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A Korean Store Owner. A Black Employee. A Tense Neighborhood.

The crowd was growing impatient as Crystal Holmes fumbled with the keys to the store.

Dozens of people were swarming the street around Western Beauty Supply, the Chicago shop where Ms. Holmes works. She had persuaded some of them to let her open the store so they could rob it without breaking the windows.

“She’s taking too long,” someone yelled. “Let’s go in and get it.”

Western Beauty Supply sells products like wigs, hair extensions and combs mostly to Black women. Most of the employees, like Ms. Holmes, are also Black, but the owner is a Korean-American man, Yong Sup Na.

When a few young men appeared outside the store earlier that evening in May, Mr. Na went out to speak with them. He offered some of them cash, and they walked away. At that point, Mr. Na told Ms. Holmes that he felt confident his business was safe. “They are not going to break into the store,” he told her.

A few minutes later, though, a larger group showed up. A woman snatched Mr. Na’s keys, but Ms. Holmes persuaded her to give them back. Then she ordered Mr. Na, her boss, to leave. “You don’t know what could happen,” she told him.

Even as Ms. Holmes tried to save the store from ruin that evening, when protests and looting followed the police killing of George Floyd, she understood what was causing the turmoil roiling Chicago and dozens of other cities.

“I understand where the rage is coming from,” Ms. Holmes, 40, said in an interview. “We don’t have any businesses in the community and we are getting killed by the police and killing each other, and we are just getting tired.”

In the years she has spent working for Mr. Na, customers have constantly told her that she should open her own store. But she has watched some Black women struggle as owners in the industry, and her priority has been keeping a steady job to support her family.

Outside the store, people in the crowd kept pushing for Ms. Holmes to let them in. But she couldn’t get the keys into the lock. Her hands were shaking too much.

Mr. Na, who is 65, grew up in South Korea in a home with an outhouse. He watched television by standing outside a neighbor’s window and peering in at the set. Mr. Na was in his late 20s when he arrived in the United States. He knew only one person, a friend from his village who had moved to Chicago.

Not religious but seeking to meet other immigrants, Mr. Na soon joined a Korean church. A few years later, a friend from the church bought a shoe store on Chicago’s South Side from a white man who wanted out.

“This man was upset that the Black people were moving into the neighborhood,” Mr. Na recalled in an interview. “Koreans didn’t care. This was an area that they could afford.”

Credit…via Sandra Na

With no access to a bank loan, Mr. Na bought the store from his friend by using proceeds from the shoe sales. He paid $5,000 a month for 13 months. The business was straightforward.

“You were buying cheaply made goods at a low cost from a wholesaler,” Mr. Na said. “The customers were not snobby.” He also owned businesses that sold pagers, cellphones and clothing. The endeavors allowed him to pay for private school and then college for his two daughters.

Over the years, other Korean retailers told Mr. Na that beauty sales were a steady proposition, even in recessions. In 2007, he started his first beauty shop. He opened Western Beauty in 2014, on the city’s West Side, and started Modern Beauty in the South Side neighborhood of Bronzeville two years later.

The portion of the beauty industry that caters to Black women generates about $4 billion in sales a year. Much of those sales are rung up in small beauty supply stores, which are ubiquitous in predominantly Black neighborhoods. The stores seem like a natural answer to the numerous calls from policymakers and corporate America to create more Black-owned businesses after protests over systemic racism broke out this spring.

Yet fewer than 10 percent are owned by Black women, said Tiffany Gill, a history professor at Rutgers University. Instead, many of them are owned by Korean immigrants. Korean Americans also lead some of the largest wholesale distributors that import the hair products from China.

“These are two historically marginalized groups fighting over the same small slice of pie when there is so much more of the pie that neither has access to,” said Ms. Gill, the author of the book “Beauty Shop Politics: African-American Women’s Activism in the Beauty Industry.”

For years, Mr. Na worked seven days a week, from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. His daughter Sandra, 33, remembers one night when her father didn’t come home. He had been rushed into emergency surgery to remove a shard of glass from his face after a scuffle with someone who tried to rob the store.

