Why a commitment to equity should be everyone’s resolution for 2022
“Good morning! I love you.”
This was my message to the world each day in 2021, a quest for clarity that came in the form of a simple, daily creative practice. Every morning, I drew a water drop, or similar shape, and posted a photo of it on Twitter. Here’s the original thread.
The idea came to me after a conversation with Jessica Helfand, a multi-hyphenate design/writer/artist talent and founder of Design Observer, who along with dreams design + life founder Kevin Bethune, was developing a session for Fortune Connect on the human component in designing equitable products and systems. As we were prepping, we got into a conversation about observing deeply, the world and self. I knew I was facing a difficult year, and was feeling shaky. “It’s the foundation of all the work we need to do,” she said. Empathy, creativity, transformation, justice, all of it. “Look for a simple practice.”
I decided on water drops largely because they seem doable, and a series of tiny revelations followed. I looked at other drawings, practiced with pencils – did you know they have different widths and smudging properties? Wow! – and I played with color and developed some techniques.
And then about two months in, I was coming out of the shower and noticed…water drops. Real ones! Round and janky-shaped, orbs of lights and darks. I had never really seen them before. I was struck by the perfection of the forms that had been around me the entire time.
From that day forward, moments of simple beauty began to occupy a slightly bigger space in my exhausted psyche. Solutions were easier to see. I felt more open, and less attached to outcomes. With it, came a vital lesson: You can shape your experience by choosing what to notice.
Bad things still happened. My mother’s husband died a difficult, lonely death. Friends got sick. Everyone struggled. Work was hard. Society was in conflict. But, with every water drop I drew, I had evidence that I could re-tether myself to a changing world, by seeing it for what it is, the light and the dark.
I mention all this because I suspect that many of you, like me, had a different holiday than you had hoped for, and the rejuvenation you desperately needed might not have materialized. And now that we’re entering another year of COVID disruption, I suspect that the standard new year resolution may not feel enough right now.
While employers struggle with what to make of The Great Resignation of 2021 — or that 73% of workers in the U.S. may be thinking of quitting their jobs in 2022—it’s worth taking a good, patient look at your life and sorting out how you want to work it.
It may be time to flip some scripts, and head toward ways of working that inspire you and others, and that may have impact. At least, that’s the conclusion I came to after a year of observing bravely.
For me that means re-doubling my efforts here at raceAhead. After nearly six years in, I believe two fundamental things: One, that the issues we face threaten to overwhelm society. And two, that we’ve never had better access to the people, information, and solutions to address them.
To accomplish this, I’m launching a standalone community to help me fund more of the kind of journalism, analysis, research, and inspiration that can inform your work and mine. It’s a new way of thinking about how I work, and I think of it as a better way to help you scale your good work.
So, now it’s your turn. How are you planning to work in 2022? What do you need raceAhead to do for you? Flipping scripts takes courage, patience, purpose, and conviction. It’s good to have friends on your side.
This edition of raceAhead was edited by Wandy Felicita Ortiz.
Resolutions for employers S. Mitra Kalita tackles the other side of the resolution divide with three things leaders should keep in mind in 2022. Remember, the workforce is exhausted. “It’s like everyone became a caregiver over the holidays,” she begins. Her advice will sound simple, but the execution will be anything but. Offer flexibility, democratize decision-making and tackle pandemic inequities, she says, each one, a journey of its own. She makes a special plea for global companies to throw your enormous influence around. “We need much better marketing and public relations around the need for equity in vaccines, Covid tests, and protective equipment across the world,” she writes. “So many of the more challenging byproducts of Covid, from supply-chain issues to canceled flights over the holidays, stem from the inability of the virus to respect borders.”
Asian pop stars and their long overdue moment And, they’re mostly women. This fantastic piece from Ligaya Mishan puts the systemic marginalization of Asian women in entertainment into sharp historical context, and explains the post-war, post-internment, post-Vietnam commitment to “Orientalist” fantasies that pigeonholed AAPI women into stereotyped and sexualized roles. But there were trailblazers. And now, there are superstars, Olivia Rodrigo and newcomer Bella Poarch, both Filipino American. “Poarch and Rodrigo are among the most watched and listened to Asian women in the Western world…Yet their ancestry has gone unremarked upon by the media, beyond cursory biographical references.” If you're going to write a trend piece on marginalized artists, this is a great model to follow.
New York Times
Marvel has a new deaf superhero You may have missed the theatrical release of The Eternals last November for COVID reasons, but even the 2019 news of Lauren Ridloff’s casting as Makari generated some excitement – a 250% rise in internet searches for beginner’s interest in sign language, for one. Fans are thrilled, but for long time advocates, more is needed. “I’m an activist. I’m very vocal. There’s not enough visibility about Black, BIPOC Deaf actors behind or in front of the camera—and on the big screen,” says Jade Bryan, a filmmaker who cast Ridloff in a film in 2001. Bryan is also the creator of the #DeafTalent movement.
May her memory be a revolution We lost some powerhouse figures in 2021, some, like Michael K. Williams, far too soon. But one obituary didn’t get the attention it deserved. Maxine McNair, the last living parent of any of the four Black girls murdered in the 1963 Birmingham's 16th Street Baptist Church, died last Sunday at age 93. She was a longtime public school educator; her husband, who died in 2019 was one of the first Black members of the Alabama legislature since Reconstruction.
White people think Black people are organizing against them As we lurch toward the one-year anniversary of the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, it’s worth revisiting this research, first published in Sage Journals last summer. It explores the attitudes that fueled many of the insurrectionists, specifically one ingrained, and easily exploitable, fear that drives white identity politics. “We contend that some White people—and particularly White Republicans—are susceptible to the belief that non-White groups collude with one another to deprive White people of resources and privileges and, correspondingly, that White people should band together as a political force to protect their interests.”
An identity reclaimed In this poignant interview, photographer Nīa MacKnight shares the contents of a steamer trunk owned by her great grandfather John B. McGillis. She never met him, but his belongings told her a difficult tale of abuse, rejection, and forced assimilation endured by the Anishinaabe man, during his life. "I was also haunted by the fact that the only photographs that he left behind marked a time of trauma and violence that Native Americans faced due to assimilation policies."
Will your family DNA be found on the last slaver ship? It will be hard for African Americans not to read this story and not wonder if an ancestor was on the Clotilda, the last known ship bringing enslaved people from Africa to the US. It was discovered in 2019, entombed in mud in the Mobile River in Alabama. It is, evidently, remarkably well preserved. “It’s a time capsule that is cracked open and it survives,” James Delgado, an archaeologist who has been studying the wreck, tells New York Times.
New York Times
This is the web version of raceAhead, Fortune’s daily newsletter on race, culture, and inclusive leadership. To get it delivered daily to your inbox, sign up here.