In the last three months there have now been three times that I have felt like there was a defining set of events that created a clear distinction in time. Something that indicated before that, and after that. And that messages from friends, tasks on your to do list, and many other things that seemed relevant in the before, seemed almost out of place in the after.
The official moment that we entered the Coronavirus pandemic was one of those, and for me that was absolutely March 12th. The other was when we saw 22,034,000 Unemployment Claims on April 16th. And now May 25th, when a Minneapolis Police Officer put his knee on the neck of George Floyd for 8 minutes and 46 seconds and killed him.
Each one of these events had a before and an after. After the George Floyd killing we had to remind ourselves we were in a pandemic. The highest levels of unemployment since the Great Depression, sure I guess that is news too. The truth of the matter is the disgrace in the killing of George Floyd was a spark that ignited pain and anger that has existed for centuries, for decades, for years, and for months.
I live here in Minneapolis. I love this city. I don’t think I knew how much I love it until I saw parts of it being burned down. And it is out of that love that I want to see justice served and systemic improvements made to all relevant parts of our state. There are many things that Minnesota takes pride in. We are in the top 10 for the most college educated population in the country. We have 16 of the Fortune 500 in our state. But over the last week we’ve also had to face other facts. We have the highest education gap in the country between white and non-white students. We have the highest income gap in the country between white and black people. In short, we have work in front of us.
This last week has brought race matters front and center. We all, myself included, have work to do. And I think there is awareness this time that that work needs to be done by everyone, and in fact, most importantly needs to be done by those with white skin, particularly in a leadership role with influence. I’m engaging on that now, and don’t plan on letting up… join me!
This article by Phil Vischer, the creator of VeggieTales, is a great look at his own success story and how his whiteness played such a critical role in it.
Did I work hard? Yes, but not unusually hard. Not nearly as hard as many of my brown and black neighbors, who hold down multiple jobs just to pay rent. Were we of above average intelligence? I suppose so. But so are many people who struggle to find opportunity in America. So what made the difference?
We were white.
And there it is. So when I see people of color protesting injustice or living in poverty in wrecked communities, people in Ferguson, MO or Minneapolis or Chicago or Flint, MI, and I feel the urge to say, “Well, if you just worked harder you could do what I did…”
That is a lie.
It would be an interesting task to write your own story with the recognition of the benefits you got like this.
Trivia note: we used to be neighbors with Rob Vischer, who is Phil Vischer’s brother and a super smart and cool person.
Read this and remember it as you engage with people at work.
Your black employees are exhausted.
Your black employees are scared.
Your black employees are crying in between meetings.
Your black employees have mentally checked out.
Your black employees are putting on a performance.
Also, probably all of your coworkers are feeling some or all of these.
About once a quarter I get a very big treat when I’m able to have lunch with Patrick Rhone. Patrick is a broad and deep thinker. The conversations leave me fulfilled like a good meal, and looking forward to the next one. Patrick has been writing about and linking throughout the George Floyd killing and subsequent protests. I asked him if I could include one of his articles directly in the Weekly Thing and he was kind enough to say yes. I hope you enjoy it as well.
By Patrick Rhone.
I’ve seen almost every single business across two cities boarded up. We drove from central Saint Paul to South Minneapolis. We had property in Minneapolis we needed to check up on. It took us through two mostly commercial areas. It’s amazing how quickly you get used to it, the boarding. So much so that the ones that weren’t boarded, were almost shocking. You think, “How could someone be so unconcerned and irresponsible?” The same way just days ago you were thinking about those who were unmasked.
I’ve seen seed fluff from the dogwood trees floating aimlessly under a partly cloudy sky. Directionless. No plan besides landing somewhere eventually and hoping it is fertile enough ground to plant roots and grow.
I’ve seen something painted on almost every board. Black Lives Matter! ACAB! BIPOC Owned! Justice for George Floyd! Please don’t burn! Kids Upstairs! “Roses are red. Violets are blue. Peace didn’t work. What else could we do?”
I’ve seen people who believe that words can save them.
I’ve seen far too many out of town plates. You try to catch a glance at the driver. What is an SUV from Utah doing here? Male or Female driver? Is he Black or white? Note the plate number. Note the direction they’re going. Do they look OK?Because, we know. Then I feel guilty for profiling. Then, just as suddenly, the guilt fades as I realize it happens to Black folks every day. It’s happened to me. It’s what the daily is for us. I’ve seen it.
