. On Thursday, Microsoft president Brad Smith, who's had a run-in or two with antitrust regulators himself, called for stricter antitrust regulation of app stores. “The time has come–whether we are talking about D.C. or Brussels–for a much more focused conversation about the nature of app stores, the rules that are being put in place, the prices and the tolls that are being extracted and whether there is really a justification in antitrust law for everything that has been created,” Smith said.

Switching horses in mid-pandemic. In better news for Apple and Google, the U.K.'s National Health Service says it will stop trying to develop its own contact-tracing software for mobile phones. Instead, the NHS may rely on the platform Google and Apple are integrating into their operating systems, which performed better at recording encounters.

I am once again asking for your financial support. The CEO of troubled German payments company Wirecard, Markus Braun, suddenly resigned on Friday. Wirecard, a former fintech darling, has plunged in value after auditors discovered $2 billion of cash missing. Two Asian banks that were thought to have held the cash in Wirecard's accounts say they don't even have accounts with the company.


Some excerpts from our Working While Black project:


A few long reads I came across this week:

Why TikTok’s Addison Rae Is More Than Just a “Pouty Face” (WSJ Magazine)
Seven months ago, she was shuffling to college classes. Now she’s one of TikTok’s biggest stars. Inside the wildest year ever for one 19-year-old dancer.

Jon Stewart Is Back to Weigh In (New York Times)
That pervasive sense of political and social conflict has only grown since Stewart left the air in 2015. It has also made Stewart’s post-‘‘Daily Show’’ silence — apart from a few guest spots on his old friend and colleague Stephen Colbert’s show, he has been mostly out of the spotlight — more intriguing. What has he been thinking about this country while he has been gone?

What Does It Take to Become a Wine Superpower? (The Walrus)
On British Columbia's bid to be the Napa Valley of the North.

Inside WNBA legend Maya Moore's extraordinary quest for justice (ESPN)
On a sunny October day in Jefferson City, Missouri, Maya Moore huddles with her family and friends outside the Cole County courthouse. They stand in a circle, holding hands. Moore prays with them before heading inside.


IBM’s Ginni Rometty: The way we hire must change—and we must do it now By Michal Lev-Ram

The Coronavirus Economy: How a new coworking space designed to celebrate people of color is coping through the pandemic By Rachel King

E-book reading is booming during the coronavirus pandemic By Aaron Pressman

Peloton is having a moment. So are its competitors By Lucinda Shen

There is no shortage of black talent in corporate America By Crystal E. Ashby

Honeywell claims to have created the world’s most powerful quantum computer By Robert Hackett

Passengers are afraid to fly. The right tools could help airlines woo them back By David Ziegler

(Some of these stories require a subscription to access. There is a 50% discount for our loyal readers if you use this link to sign up. Thank you for supporting our journalism.)


Talk about your cultural appropriations. Hardline right-wing hawk John Bolton's new book is titled The Room Where It Happened. Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, who authored that particular lyric, took to Twitter to offer his resistance:
lin manuel miranda on twitter



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