When we see someone in distress, will we ignore it?

May 21, 2021, 6:50 PM UTC

Pulitzer Prize-winning genius Professor Nikole Hannah-Jones is denied tenure, the housing shortage puts pressure on the middle class, and employees emerge as most important stakeholders for companies. Bonus: My colleague Jonathan Vanian reviews a new report on the mental health issues facing LGBTQ+ youth.

But first, here’s your unidentified aerial phenomena news, in Haiku.

Look! Up in the sky!
What is that? I don’t know. Can
you identify

it? I know what I 
saw, says Obama. What was
it? No idea. Shaq

saw one. The Navy
says they go swimming from time
to time. Well, if the

quarterback saw one,
who are we to second-guess?
Hey! Maybe throw the

keys to aliens
while humans sort things out. Let
E.T. drive awhile.

Wishing you a blissfully terrestrial weekend. 

Ellen McGirt

In Brief

A turbulent year has taken its toll on thousands of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQ+) youth.

The Trevor Project, a mental health crisis and suicide-prevention non-profit, released its 2021 mental health survey of LGBTQ youth this week. The results, based on responses from nearly 35,000 individuals, provide a sobering look into how the coronavirus pandemic, societal racism, and contentious political affairs affected the minds of children and young adults already struggling to fit within the outdated norms of a divisive world.

The survey found that about 42% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, 94% said recent politics “negatively impacted their mental health,” and 48% were unable to receive mental health counseling even though they wanted help.  

Particularly concerning was the fact that 67% of Black LGBTQ youth and 60% of Asian/Pacific Islander LGBTQ youth said they experienced discrimination based on their race or ethnicity. It’s unfortunately unsurprising considering that societal racism was a major theme for this past year, from the brutal murder of George Floyd by police to the rise of harassment and violence against Asian Americans.

One might assume that with a nation hunkered down at home during COVID-19, incidences of racial discrimination might not have been as high. But that assumption doesn’t take in account the many people of color who work in low-wage jobs that required them to leave their homes, explained Trevor Project chief clinical operations officer Tia Dole. 

“Middle-and upper-class people are staying indoors,” Dole said, noting that many people of color work in physical stores like groceries. “Racism still happens the way racism still happens.”

Trevor Project vice president of research Amy E. Green said that hate crimes against Black and Asian Americans have gone “way up” over the past year, and that “we as a society are becoming more and more split, and there are unfortunately louder voices that are on one side of things that are spewing a lot of hate.”

There is hope, however.

Dole finds encouragement from the LGBTQ youth who reach out to the Trevor Project during times of crisis, showing their resiliency when it’s “been a rough year.”

“These kids are really trying to find a place in the world,” she said.

Green said the survey showed that LGBTQ youth found some joy in seeing aspects of LGBTQ culture portrayed positively in public. When business leaders with power and influence speak out on LGBTQ and race-related issues, their words and actions can have a significant impact on young adults and children who then see those messages reverberate into the world, she explained.

Companies that create “advertising and marketing” that “celebrate the diversity of people living in this country” can help the mental well-being of LGBTQ youth, she said.  And executives that “stand up against actions that are discriminatory toward people of color and that are discriminatory toward the LGTBQ” can have a huge impact, she said, pointing to companies that have publicly condemned a controversial voting law in Georgia.

As Dole noted, the youth of today “pay attention to news.”  


Jonathan Vanian 

On Point

What’s tenure got to do with it? The University of North Carolina is under fire for denying tenure to Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones — a recent appointee to the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism at U.N.C.’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media — after conservatives objected to her role in The New York Times Magazine’s 1619 Project. The university’s journalism department had recommended Hannah-Jones for tenure. North Carolina’s Republican controlled legislature appoints the University’s board of governors; some critics have labeled the content of the 1619 Project, which examines the legacy of slavery in the U.S., as “propaganda.” A handful of historians also critiqued the project — learn more about their concerns here.
The 19th and New York Times