The Na family lived for a time in a Latino neighborhood and eventually moved to a largely white suburb north of the city. Ms. Na said her parents had insisted that she spend her summers learning Korean, working as a tutor and taking academic enrichment classes. Ms. Na and her sister, Jenny, visited the store only rarely when they were growing up and played with the register.

She said her father never talked about the “social and racial impacts” as a retailer on the South Side. Her father came from a generation that experienced poverty and hardships, Ms. Na said, and didn’t have the time to focus on much else except taking care of his family, which included sending money to his siblings back in South Korea.

As part of a younger generation faced with fewer of these pressures, Ms. Na said, she has had opportunities to think about issues of race from a different perspective.

“But everything for my dad was about survival,” Ms. Na said.


Credit…Danielle Scruggs for The New York Times

Crystal Holmes grew up a world away from South Korea, in Chicago’s East Side. But like Mr. Na, she faced challenges from the start. She was raised mostly by her grandmother until she was a teenager.

“I knew I wanted better,” she said. “I always said I would never put my kids in the situation I was in.”

Ms. Holmes, a mother of two, worked for a time for a fried chicken chain, but switched to beauty supply stores when she found that many pay every week.

At the first store she worked in, the owner, a Korean man, was so impressed with her sales skills that he said he would help her open a store one day, Ms. Holmes said.

Then things soured. The owner accused her of stealing from him after he discovered the register short of cash, she said. She told him how one employee, who was also Korean, had insisted on taking turns on the register and had a gambling problem. But the owner didn’t believe her.

“I just walked out of the store,” she said. (A security tape later showed that she did not steal anything, according to Ms. Holmes.)

Many beauty supply stores have a reputation for being demeaning places for the Black women who shop in them. Ms. Holmes said she had been in numerous stores where employees followed customers or required them to check their bags at the door.


Credit…Danielle Scruggs for The New York Times

Credit…Danielle Scruggs for The New York Times

It’s not just small retailers. Until June, Walmart kept its Black beauty products in locked display cases. “You can’t treat everyone like a thief,” Ms. Holmes said.

Mr. Na’s stores are different, she said. Women are allowed to shop without being watched. She likes to walk the floor talking to the customers about their hair and offering them advice.

Ms. Holmes sometimes accompanies Mr. Na on trips to the wholesaler to pick up inventory. She is usually the only Black person in the warehouse. Once, she encountered another Black woman from a beauty shop in Wisconsin.

“I said, ‘What the hell are you doing here?’” Ms. Holmes recalled. “And she said, ‘What the hell are you doing here?’”

Still, there is tension. Some customers ask Ms. Holmes why she works so hard for a Korean owner. One woman said she was like a “slave.”

Ms. Holmes, who earns $14 an hour, was able to pay for three years of her son’s college tuition but could not afford his final year. Her son, now 26, plans to go back to school. But he lost his job at a downtown restaurant during the pandemic and has a baby on the way, so college may be further delayed.

Ms. Holmes also hopes her 20-year-old daughter, who has a 9-month-old son, can attend college eventually.

Mr. Na has been encouraging Ms. Holmes to start her own business one day and offering her advice on how to get started, like how much money she will need to save.

For now, Ms. Holmes appreciates the small perks of the job. How on a good day, the store can feel like a gathering place where women talk about their lives and swap beauty tips.

On many Sundays, Ms. Holmes opens and closes the store on her own. “Some customers see me by myself and say: ‘Where are the Koreans? Are they in back?’” When she explains that she runs the store on Sundays, “they are shocked,” she said.

“It’s mind-blowing to them that a Black woman is in charge.”


Credit…Haruka Sakaguchi for The New York Times

Sandra Na has also wondered why Koreans dominate the sale of Black women’s hair products.

She acknowledges that Korean immigrant communities can be “insular,” and that her father, who speaks limited English, prefers to do business and associate with other Koreans because it is easier.