I’ve seen the lilacs blooming and filling the air with fragrance when the wind shifts direction and the smoke from the ruins of smoldering buildings is blowing the other way.
I’ve seen neighbors helping businesses board up. I’ve been helping too. As we were boarding up a row of businesses in the neighborhood three pickup trucks with beds full of 2x4s and plywood sheets pull up. A burly young White guy jumps out of each one. They saw a post on social media about us asking for some help from anyone who could come. They were driving around trying to answer any call. Just good guys looking to do good things for good people they said. Those businesses were boarded in minutes. Beers and waters were shared (they had plenty). Elbows were bumped (were still in a pandemic). And four more businesses were (hopefully) saved.
I saw a beautiful mural of flowers on the boards of the wine shop I passed on the way home from the business I was boarding. It hadn’t been there on the way to there. From blank to beautiful in the same time it took to board up.
I’ve seen the press stifled, beat up, shot at, detained, and arrested. I’m reporting this from the United States.
I’ve seen neighbors collecting food and supplies from other neighbors to go help still more neighbors. Because here all strangers are neighbors in times like these.
I’ve seen people with brooms and mops and shovels and crowbars and garbage bags heading to clean up their neighborhood wherever there is cleaning up to do.
I’ve seen parents trying to help their children understand what’s going on. Trying to make sense of the senseless. Trying to explain the unexplainable.
I’ve seen people doing their best and failing and trying again.
I’ve seen the best of who we are. I’ve seen the worst of who we are. I’ve seen everyone in between.
This is what I’ve seen.
This is the photo that has resonated the most with me this week. This isn’t mine, it is by Lorie Shaull (with a Creative Commons license). I’ve never shared someone else’s photo here, but I felt it was the photo I wanted to highlight this week.
Learning from this email? 🤔
Help others learn by sharing on LinkedIn.
Five specific actions for white guys to take to improve ourselves and our understanding of racism and racial matters.
Apple CEO Tim Cook:
To create change, we have to reexamine our own views and actions in light of a pain that is deeply felt but too often ignored. Issues of human dignity will not abide standing on the sidelines. To the Black community — we see you. You matter and your lives matter.
The internal communication that was sent to Apple employees is also a good read.
This is an interesting and concise set of patterns and the impact in can have.
This is a list of characteristics of white supremacy culture which show up in our organizations. Culture is powerful precisely because it is so present and at the same time so very difficult to name or identify. The characteristics listed below are damaging because they are used as norms and standards without being pro-actively named or chosen by the group.
I don’t know what I make of all of these, but it seems like something to ponder and come back to a few times.
One of the purposes of listing characteristics of white supremacy culture is to point out how organizations which unconsciously use these characteristics as their norms and standards make it difficult, if not impossible, to open the door to other cultural norms and standards. As a result, many of our organizations, while saying we want to be multicultural, really only allow other people and cultures to come in if they adapt or conform to already existing cultural norms. Being able to identify and name the cultural norms and standards you want is a first step to making room for a truly multi-cultural organization.
Emphasis is mine, and I think this is very important.
Very good, simple resource to find which of eight very important actions you could be calling your local politicians to make progress on!
“Cities that enact all 8 of these policies could reduce killings by police by up to 72%”
Look your city up and write your council person a letter! 📝
We are learning important things about Coronavirus that should help us deal with it better. I honestly didn’t even understand what a vascular disease necessarily was. Good information here.
I always enjoy Bernoff’s critiques of various corporate communications.
I’ve surveyed corporate statements in this fraught moment. The best include two elements: a statement of understanding and solidarity, and a concrete action that demonstrates leadership and empathy. Many of these statements hit wrong notes — it’s hard for a privileged, white, male leader to say the right thing without seeming to be grandstanding or hijacking the moment. But speaking is better than saying nothing.
He offers very good details of what Target and Apple did. Things that you can put to work as you think about what you are communicating as well.
Don’t stay silent. If you are a leader, this is a moment that America needs to hear from you. I know you don’t know what to say. If you have a heart, write from it. Acknowledge the pain of others, and the conflict in your own soul. And make it relevant to you — contribute in whatever way you can. Each statement will be different, because each company’s role is different.
I agree with his urge to say something. People of color, and many white people as well, are looking at companies to see how they respond. Saying nothing is an implicit endorsement of the status quo. You should be as worried about that as you are about wading into a difficult topic.
