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The future is digital, but is it diverse?

September 24, 2021, 7:36 PM UTC

The 1619 Project gets a boost on Facebook, the racial wealth gap begins with home appraisals, there’s a new Greenpeace in town, and the U.S. special envoy to Haiti resigns in protest over the treatment of Haitian migrants. Plus, a bonus track from our colleague Jonathan Vanian: If Latinx consumers are driving digital adoption, why are there so few Latinx execs in tech?

But first, here’s your Melvin Van Peebles tribute week in review, in Haiku.

If a picture’s worth
a thousand words, then what is
a movie worth? To

tell the true tale, 
find some friends to chip in, make 
sure the music’s tight,

ignore the all-white
jury, and run all the way
to the border. Trust:

If you are one of
the Brothers and Sisters who
have had enough of 

the Man, be sure to
live your best, boldest, fiercest,
sweetest badass life.

Wishing you a bold and badass weekend.

Ellen McGirt

In brief

Guillermo Diaz, Jr. knows firsthand how hard it is for Hispanics to climb the corporate ladder, especially in the technology industry.

Diaz is one of the few Mexican American executives who made it to the Silicon Valley C-Suite, becoming the chief information officer of networking giant Cisco in 2015. Now, as the CEO of the sensor-analytics startup Kloudspot, Diaz is trying to find ways to improve Latinx representation in the homogenous tech industry.

Under the backdrop of Hispanic Heritage Month, Diaz described to Fortune the impetus for bringing more Hispanics into the tech industry. He’ll be speaking next week at the L’ATTITUDE conference focusing on Latinx and the nation’s economy where he will discuss how Hispanics are becoming one of the biggest consumers of digital technologies in the nation.

“By 20 years from now, the Hispanic population will be a third of the U.S. population,” Diaz said. And as the number of Latinx rise, so do their technology usage habits, which according to Nielsen and other related data, Diaz said shows that “we’re over-indexed” on device ownership, streaming media consumption, and application usage. In other words, Hispanics are increasingly becoming major consumer technology users that companies should not ignore.

The irony, however, is that Hispanics are not represented well at tech companies even though they are increasingly using technology services. In Silicon Valley, Diaz said that Latinos represent 40% of the overall population, but only comprise 3% of the high-tech workforce.

To help remedy the situation, Diaz and some partner groups like HITEC, an executive organization for Hispanics, are taking a multipronged approach. To help Hispanic students see that they have opportunities, he and his partners are trying to make connections with young adults to show them that people that look like themselves actually stand a chance to have a career in the tech industry. Sometimes, this requires the help of tech companies to create internships or work-experiences in which Hispanic students can step into the doors of the offices that they may only see from a distance.

“Those micro messages at an early age are really important,” Diaz said.

One of the major challenges is that little has changed in regard to tech industry diversity over the years.  

“I remember having this conversation 10 years ago,” he said about the dismal representation of Latinos in tech. It’s also difficult for Hispanic entrepreneurs to receive investment from elite venture capital groups, but he’s optimistic that newer initiatives like a VC fund for Latinos by the L’ATTITUDE organization can at least present some new paths.

By sharing his story to more Latino entrepreneurs and students, he’s hoping to show that while it seems daunting, having a tech career isn’t impossible.

“I am in the boardroom, I am a digital guy, I do have access to capital,” Diaz said. “I was you, I was that kid and I was actually worse than you. So if I could do it, there's no reason you can't do it.”

“I have such a pride to be Hispanic,” Diaz said. He said that sometimes students will ask him if he feels he has imposter syndrome, being a lone Latino in the board room.

He will acknowledge that yes, he is “the only brown guy in the room.”  

“But take that out of your mind for a second,” Diaz said. “Just say that I am a leader in the same room as these other leaders.”

Jonathan Vanian 

On point

The 1619 Project and the Pulitzer Center team up on Facebook The Lift Black Voices hub on Facebook has long been used to share stories and resources by and for Black people, including raising awareness of Black-owned businesses. Starting this week, experts from the Pulitzer Center will be serving as guest curators, amplifying the themes of the 1619 Project via an initiative called “Centering the Stories of Black Americans.” The feed is already filled with gems and recommendations, including a swath of articles explaining the racism baked in public systems, and a podcast exploring the history of Black music. Enjoy.
Lift Black Voices hub