But other forces are also at play. Ms. Na said her father had been shaped by his parents’ experience living through the Japanese occupation of Korea and then the Korean War. That left him with a shared feeling of grief and loss, which Ms. Na said is often referred to as Han.

It helps explain, she said, why her father typically hires Korean managers in stores where most of the employees are Black.

“Han creates a level of trust among Koreans,” Ms. Na said. “That trust goes back decades.”

Since the protests, many business leaders and public figures have sought to address racial disparities with more investment. Square, the payments company led by Jack Dorsey, the billionaire founder of Twitter, has pledged $100 million to financial firms supporting Black communities. Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, has proposed a $7 billion federal fund for Black entrepreneurs.

But the struggles of Black women in the beauty supply industry show that some barriers to success are more complicated.

In interviews this summer, Black women who own beauty shops in Dallas, Buffalo and Sacramento said they were consistently denied accounts with major Korean-owned suppliers. One of the women said that as soon as she had sent over a copy of her driver’s license, the supplier stopped returning her calls.

These rejections, the women said, prevent them from stocking the most popular hairpieces, forcing their customers to shop elsewhere.

While Mr. Na is a retailer, not a distributor, he said he was aware of some of the challenges Black female proprietors faced in obtaining products.

He said Black owners were often unable to rent or buy stores that were physically large enough to allow them to work with the big suppliers.

“It has nothing to do with racism,” Mr. Na said. He acknowledged that if Black women gained a larger footing in the beauty supply industry they could seriously challenge Korean businesses.

“It is competition,” Mr. Na said. “Eat or be eaten.”


Credit…Danielle Scruggs for The New York Times

In the end, the group didn’t wait for Ms. Holmes to let it in. The looters smashed the window and barged inside.

Mr. Na walked across the street, sat in his car and looked on as his store was ransacked.

Like many Americans, Mr. Na had watched the footage of a Minneapolis police officer kneeling on Mr. Floyd’s neck in horror. He wondered if the unrest would ever stop and whether he should bother to rebuild.

“I feel like racism is something that will never go away,” he said.

After the looting, Ms. Holmes returned to the store to clean up. Some people from the neighborhood were surprised to see her helping Mr. Na. A few customers were angry she would not let them take some of the products that had been knocked off the shelves.

“Why are you on their side?” she remembers one Black person asking her. “Why aren’t you riding with us?”

Ms. Holmes said some people were too quick to judge. “They are on the outside looking in. They don’t know the person I work for. He’s a good man.”


Credit…Sandra Na

When Sandra Na drove to Chicago from Brooklyn, where she lives with her husband, she was struck by the level of destruction at Western Beauty Supply and Modern Beauty. A cash register that contained no money was smashed, the glass in the display case had been shattered, and dozens of bottles of hair solutions had been dumped on the floor.

She believes most of the looters were seizing on the chaos wrought by the protests over the killing of Mr. Floyd to steal desirable products, she said. A range of businesses across the city were destroyed that day, including pawnshops, grocery stores and Walmarts. Some of the damaged stores were Black-owned.

Ms. Holmes said she agreed that the crowd wanted only to steal merchandise from Mr. Na — not to make a statement that his store was not Black-owned.

Still, Ms. Na said she recognized that some people might begrudge small businesses like her father’s stores. “I have a hard time thinking there isn’t resentment there,” she said. “You see an outside ethnic group capitalizing on your people.”

As painful as it was to see her father’s shops destroyed, Ms. Na said she was heartened that the broader protests had spurred efforts to address systemic racism. “The attention is there,” she said.


The moments when a crowd broke into Modern Beauty in Chicago.

Mr. Na was able to reopen his business with insurance money, government grants and more than $94,000 in donations from a GoFundMe page his daughters set up. In August, though, he temporarily boarded up his stores after a police shooting in Chicago set off a fresh wave of protests and looting.

Back at work, Ms. Holmes said a few customers had told her again that she should open her own store.

