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Weekend Briefing No. 330
Welcome to the weekend. What a week it has been.
I’ve noticed that some of my friends have reacted to the current George Floyd protests by trying to get educated on the underlying systemic issues that impact Black Americans. I’m going to host a virtual book club on June 20th. If you’re interested in joining, click here to sign up and help select the book we’ll discuss.
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96,100 – Daily downloads of police scanner apps have spiked as protestors hit the streets. On May 31, there were 96,100 downloads of police scanner apps up from 30,000 on May 3.
64 – 64 percent of Americans sympathize with the protesters.
40 – At least 40 cities—including Minneapolis, New York, Louisville, Philadelphia, Chicago, San Francisco and others—have instituted curfews.
How Are You?
Even as protesters have filled streets, parks and TV screens amid outrage since the death of George Floyd, Brigette Lumpkins has kept putting on makeup in the morning and smiling through virtual meetings with clients. “I’m still having to dial in and perform as though nothing is wrong,” she says. “This is my day job, and being black is like my other job,” says Ms. Lumpkins, a Miami-based director of business development at professional-services firm EisnerAmper. The 46-year-old has been staying up at night to watch the news. “It’s a heavy lift.” In an emotionally charged moment, the complex calculus of figuring out how much to share at work can make even a simple question—“How are you?”—tough to answer. When friends and colleagues have reached out to share their concerns, Tina Eskridge, senior director of marketing at Microsoft., says she has replied by saying that she appreciates the empathy, but what is needed is action. “Whenever these incidents happen, people often turn to the black community,” Ms. Eskridge says, “and that’s burdensome, because we know what’s going on already and it’s not our job to educate everyone.” Damon Munchus, an executive at JPMorgan Chase, said, “As much as I want you guys to see me as a fully realized human, I also want you to see me as a top performer who can get things done,” he says. “We’ve got to struggle with that duality.” Wall Street Journal (9 minutes)
20 for 2020
One thing I’m learning over and over again is that it’s not my Black friends’ job to educate me on the experience of being Black in America. As Casey Gerald said:
“Dear White People: There are Black people who have signed up to do the work of helping you be anti-racist. I am not one of them. Chances are, the Black people you’re asking for guidance & emotional support aren’t, either.” If we want to be allies to our black friends and colleagues, it is incumbent upon us to do the work to get educated. Last year, I dedicated most of my reading to understanding race in America. I’ve ranked the most impactful books in this article. Reading without action is fairly meaningless. But it’s challenging to do good if you don’t understand the basics. If you’re up for doing the work, the books below are a good start. (1) The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin (2) White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo (3) Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?: And Other Conversations About Race by Beverly Daniel Tatum (4) Just Mercy by Bryan Stephenson (5) The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein. Read the article to see the full list. Forbes (10 minutes)
It’s important to be aware that just because you don’t self-identify as racist, you probably are. We all are. The startup ecosystem is culturally and institutionally racist. The explicit and implicit messages give preference to whites. The hiring and investing practices have resulted in whites at the highest levels of leadership. All three forms of racism—personal, cultural and institutional—work together to perpetuate the status quo. The status quo is white. Acts of solidarity with Black Americans are necessary but not sufficient. Marching and social media activism are not enough. The startup community can do more. We must do more. #hireandwire is a movement amongst the startup community to take action by hiring black employees and investing in startups led by black entrepreneurs. If we as a community are going to hire and invest more intentionally, we need to stop blaming the pipeline problem and the denominator problem, and start innovating our talent and deal-sourcing practices. Forbes (12 minutes)
Struggling But Optimistic
Minority entrepreneurs, facing myriad challenges, are concerned about risks to their businesses. The COVID-19 crisis could disproportionately affect minority-owned small businesses for three critical reasons: they tend to face underlying issues that make it harder to run and scale successfully, they are more likely to be concentrated in the industries most immediately affected by the pandemic, and they were more likely to be in financial risk prior to COVID-19. According to a survey by McKinsey, more than 40 percent of minority-owned small businesses have added new services to support their communities and employees, compared with 27 percent of all respondents. A majority of minority entrepreneurs are optimistic about economic recovery in general: 56 percent of minority-owned small-businesses reported that they were optimistic about post-COVID-19 economic conditions, compared to 49 percent of all respondents. McKinsey (11 minutes)
