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The victims of the El Paso terror attack deserve to be remembered

August 5, 2020, 12:01 AM UTC

To be on the race beat is to be surrounded by ghosts.

I’ve been thinking a lot about that lately. I’ve been thinking about in the long national conversation we’re now having about talent—about how to hire, keep, and grow the people we need to make sure our companies represent the world—we never mention the ghosts.

They’re everywhere.

The road to the executive suite starts at birth, and that’s exactly when people start dropping out of the pipeline. Maternal and infant health disparities. Unsafe and unhealthy neighborhoods. Inadequate schools and disproportionate treatment of students of color. Inadequate access to health care. Under-resourced and underemployed families. Police violence.

And sometimes, future leaders, creators, innovators, and CEOs get shot dead in a Walmart in El Paso, Texas by a man who hates them just because. Like 15-year-old Javier Rodriguez, a good student who loved soccer. And Jordan Anchondo, 25, and her husband, Andre, who were parents of three children. He owned a small business; they were shopping for school supplies.

I’ve been thinking about all the people who are not being remembered this week, and how quickly they’ve all become ghosts.

The coronavirus pandemic, in its own way, has robbed the El Paso community, Latinx people, and allies around the world of the opportunity to gather in tribute to the 23 people killed and over two dozen injured last year by a man who drove 700 miles out of his way to commit his act of terror. 

The City of El Paso had planned a series of memorial events, including hashtag tributes and digital photo walls, but it all seemed to come and go with little mainstream notice. 

Of course, it’s also worth noting that the person who made a memorial necessary has also been largely forgotten. He hated immigrants. He feared for the future of the European identity, whatever that is. At the time, experts cited the type of screed he posted online as similar enough to that of other mass murder events—like one left by the man who gunned down 51 people in a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand—to be evidence of “cascading terrorism.”

Don’t hear much about that these days, either. As long as hate continues to cascade, which it will, we can expect more ghosts.

And shame on us.

Ellen McGirt

On point

SurveyMonkey takes a stand for diversity in their supplier networks This open letter links SurveyMonkey in common cause with companies like 23andMe, Box, and Zoom to spend their money with vendors and professional services providers who take diversity, inclusion, and equity seriously. (Remember, these kind of investments can make a difference.) I’m looking forward to the details, but the intent is on point. “I am looking forward to personally contacting our 20 largest vendors to inform them that investing in diversity, equity, and inclusion will be a requirement for doing business with us,” says SurveyMonkey CEO Zander Lurie in the letter. All vendors will be asked to take a workplace diversity survey, and be asked to commit to benchmarks and improvements. Curious about what you think. SurveyMonkey

Michele Meyer-Shipp is MLB’s new chief people and culture officer I say this unreservedly: Meyer-Shipp, most recently KPMG’s diversity chief, is one of the most dedicated and impactful diversity professionals I’ve ever observed in the field. And now, she’s in an even bigger league. Her new role encompasses all of human resources, from talent to culture. Baseball has a vital place in popular culture, and I expect her influence to be felt in the lives of fans, alumni, and communities big and small. Root, root, rooting for you, Ms. Meyer-Shipp.

Will Silicon Valley ever think differently about diversity? Bloomberg’s Shelly Banjo and Dina Bass start this piece with the single most vexing issue about the enduring whiteness of tech: They espoused utopia, inherited none of the built-in barriers about race and status, and we are: They've just built a bigger version of the same systemic trap, at scale. What follows is the story of that failure, with up-to-date numbers and fresh anecdotes about lack of advancement, biased cultures and the growing problem of Black and Latinx attrition. And the latest twist—global crisis. Will the pandemic put diversity efforts on hold? Aubrey Blanche, the former diversity head at Atlassian Corp, sums up the tension. “They’re trying to solve 400 years of structural oppression and, ‘Oh, by the way, they need to hit their target at the end of the quarter.’”

On background

World, meet Linda Diaz This song will set you right. Diaz is a Brooklyn-based (LES-raised) singer-songwriter who is getting a well-deserved moment in the spotlight as the winner of NPR Music’s 2020 Tiny Desk Contest. She won for her song “Green Tea Ice Cream,” in which she celebrates the moments that bring her joy in a world that is too much grind and too few tender moments. “Do you even know what you’re working toward?” she asks. “Slow down…you’re burning out.” Congrats to Diaz and her most excellent band. Enjoy.

Can a curriculum save the community? I stumbled on the Chicago Unheard blog, written by teachers, parents, students and anyone with a stake in the success of the Chicago Public School system. In one essay, Ashley McCall asked a series of questions that stoked my own imagination: What if Chicago designed a school year specifically to address the recovery? What if CPS “courageously liberated itself from narrow and rigid quantitative measures of intelligence that have colonized the education space for generations, and instead blazed a trail for reimagining what qualifies as valuable knowledge?” And that’s where things got interesting. Anyone worried about students or school systems, this one’s for you. (That probably should be everybody.)
Chicago Unheard

Remembering Operation Wetback Yes, that was its real name. It was the response to a guest worker program gone wrong, a product of the Eisenhower administration’s attempt to bring some sort of relief to the abuse experienced by Mexican farm laborers, which included mass deportations and mob violence throughout the Great Depression. By the 1950s, Anti-Mexican sentiment and violence grew to a fever pitch, fueled in part by fears that every laborer was a Communist in disguise. In the go-to book on the operation, Impossible Subjects, historian Mae Ngai describes deportation ships that were later compared in Congressional reports to “eighteenth century slave ship[s]” and “penal hell ship[s].” It was horrific. “Some 88 ‘braceros’ died of sun stroke as a result of a round-up that had taken place in 112-degree heat,” she writes.

This edition of raceAhead was edited by Karen Yuan.

Today's mood board

Maybe hats will come back, too. (Mood board courtesy of Jessica Helfand.)