Homes in Black and Latinx neighborhoods are appraised for less than asking price New research from government mortgage giant Freddie Mac finds what many other smaller studies have found: The racism in the housing market runs deep. In this case, the research found that between 2015 and 2020, some 15.4 percent of single-family home in majority Latinx neighborhoods and 12.5 percent of homes in majorityBlack areas were appraised lower than their agreed upon price. In white communities, that number is 7.4 percent. Lower than expected appraisals have a chilling effect on sales prices and home equity.  These lower prices “really inhibits the market in ways that throttle social and economic mobility,” Andre M. Perry, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution tells the Wall Street Journal. The findings are based on some 12 million records.
Wall Street Journal

Meet Greenpeace’s new executive director Ebony Twilley Martin has become the first Black executive director of a legacy environmental organization. While she shares the top spot with Anne Leonard, the appointment is significant.I really want to be a bridge between the broader environmental movement and communities of color,” she told journalist Charles Blow on #PRIMEwithCharlesBlow. “When people come together and unite, we can demand change.”
Black Enterprise

U.S. special envoy to Haiti resigns amid the "horrific" mass deportation of Haitian migrants at the U.S. border, most of whom had been living in countries across Latin America. Daniel Foote’s resignation letter is being described as “blistering” for good reason. “I will not be associated with the United States’ inhumane, counterproductive decision to deport thousands of Haitian refugees and illegal immigrants to Haiti, a country where American officials are confined to secure compounds because of the dangers posed by armed gangs in control of daily life,” he wrote. More on the situation at the border here and the unconscionable behavior of the Border Patrol here. The Columbia Journalism Review has the best contextual round-up I've seen on the situation in Haiti, by all means read and share widely. (Latter link h/t raceAhead super-contributor Caitlin Klevorick.)
Washington Post


This edition of raceAhead was edited by Wandy Felicita Ortiz.

On Background

Do people really care about inequality? This is the central question of this piece from The Nation, that notes that income inequality has been a subject of much debate since 2008, but there is little real energy behind addressing it. Atossa Araxia Abrahamian give a great review of the history of inquiry into poverty and the wealth gap – the concept isn’t new, but addressing the gap has been less of a priority than simply helping people be slightly less poor. But with the economic crash of 2007/8, the language of inequality took hold, generating a ton of grants and white papers, but little actual policy change. That said, the wave of populist rhetoric offers some real resistance. “Are the new inequality activists interested in achieving equality, or just fighting inequality?” she asks.
The Nation

A lost interview with James Baldwin You can thank the higher power of your choice for packrat writers and dutiful nieces, both of whom are responsible for this gem from the man who knew America’s heart like no other. Baldwin’s first biographer was a woman named Fern Marja Eckman, who wrote for the New York Post back in the day, and who died in 2019 at age 103. Her niece, Leslie J. Freeman cleaned out her aunt’s apartment and sets the scene: “Hidden in a concealed drawer of an old mahogany desk, I found transcripts of interviews that she had conducted with Baldwin… [i]t is especially interesting to read the carefully typed transcripts of their conversations in light of our current moment.” While some of the material made its way into books, much did not. What follows will not disappoint — and it’s about a terrifying get-out-the-vote effort he covered in Selma, Ala., October 1963: “Here is a town that’s ruled by terror, that’s ruled by mob. The white population and the police are all the mob, and there’s no protection for any Negro in the town of any kind whatever,” he told Eckman. “You cannot call the police. You’d be out of your mind. And the Negroes are not armed. They cannot protect themselves. It’s not a rich town, so everyone there is, in one way or another, dependent for his livelihood on some white man. Now, to get, as Jim [James Forman] did, three hundred and seventy-five Negroes out to vote… Fantastic!”
New Yorker

Grief is more than just a temporary condition It is a form of invisible disability, causing people to spiral into anxiety, depression, become withdrawn or scattered. And yet, there are few companies that have clear policies or positions for bereavement, and fewer if the person who has been lost is a friend or more distant relative. “The take all the time you need,” approach can do more harm than good, suggests Jennifer Moss, of Plasticity Labs. She offers several tips on becoming a more responsive workplace, and all of them involve an authentic willingness to confront the truth. It helps grieving people feel less alone. “It’s critical for business leaders to make understanding grief part of other trainings that employees get on emotional intelligence, mindfulness, and so on,” she says.
Havard Business Review

Mood board

RaceAhead-Mario and Melvin Van Peebles
"Tell the true tale," and get your foot out of your ass — Melvin Van Peebles and his son, actor Mario Van Peebles pose for a portrait at the Hotel Intercontivental during the 2003 Toronto International Film Festival. 
Carlo Allegri—Getty Images

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