If the COVID-19 crisis has laid bare longstanding inequities, the widespread protests over the police killing of George Floyd are pushing racial equity to the center of the COVID-19 recovery. Local funds across the country are stepping up to address these inequities. The blueprints for a racially inclusive recovery already are taking shape in communities across the country. In Oakland, , Boston, and Santa Fe, local funds such as Runway Project, Ujima Fund and the Boston Impact Initiative are doing the kind of deep, innovative, relationship-based work that is needed to begin to heal racial inequities and trauma. Such “new revivalists” are modeling solutions that can be rolled out widely, to speed the recovery of people and families, as well as businesses. That includes universal basic income for black founders, “people guarantee pools,” and sharing power in investment decision-making and ownership—“the financial infrastructure that is going to love black and brown people” as Runway’s Jessica Norwood puts it. “The pandemic is an accelerator and amplifier of everything,” says Deborah Frieze of Boston Impact Initiative. “If we can’t figure out how to respond now, when will we? Impact Alpha (14 minutes)
Budget & Boomers
Many CEOs spoke out this week, but I liked Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel’s take. He says: We cannot end systemic racism without simultaneously creating opportunity for all people, regardless of their background. The Federal budget reveals a substantial skew towards the past and present at the expense of the future. He calls for the following actions: (1) We must restart the “Opportunity Engine” in America by investing in education, healthcare, and housing to make these basic ingredients of a free and fair society more accessible and affordable for all people. One reason entrepreneurship in America has declined so substantially since the 1980s is the lack of a sufficient societal safety net. Entrepreneurship depends on people being able to take risks to start a business, which is nearly impossible to do without some sort of safety net. Today’s would-be entrepreneurs are saddled with student debt, and are subject to stagnant wage growth and rising expenses that make it hard to save the seed capital necessary to start a business. (2) We will also have to begin defining our success in terms of the fulfillment of our values, rather than silly short-term metrics like GDP or the stock market. (3) We should establish a diverse, non-partisan Commission on Truth, Reconciliation, and Reparations. Why hasn’t any of this change happened yet? I’d argue it’s simply because the Boomer supermajority across all branches of our government has demonstrated little interest in creating a better future for their children. Snap (14 minutes)
On Activism and Fatherhood
Clint Smith, a Black activist and author, reflects on the current moment from the perspective of being a father: “I did not have children when the Movement for Black Lives was at its height. At protests following police killings six years ago, I moved through the night with brazen indifference about what might happen to me. I was governed by anger and thought little about the implications of what might happen if I were arrested, if I were hurt, or worse. My children, as is the case for many other parents, have pushed me to reprioritize, reevaluate and reorient my relationship to the world. My decisions are no longer singularly centered around me. They are shaped by my commitment to these two small humans who think of me and my wife as their entire world. This is a new reality for many black parents who did not have children when the Movement for Black Lives began, but who have young children now in 2020. So much has changed in our lives even when it feels like so little in our country has. Our children have raised the stakes of this fight, while also shifting the calculus of how we move within it. It is one thing to be concerned for my own well-being, to navigate the country as a black man and to encounter its risks. It is another thing to be raising two black children and to consider both the dangers for yourself and the dangers that lie ahead for them. As one of my friends put it when thinking about having a 2-year-old son in this moment, it’s the “discomforting juxtaposition between the joy of seeing the world through his eyes and knowing how the world will see him one day.” The Atlantic (11 minutes)
Since I recommended books above, I’m going to suggest a podcast that was instrumental in my education on race, Seeing White: Scene on Radio Season 2. Just what is going on with white people? Police shootings of unarmed African Americans. Acts of domestic terrorism by white supremacists. The renewed embrace of raw, undisguised white-identity politics. Unending racial inequity in schools, housing, criminal justice, and hiring. Some of this feels new, but in truth it’s an old story. Why? Where did the notion of “whiteness” come from? What does it mean? What is whiteness for? Scene on Radio host and producer John Biewen took a deep dive into these questions, along with an array of leading scholars and regular guest Dr. Chenjerai Kumanyika, in this 14-part documentary series, released between February and August 2017. Scene on Radio
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You matter. -Barack Obama
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