One scoop at a time
RaceAhead continues to spotlight the experiences of Asian Americans, though we absolutely have Georgia on our minds. We celebrate a historic cabinet nomination and also address the burning question: Is the Senate filibuster really racist?
But first, here’s your Suez Canal-inspired week in review, in Haiku.
Imagine all the
bad things on one BIG ship: Greed
and bloat, violence
and plunder and lies,
now suddenly run aground.
Stuck. Exposed to the
eyes of the world. Now,
imagine getting the call.
“You got a bulldozer,
right?” You rub sleep from
your eyes and check the news. You
see the size of
the problem. You see
the size of your bulldozer.
“Yes I do,” you say.
Thank you for all the big jobs you always take on. Hope you get some rest this weekend.
Today, I’m sharing this space with my sisters at Broadsheet, Fortune’s daily newsletter for, about, and I might add, produced by the world’s most powerful women. We're joining forces to continue to share the experiences of the AAPI community.
My dear colleague Michal Lev-Ram interviewed several Asian women, all in leadership roles, to learn how they were being impacted by the AAPI hate crimes and what conversations we should all be having. This is a don’t miss, must share edition of their newsletter, and it begins with a call for the media to do better:
Clara Shih, CEO of the service cloud business at Salesforce, based in San Francisco, provided a to-do list for those of us in the media, aimed at more accurately and productively reporting on attacks like the one we saw last week.
“First, learn about the victims of these attacks,” says Shih. “The stories we tell should focus on humanizing the victims, not the attacker. Say their names and share their stories.” (Here are the names of the victims: Xiaojie Tan, Daoyou Feng, Soon Chung Park, Hyun Jung Grant, Suncha Kim, Yong Ae Yue, Delaina Ashley Yaun, and Paul Andre Michels. And here is a helpful pronunciation guide put together by the Asian American Journalists Association.)
“We should all be talking about unconscious bias and call out bad behavior when we hear people saying things that are racist or sexist,” says Shih. “Even if it seems like a harmless joke, stereotypes are more dangerous than they seem and we must call it out. We have now seen how racist language can lead to violence and even death.”
Speaking out, especially on these complex and painful issues, isn’t easy. “I worry constantly about my parents’ safety and call to check on them daily,” says Shih. “I feel great sadness and empathy for my fellow Asian Americans in less tolerant areas of the country who live in fear, and a great sense of responsibility to speak out on their behalf.”
In separate remarks, Anne Chow, CEO of AT&T Business, told Michal that while the issue is personal, it can’t only be personal to her.
“Most people have asked me if I am fearful given the rise in AAPI hate crimes. I am not. I am angry. I am frustrated. I am saddened by the senseless loss of life. I am disappointed because I know we can be better and do better. But I am also more motivated to share even more of my own personal stories and experiences so that others can be exposed to the realities and negative impacts of racism in the modern world,” she says.
Understanding starts with deep listening.
“We should all be seeking to understand any communities and all people who have been impacted, marginalized and compromised. This involves engagement on a personal level with the intent of listening, learning, and active dialogue, particularly about biases – both conscious and unconscious. These conversations must be candid, courageous, transparent, authentic and as such incredibly uncomfortable if we are to make progress together.”
Covering the Atlanta massacre from the Korean point of view There are enough Korean immigrants living in the Atlanta area to support at least three Korean-language local media outlets, Atlanta K, Korea Times Atlanta, and Korea Daily, all in a unique position to understand the victims and their lives. The insights are extraordinary: “Of the four, only one woman provided massage services to customers,” explains Shinhee Kang in this valuable analysis. “The other ‘old-time workers’ performed secondary tasks: opening doors, keeping up the space, and providing food for colleagues. Some of the women lived, ate, and slept at the spa, and not all carried US citizenship. Subsequent coverage from Korea Daily revealed they were mostly ‘subsistence workers,’ some of whom didn’t have relatives in the US. Such details hinted at their shared isolation and insecurity. They were so close to one another that their children would call their mothers’ colleagues ‘aunties.’”
