A better future requires empathy—and institutions should be leading the way

August 20, 2021, 6:52 PM UTC

It’s time to talk about gerrymandering, Charlotte is taking names, there’s racism in your home’s deed, and a lawsuit alleging troubles at Amherst is a sign of how tough culture change can be. Oh! And the version of “Glory” you didn’t know you needed.

But first, here’s your jeopardy inspired week in review, in Haiku.

Turns out, things from your
past can put your future in
sudden jeopardy!

Who knew? Food for thought
for a planet on fire

virus, and latest
entrants into a club that’s
bad to belong to.

Some days, it’s better
to take a break from the fray.
Bow out! Let someone

else take it from here.
Unless you’re Laura Coates. Then
sit right by that phone.

Ellen McGirt

In brief

Thanks to all for the warm welcome back and for your heartfelt responses to Tuesday’s piece about the crisis of confidence CEOs are experiencing. When it comes to empathy, many of you were not feeling their pain. “They need to step up, and fast,” was the general consensus, if I’m reading my mail correctly.

One thing that may help right away is a baseline understanding of trauma. For that, this piece from the 19th, the exceptional non-profit media organization reporting on politics, policy, and gender equity, offers an important guidepost.

Empathy is an essential element in all important conversations, but in journalism — which is still a primarily white, male institution — it’s the key to understanding marginalized and underserved communities, and telling more nuanced stories.

“An interview that prevents someone in a vulnerable position from saying everything they want to say — from painting a full picture of their circumstances and emotions to the reporter — is another hindrance for newsrooms as they learn to accurately report on marginalized communities,” says Orion Rummler.

"I think this is an especially important lesson for White men reporters, like myself, to learn. Responsible reporting demands ‘baseline literacy in trauma concepts,’ as Bruce Shapiro, executive director of the Dart Center for Journalism & Trauma, wrote last month.”

Rummler is on to something important. I would argue that this baseline understanding is an essential foundation for anyone in any industry who needs to understand the true lived experiences of people they lead. More so for anyone who is crafting the kinds of back-to-work policies that are essential as COVID-19 continues to hold the country in its grip.

“The next few months, however, will be the true test of executives’ newfound skills as they strive to strike the right balance between empathy and business outcomes on a range of challenging policy issues,” writes Sunil Prashara, the president and CEO of the Project Management Institute (PMI) in this detailed and suggestion-filled essay. “This also requires the ability to make decisions with both heart and mind.”

On point

Redistricting battles are heating up For months, both Republicans and Democrats have been gearing up to take the fight over voting district map-making to courts in all fifty states. This fascinating story out of North Carolina focuses on the winner of a unique, national competition sponsored by the Princeton Gerrymandering Project, an initiative from Princeton University designed to support fair redistricting efforts. Nathaniel Fischer is a 24-year-old Durham resident and a self-described “redistricting nerd” who started out “redistrict[ing] just for fun. It’s like playing a video game, though obviously a lot more important,” he said. He bested 129 other entrants in the Great American Map-Off, and created a North Carolina map of fourteen districts that best preserves “communities of interest.” The process took about four hours, using specialized software.
The News & Observer

City of Charlotte updates plan to rename streets named after Confederate leaders The news, released this week, comes after a long process of city council approvals and resident feedback. One of the nine renamed streets will be Jefferson Davis Street, located in a predominantly Black neighborhood. On September 25th, it will be changed to Druid Hills Way. Druid Hills is a historically Black neighborhood, now in the crosshairs of developers. Property values in the area including Druid Hills surged 134% in the 2019 revaluation, according to data from the Charlotte Observer.
AP News 

Amherst lacrosse coach alleges he was fired because of his race in a new suit Rashad Devoe says he was tapped to be head coach of Amherst College men’s lacrosse team to address a racist team culture. Last Friday, he filed a federal discrimination suit saying the school discriminated against him and then fired him because of his race. The suit alleges the Amherst College board of trustees, a provost, the athletic director, and a host of others participated in a “civil conspiracy” to damage his reputation. The suit claims he was fired after he reported a new racist incident against Black players.
Daily Hampshire Gazette

Long-ago racial covenants are increasingly being discovered on from property deeds. Does it matter? This question hangs in the air of this piece which begins with the shock of discovering an ugly covenant barring non-white ownership buried in the fine print of the deed of a home in San Diego. One of the two homeowners is Black. The covenants, now illegal, are an ugly reminder of how entrenched racism created segregated and underserved communities, and contributed to the racial wealth gap. Increasingly, homeowners are examining property deeds and asking for racial covenants to be removed. It can be surprisingly difficult. While new organizations are springing up to help, the payoff remains unclear.
New York Times

On background

Yes, redlining still needs to be addressed Redlining, the practice of lenders to deny certain communities access to affordable capital based on race, is still very much a thing. This story explores the 2015 HUD settlement with Wisconsin’s largest bank for discrimination against Black and Hispanic mortgage borrowers in Wisconsin, Illinois and Minnesota from 2008 to 2010, people who were exactly as credit-worthy as white borrowers on the other side of the red line. But the story is a reminder that historic redlining, which began in the 1930s, is an integral part of the American experience for many people. “If your family was denied a mortgage in the 1930s, or the 1950s, or the 1970s, then you may not have the family wealth or down payment help to become a homeowner today.” 
Washington Post

Ka: An underground rapper gets his due You don’t have to be a hip hop fan to appreciate this profile of Ka, the Brownsville-based rapper who exemplifies “underground” success in a world where that term has little meaning anymore. After some early success in the emergent 90’s, he joined the F.D.N.Y. and served for nearly a decade, before he shifted gears to start rhyming once more. It’s a story of art and hustle that doesn’t typically last into someone’s middle years. “His music is mostly self-produced; for many years, he paid for studio sessions with money made while working overtime as a firefighter, and mailed out his records to fans, as a one-man shop,” says music writer and editor Sheldon Pearce. Ka’s sixth album is a perfect time to reflect on his music and the moments they came from.
New Yorker

Just watch this, trust me I apologize for only now seeing this extraordinary version of Glory performed by the Detroit Youth Choir and artist Kid Ray. Enjoy.

This edition of raceAhead was edited by Ashley Sylla.

Mood board

RaceAhead-Laura Coates
Jeopardy fans are waiting on a better future for the show—one that hopefully includes CNN legal analyst Laura Coates as the host. It was a future former host Alex Trebek envisioned in 2018 when he mentioned Coates as a potential successor. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images for SiriusXM)
Larry French—Getty Images for SiriusXM

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