I appreciated this video so much, and I hope that Emmanuel Acho does continue to post this. Please. It is helpful.
Is there anything else our readers need to know?
I think it’s important to note the number of people who are working hard to ensure that we heal. That can’t be stressed enough. I actually am right now looking at letters that neighbors in Roseville woke up to on their lawns that are just hate-filled. We go to work every day and don’t know that our black and indigenous and co-workers of color are experiencing hate in ways we have no idea about. They don’t know that you have neighbors in Roseville who woke up to signs on their lawns telling them, “I’m going to torch your home.” I don’t think those signs or letters are left by their neighbors, but nonetheless, now they’ve living in fear. I’ve had people warning me all weekend about my Twitter feed and how I should be scared. I went to bed Saturday night with my kids in my bed because I was scared after all the warnings I got, and I’m living in a suburb for God’s sakes. I just want readers to know they have no idea the weight that people of color are carrying every day, all day long. And now we have a real chance to not just have a funeral for another man, but to have a funeral for racism if we want to do this work and do it right.
Last part of the interview, but I appreciate her raw and direct comments.
Hard read on the Minneapolis Police Department.
Mr. Stinson, who is also a former police officer, said he believes that at some point during the arrest of Mr. Floyd, the restraint applied to him became “intentional premeditated murder.”
“In my experience, applying pressure to somebody’s neck in that fashion is always understood to be the application of deadly force,” Mr. Stinson said.
But equally revealing in the video, he said, was that other officers failed to intercede, despite knowing they were being filmed. He said that suggests the same thing that the use-of-force data also suggest: That police in the city “routinely beat the hell out of black men.”
Emphasis is added.
I left Facebook years ago, and contrary to what some may believe it is totally fine. In fact, it’s better. I’m not part of the rage machine pretending to be something good.
Facebook is no different. You might be one person with just one account, but you are not powerless. Being a part of Mark Zuckerberg’s algorithmic empire is a choice. If you believe that Facebook is causing long-term damage to our society, and you don’t agree with their values or their approach to doing business, you can choose to leave.
It matters. I talk to so many people who say they don’t agree with Facebooks actions but they can’t leave. Yes you can. In fact, you are the answer. As long as you fail to take action, you are helping continue the harm.
Barack Obama pointing at how to make real change happen.
So the bottom line is this: if we want to bring about real change, then the choice isn’t between protest and politics. We have to do both. We have to mobilize to raise awareness, and we have to organize and cast our ballots to make sure that we elect candidates who will act on reform.
I think the corporate world can play a very important role here too.
I’m a huge fan of RSS feeds and using a feed reader. That is how I get the vast majority of everything I read. I recently started sharing the list of feeds I subscribe to. This is a cool utility that exposes some services via RSS that don’t do it on their own.
Updated reporting and data from the Star Tribune on a number of critical race disparities in Minnesota.
Myers contends that the large gap is largely due to special benefits made available over time to the white population that’s led to substantially higher wealth than blacks. And he argues that wealth results from the favored treatment whites have long received from banks in making loans.
Not proven, but sure seems likely.
Wondering what you can do? 75 things right here.
This is a wide ranging list of things to help educate yourself on racism. What I like about this list is it isn’t just books, but also movies on Netflix, and organizations to connect with on Twitter. I’ve been specifically trying to find feeds that I can permanently add to my RSS readers so that I get this information in the future, and not just now when it is front of mind.
Amazing photos of the protests and riots in the Twin Cities over the last several days. 😢
I think everyone should leave Facebook. Facebook is toxic. And Zuckerberg has complete control of it, and cares about only one thing, Facebook revenue. Which, honestly, is exactly what he should do. Because Facebook is not the commons. It is not a place to talk about the First Amendment. And then we get this kind of thing.
“I don’t think that Facebook or internet platforms in general should be arbiters of truth,” Zuckerberg told Sorkin in an interview that aired Thursday morning. “Political speech is one of the most sensitive parts in a democracy, and people should be able to see what politicians say.”
As always, he’s skipping the actual thing that matters. Facebook amplifies the message. Their algorithms push the content. If you push the content, you have an obligation to not push lies and disinformation.
George Floyd’s memorial service was today and broadcast live. Tammy and I watched the entire service. Our daughter also joined us for it. It was moving and very powerful. One quote that struck me:
“What we are doing is helping America be America for all Americans!”
