Readers of The Atlantic will know of Ta-Nehisi Coates and his thoughtful, often provoking writing on race in America. From his chillingly passionate narrative to his point-counterpoint style debates in the comment section, his voices reverberates throughout the American conversation on race and equity.
I had the honor and good fortune to meet Ta-Nehisi a while back, as a new graduate starting my career at The Atlantic. The magazine had recently released its March 2012 issue, with a cover story by James Fallows and a picture of President Obama displayed prominently on its glossy front. Ta-Nehisi had come down for some event–or meeting or commentary–and from the brief hallway conversations that inevitably turned to the topic of the President’s complex relationship with race, I knew Ta-Nehisi was a force to be reckoned with. And while he may no longer remember the exchange with a group of junior event staffers, it still stands out clearly in my mind.
And now, he’s rocked the boat again, with his new epistolary memoir, Between the World and Me. Written as a series of letters to his young son, the book comes highly recommended by our staff. Tamir Novotny, Senior Associate for Public Sector Innovation, called it a “powerful firsthand account of what people of color, and black men in particular, have gone through as a result of our nation’s legacy and remnants of personal and institutional racism.” Ta-Nehisi not only recounts his personal experiences, but outlines his evolving thinking on race itself as a “fabrication.” He speaks openly, and passionately about Ferguson, Trayvon Martin, and South Carolina, as the result of a history of systemic threats to “black bodies.” Toni Morrison, a personal hero of mine, has compared Ta-Nehisi to James Baldwin, and David Brooks, in a rather awkward open letter calls Ta-Nehisi’s book “a mind-altering account of the black male experience,” saying that “every conscientious American should read it.”
And why not, then, turn our eyes to other American changemakers writing powerfully about race? As an organization, Racial Equity and Inclusion lies at the heart of how we work. From hiring practices to housing, from community voice to community infrastructure, race is a lens through which we examine all our work, quantify our outcomes, and challenge on our innovation partners to consider the implications of their change efforts. So, in honor of the dialogue sparked by Ta-Nehisi Coates’s new memoir, you’ll find below a selection of the most thought-provoking #GoodReads on racial equity and inclusion this week:
Race in Workforce and Employment
Led By Starbucks, Corporate Coalition Announces Effort to Hire 100,000 Young People - By Austin Carr, Fast Company
Starbucks along with a slew of corporate giants ranging from Microsoft to Walmart, announced the “100,000 opportunities initiative,” an effort by these companies to hire 100,000 16-to 24-year-olds “who face systemic barriers to jobs and education” by 2018. The initiative will kick off in August, at a job fair in Chicago, where some of these companies plan to begin chipping away at this six-figure hiring target.
Recommended by Owen Stone, Senior Associate, Public Sector Innovation
Capital Catch-Up: Community Lenders Try to Address the Capital Crunch Faced by Small Businesses of Color - By James Anderson, Shelterforce
Great article supported by a grant from one of our members, Surdna Foundation, which speaks to the success of one of our borrowers, Craft3 and how “gaining entry into the communities in which they lend and being at their table” makes all the difference.
Recommended by Tonya Banks, Senior Administrative Associate, Capital Innovation
Race in Housing and Transit
Who Will Pay the Political Price for Affordable Housing? - By Thomas B. Edsall, The New York Times
In this opinion column piece for The New York Times, Thomas B. Edsall examines the deeper racial issues of making affordable housing a reality in affluent neighborhoods. He asks the hard question: while affluent liberals may vocally support policies like affordable housing, are they truly willing to accept changes in their own neighborhood? As he points out, “The Supreme Court and HUD have together set in motion a major test of middle- and upper-middle-class white America, which will determine whether support for racial equality goes beyond calls to lower the Confederate flag, beyond demands for stricter oversight of the police in minority neighborhoods, and on to a willingness to tolerate racial change in the house next door.”
Recommended by Sindhu Lakshmanan, Intern, Capital Innovation
How Railroads, Highways and Other Man-Made Lines Racially Divide America’s Cities - By Emily Badger, Wonkblog
Emily Badger of the Washington Post has reported extensively on the impact of racialized housing policy in urban communities. This article overlays major infrastructure that tends to divide cities—think railroads and major roadways—with racial dot maps created by the University of Virginia Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service. These maps demonstrate that racial boundaries often correspond to physical elements of the landscape, and that infrastructure plays an important role in reinforcing and perhaps even perpetuating social and economic divisions.
This article brought to mind an interview Bill Moyers did in the 1980s with the legendary Maya Angelou in which the pair walked through Angelou’s hometown of Stamps, Arkansas. Angelou said, “This was more or less a no man’s land here… If you were black you never felt really safe when you simply crossed the railroad tracks… And I used to have to walk over here. Oh gosh, I hated it. I had no protection at all over there. I had an idea of protection on this side. I had my grandmother on this side. I had the church, my uncle, and all my people were on this side. So I had an idea of protection, but there I would be all alone and I loathed it, crossing those railroad tracks.”
Recommended by Kevin Paul, Associate, Strategic Communications and Engagement