In search of a good starter home Home prices are shooting up, driven by many factors, but one stands out: Investors. Even zip codes that had been in decline like the Rust Belt city of Allentown, Pa. have seen home prices soar, eliminating younger people aspiring to enter the ranks of middle-class homeowners. With the exception of a few predictable urban markets, the U.S. is seeing “a chronic shortage of inventory, heavy sales volume and prices rising at levels wildly ahead of income growth,” one real estate consultant tells the Wall Street Journal. Flag this story as the gateway reporting for the heartbreaking tales of gentrification yet to come.
Wall Street Journal

Employees, this is your moment. Make the most of it For the first time ever, employees are seen to be more important to a company’s long-term success than any other stakeholder — three times more important than shareholders, in fact. This is the finding of the most recent research from communications firm Edelman, which recently released its 2021 mid-year Trust Barometer Spring Update report. The company surveyed more than 16,800 people in 14 countries between April 30 and May 11, declaring “multistakeholder capitalism just came home to roost.” The shift first became clear in Trust Barometer research from 2019. “Seventy-four percent of institutional investors said a company’s ability to win the best talent is more important in gaining investors’ trust than the ability of that company to attract new customers or increase a valuation multiple,” they found.


On background

The Black Lives Matter movement and Palestine Marya Hannun, a Palestinian American and PhD candidate in Islamic Studies at Georgetown, makes a compelling case that the conversations about colonialism, oppression, and policing cultivated by the movement for Black Lives has encouraged people in the U.S. to comment on the surge of violence between Israel and Palestine, now in a temporary pause. It’s been, she notes, a remarkable reversal. “Friends who have always been silent on Palestine are speaking out for the first time and politicians like New York City mayoral candidate Andrew Yang are being forced to publicly walk back their unwavering support of Israel amid vocal criticism,” she begins. “While it’s hard to prove definitively, I suspect this change owes a debt to Black Lives Matter organizing and the response to George Floyd’s killing almost exactly one year ago.”

Understanding employee’s feelings is the new leadership super-power While the technical term “emotional acknowledgement” sounds clinical, the ability to notice and comment on the emotional state of others is a powerful way to build trust. The secret is to look for the non-verbals — a smile, a frown, a grimace. Alisa Yu, a PhD student in organizational behavior at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, teamed up with colleagues to conduct six studies on the subject. “A leader could very easily see someone in distress and choose to ignore it,” Yu says. “But only a leader who truly is benevolent and cares about employees would risk getting involved by voluntarily acknowledging the distressed employee. Thus, employees might take this as a signal that this leader is someone who can be trusted with their well-being.” You can find their published research here; more about their journey below.
Stanford Business

Hey six-foot tall (white) guy! This world is for you Writer Oliver Wainwright does his readers a great service by starting his review of an important new exhibit at the Barbican, part of the London arts centre, by reminding us who the world was originally designed for: A mythical and dashing six-foot tall man, specifically a 1940s-era British policeman. Blame famed architect Le Corbusier. “His system would go on to shape the entire postwar world, dictating everything from the height of a door handle to the scale of a staircase, all governed by the need to make everything as convenient as possible for this 6ft-tall ideal man,” says Wainwright. By the 1980s anyone who didn’t fit that body type asked to speak to the world’s manager, and a radical alliance called the Matrix Feminist Design Co-operative was born. Now, surviving members are set to remake the world once again in a multi-faceted project called How We Live Now, which mixes archival footage and new material that explores their radically collaborative approach. “The project considers who our buildings and shared spaces are designed for, who is excluded from our designed environment, and what effect this has on the communities who live there?” Timely and bold.
The Guardian


This edition of raceAhead is edited by Wandy Felicita Ortiz

Today's mood board

Is seeing really believing? Some UFO food for thought on this Friday.
Courtesy of US Department of Defense

Our mission to make business better is fueled by readers like you. To enjoy unlimited access to our journalism, subscribe today.

Read More

CEO DailyCFO DailyBroadsheetData SheetTerm Sheet