Recently Twitter made the decision to tag some of President Trump’s tweets as incorrect and limit distribution of them. Facebook decided the same content was fine. I’m going to skip over the actual decision here for a moment, and address the matter of calling this censorship. These platforms are not censoring, they are deciding to not amplify, and there is a big difference.
YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter are all for-profit public companies. They have as much obligation to carry your message as the Mall of America has to allow you to protest inside of it, which is none. Their Terms of Service are controlled by them and they can do whatever they want, including change their Terms of Service. But these companies are not the only ways to publish content on the Internet. Their refusal to do anything with your content is not censorship!
You have every right to create your own website, and put those messages on it. The Internet is wide open for that, and it costs very little to nothing. There is nothing keeping those millions of people on Facebook from getting your message on your site. It’s just laziness on all sides to want to put it all through these platforms. To be spoon fed and manipulated by algorithmic newsfeeds. But that laziness comes with a tradeoff of control. You cannot, and should not, expect to control that message. Probably the control of your message will drive with whatever makes the most money for the platform. It is absolutely not driven by importance, or truth, or value.
Many social platforms have tried to position themselves as “the commons” and talk about things like Freedom of Speech. This is all a bunch of nonsense, and frankly it has tied them in knots that make no sense for private companies to solve. If you want to get your message out, own your site, publish it. It has never been easier to do that. Need an audience? Earn it. Build it.
Nobody, not you, me, or anyone else have a right to amplification, and none of us is being censored.
Last week George Floyd was killed in a sequence of events that never would have happened to a white person. This has erupted the community here in Minneapolis, the rest of the United States, and around the globe! I’ve struggled to come up with the words to speak to the racial challenges that we are confronting. I find it difficult to express the sadness, anxiety, fear, and a little bit of hope for change that I feel. I also recognize that silence is a form of speech too, and there is an implicit endorsement of the status quo in silence. I want to see change. I want to help make that change happen. Sparing more elegant writing, let me share these fragments.
I know that to make progress as a person, and as a member of my community, I need to go through the process. Acknowledging is the first step, and yes, I acknowledge the intense racial divide in our country. The events of the last few days have seared that deeper into my understanding than ever before. I need to seek to build understanding, create empathy, and know where to take action and focus efforts. I want to jump to that last part, taking action, but I cannot short circuit the process.
Brandi Carlile celebrated her 39th birthday with a streaming concert from her home. It was great, and a wonderful time to embrace some beautiful music in these troubling times.
A lot of people and small businesses are going to need our help recovering and rebuilding along Lake Street in Minneapolis. Join me in making a donation to We Love Lake Street to help these efforts.
If you are looking for additional ways to help, see Twin Cities groups offer resources for folks hurt by riots, Organizations looking for and offering support after Minneapolis unrest, and How to Support the Twin Cities Right Now.
Watching the Dragon capsule slowly approaching the International Space Station. The space station was launched in 1998. The technology on it is 21 years old, but the C2V2 system was updated in 2016, designed for arrivals like the one happening today. The level of detailed and long-term planning required to make all this happen is just amazing.
An amazing milestone with Falcon 9 successfully launching two astronauts on the way to the International Space Station! 🚀🇺🇸❤️
NASA and SpaceX are cleared for launch. We are all watching to see history being made! 🚀
There are a lot of complicated things that I understand very well, however the impact holidays have on garbage collection schedules is not one of them. 🤷♂️
This is the one valid use for a QR code that I’ve seen. Handy utility to make it easy for visitors to get on your WiFi network.
“That starts with recognizing that Facebook is a misery machine made of people.”
Good. Go get ‘em.
I have been a Pinboard user for years and love it. I’m amazed how many services like this there are!
Nice looking editor. I’m an old dog though and will stick with
Your friends already read this? 👯♀️
Recommend it to strangers, have them join us here, and you’ll be BFF’s forever!
You’ve made it all the way to the end! 👏 Here is your fortune for this week.
You are as I am with You.
Thank you for subscribing to the Weekly Thing!
The Weekly Thing highlights helpful, engaging, or insightful articles from the week. I am a voracious reader of technology, culture, leadership, privacy, and many other topics as my interests roam. Each item I share is framed with personal commentary combining my decades of experiences. My goal is to positively impact your journey with knowledge and insight.