Pollution, Equity, and Facebook’s Nebulous ‘Cultural Fit’ Lead This Week’s Racist News Roundup

Your weekly dose of racist news to know

Activists shut down the Dan Ryan Expressway in Chicago. It’s a highway that was constructed right smack dab in the middle of a prosperous Black-owned business and homeowner district.

This week’s look at the race and racism stories you may have missed offers plenty of examples of how the effects of racism permeate everything from the air we breathe to the roads on which we travel — but there are some glimmers of hope on the horizon. And this week’s bit of good news is proof that the mass movement against police brutality and for Black lives is bearing fruit.

When racism is in the polluted air we breathe: The Environmental Protection Agency’s new chief, Michael Regan, is ordering the department to use the “full array of policy and legal tools” at its disposal to “infuse equity and environmental justice principles and priorities into all EPA practices, policies and programs.” This is a big deal because Black people are more likely to suffer from asthma and respiratory problems in part because discriminatory policies put polluting industries and highways in Black neighborhoods. The Guardian explains what this new EPA directive will mean in practice.

One former (Facebook) recruiter said he attended a virtual meeting about how to hire more Black engineers, only to have a White manager play a song in the background whose lyrics included the phrase, “Where the n — — — be at?”

Of Covid deaths and data: You may have heard the pronouncement that more men than women die of Covid-19. But a recent study has found that Black women in the U.S. are dying of the virus at three times the rate of White or Asian men. The only racial demographic dying at an even higher rate? Black men. The study was based in part on Covid data from just two states, Michigan and Georgia — because those are the only ones that break down mortality rates by race, gender, and age. This article in The 19th explains why this lack of specific data from more states is a huge problem.

Why are candidates of color not a “cultural fit” at Facebook?: The social media behemoth recently set a goal of hiring 30% more people of color for its leadership positions by 2025. It’s… not going so well. The Washington Post reports that current and former employees involved in the company’s hiring say that qualified candidates of color are often rejected for not being a “cultural fit.” One former recruiter said he attended a virtual meeting about how to hire more Black engineers, only to have a White manager play a song in the background whose lyrics included the phrase, “Where the n — — — be at?”

Black southerners face bumpy road to Covid vaccination sites: One of the reasons why coronavirus vaccination rates are lagging among Black folks in majority-Black Southern states is a lack of transportation to vaccination sites, according to this article on Southern news site Reckon. It cites research that Black folks, particularly in rural areas of the South, are more likely to be 10 miles from a vaccination site and are least likely to own a car.

Highways as racial architecture: If you grew up in just about any major American city, you might have noticed how the local interstates tend to divide the “White side” of town from the neighborhoods inhabited by more melanated peoples. Sometimes the highway construction demolished parts of those same neighborhoods. That’s usually not by chance. The impact of those routes continues to be felt today in the deterioration — or complete lack — of infrastructure like sidewalks, roads, bridges, and public transit in Black neighborhoods. But the Biden administration’s infrastructure plan includes billions of dollars to “reconnect neighborhoods cut off by historic investments.” Legal scholar Deborah Archer, who has written about how highway projects and lack of infrastructure has affected Black neighborhoods, spoke with NPR about these historic inequities and whether Biden’s plan offers hope of fixing them.

Cancellation insurance?: It’s becoming possible, and to some degree expected, for companies to take a more serious role in addressing or combating racism within their ranks and in society at large. But how to do that in a way that isn’t performative or cringy — or racist? How to make sure ad campaigns don’t end up reinforcing stereotypes or insulting marginalized groups? Enter NXTLAB, a “cultural navigator” platform that is trying to help companies avoid missteps, the Washington Post reports. NXTLAB allows companies to consult with thousands of “opinion-makers whom companies can tap confidentially for candid feedback to spare themselves possible embarrassment,” reports Tracy Jan. “Their expertise covers multigenerational, multiracial perspectives on racial equality as well as LGBTQ, gender and women’s rights.”

Some good news: New Mexico has just become the second state (after Colorado) to effectively ban qualified immunity for law enforcement officers. Qualified immunity is a principle that basically prevents police and other law enforcement from being held liable for violating someone’s rights, and is often used to justify throwing out lawsuits or dropping criminal charges filed against officers accused of violent behavior. Getting rid of qualified immunity was a key demand of many Black Lives Matter protests.

Did you miss last week’s column? Have no fear. It’s here.

Stephanie Siek is a writer and editor who loves cats, cookie dough and aborted alliteration.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store