Columbia Journalism Review
Georgia governor signs a controversial bill to overhaul state elections The bill has numerous restrictions, which advocates say are designed to suppress the votes in Black and low-income communities, and include limits on the timeframe for runoff elections, restricts the number of voting drop boxes, and a new photo ID requirement for mail-in and absentee voting. It even prohibits the distribution of free water or snacks to anyone standing in line to vote. Other elements in the bill shift power to administer elections to the GOP-controlled legislature, alarming voting rights advocates. While many of the more contentious provisions didn’t make it to the final bill, voting rights advocates are planning an economic boycott of Georgia-based businesses. Yesterday, as Gov. Brian Kemp livestreamed his announcement that the bill had been signed, Georgia state troopers arrested state Rep. Park Cannon, who had gathered with other protestors asking to witness the announcement. She has been released on bond, but the optics were terrible.
Atlanta Journal Constitution
Rachel Levine confirmed as assistant health secretary Levine, a pediatrician, is now the first openly transgender official confirmed by the Senate, and now the highest-ranking transgender official in U.S.history. The Democratic vote was unanimous, and Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) crossed the aisle to support Levine. Her nomination was decried by religious groups, while other detractors pointed to a mixed record on pandemic response in her previous role as Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Health. “With the confirmation of Dr. Rachel Levine, we are one step closer to a government that mirrors the beautiful diversity of its people,” Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement.
Does the filibuster have racist origins? Factcheck: True! During a recent press briefing, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) declared that the Senate filibuster, "has no racial history at all. None. There's no dispute among historians about that." Plenty of historians quickly begged to differ, and Keisha N. Blain, author and associate professor of history at the University of Pittsburgh, just took us all to filibuster school. Filibusters – actual and threatened – have long been used to block civil rights legislation, a practice that continues to this day. (Kentucky Senator Rand Paul’s threat to block anti-lynching legislation is a memorable recent example.) “Even a brief examination of U.S. history reveals that it is impossible to separate the filibuster from the history of racism and white supremacy,” says Blain. “Then, as now, filibusters were often used to block measures to expand Black rights and political participation.”
Help: My white daughter was bullied at her primarily Black school. Why? Writer, podcaster, and Slate columnist Jamilah Lemieux did a brilliant job unpacking this difficult question from a worried white mother in her recent parenting column. In it, she offers a master class in acknowledging harm, denouncing violence, all while providing valuable context that might contribute to racial tension when white children attend primarily Black schools. Start by thinking about what your daughter’s presence may signify in an area that is gentrifying, she recommends. “Those kids see their parents struggling to afford to live in an area that is changing to better reflect people like you,” she writes. “They know the world is kinder to your child than it is to them. The combination of that knowledge, that pain, and their youth can be very volatile.”
When is the Equal Pay Day for white women? Equal Pay Day, the extra days that women need to work to make the same amount of money that a non-Hispanic white man makes, is now broken down by race and ethnicity, a welcome analysis that helps shine a light on the very different economic circumstances facing different demographics of working women. The one we acknowledged this week, is supposed to represent the totality of working women. Rhonda Vonshay Sharpe, a researcher, education expert, and founder and president of the Women’s Institute for Science, Equity and Race, says it’s time to dig deeper. “The way data are presented has consequences for White women, too, as Equal Pay Day demonstrates,” she says. “The failure to disaggregate denies them knowledge about their position relative to men and other women. It denies them information about how gender operates to oppress them and about how their whiteness provides benefits. It denies them the opportunity to see themselves in the data.” But, she says, there’s hope ahead.
This edition of raceAhead is edited by David Z. Morris.
Today's mood board
Derrick Green, the Ohio-born frontman of legendary Brazilian thrash-metal band Sepultura. Sepultura's breakthrough album, Arise (featuring founding vocalist Max Cavalera) was released thirty years ago this week.