She’s hoping Mr. Na will help her get started. Mr. Na, who is planning to retire in the next few years, said he had been considering ways he could do so.

“One day I’ll have a store, and you come shop with me,” Ms. Holmes tells customers. “Just wait.”

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Their Bosses Asked Them to Lead Diversity Reviews. Guess Why.

Last June, Deana Jean received a strange request on LinkedIn: A software company wanted her to lead a diversity, equity and inclusion program for their executive suite.

Ms. Jean does not do D.E.I. work. Nor does her LinkedIn profile suggest as much. Her background is in educational technology sales and leadership coaching.

She is, by the way, Black. After a short back-and-forth with the company, Ms. Jean, who is based in New York, learned that she’d been recommended by a former colleague — a person she barely knew. She declined the contract, but asked if the company needed a sales consultant.

“After that, there was no response,” she said. “There’s never a response. On one side, they’re looking at me as a Black woman, which means I’m automatically equipped to deliver diversity, equity and inclusion. But then on the other side, that is the only thing you see me as able to do.”

For many Black professionals, the experience of being asked — or even required — to lead or participate in a company’s diversity and inclusion work simply because of their race is an uncomfortable ritual. Ms. Jean said she has been in such situations before, often because she has been the only Black person in the room.

As the corporate world continues its attempt to respond to the Black Lives Matter movement, such requests threaten to undermine the inclusion efforts they’re supposed to promote. Bosses, managers and colleagues — well-intentioned or otherwise — often fail to recognize the emotional and professional stakes of giving Black employees D.E.I. tasks, like reviewing or writing company statements, leading anti-racism meetings or heading employee resource groups, especially when it’s not their area of expertise.

Many companies seek out consulting firms that specialize in D.E.I., including Awaken, the Dignitas Agency and Inclusion Strategy Solutions. Michelle Kim, the chief executive of Awaken, based in Oakland, Calif., said her company has been so inundated with requests that she created a database of Black-owned agencies to manage the overflow. The firms sometimes field requests for help from salaried Black workers whose employers have asked them to review race-related issues on their own.

“To assume that every Black person has the skills and desire and knowledge for this work is tokenization,” Ms. Kim said.

Paula Edgar, a partner at Inclusion Strategy Solutions, agreed. “I find it ironic because companies outsource expertise for everything else,” she said. “You’re not going to say, ‘We have an accounting need, does anyone know math?’”

For years, diversity, equity and inclusion issues have often been treated as a sideline or add-on in corporate America. During the first two months of the coronavirus pandemic, D.E.I.-related job offerings declined at twice the rate as overall job postings, according to a report in mid-July from Glassdoor. Many new businesses don’t make those issues a priority, only taking them up when the companies reach a certain size. By that point, racism and discrimination can already be baked in.

“Diversity, equity, inclusion and anti-racism should be embedded into the DNA of organizations in a fully realized way,” said Kim Crowder, a consultant based in Indianapolis, who specializes in such issues. But companies tend “to stuff D.E.I. into the corner and hand it over to HR or level it to employee resource groups.”

Often, employers don’t know the difference between diversity, equity and inclusion. “The No. 1 question everyone is asking right now is, ‘How do we hire more people of color?’ or ‘How do we have more Black candidates in our pipeline?’” Ms. Kim said. That only addresses diversity; it ignores equity, equally distributing resources based on the specific needs of underrepresented groups; and inclusion, having real decision-making power. “We need to be specific about naming the problem we’re trying to solve and prescribing the right medicine,” Ms. Kim said. “That’s anti-racism training.”

Some D.E.I. consultants I spoke with said, essentially, more power to those Black employees who are happy to take on such assignments from their employers. But without proper boundaries, they said, people risk being taken advantage of.

Ms. Edgar laid out a list of questions for Black workers to consider before taking on those responsibilities: “What percentage of your time will be taken for this? How much will this benefit you — are you making the culture better, or will you have access to leadership to help your trajectory? Is there any compensation — vacation time, increase in pay or a bonus structure? Specifically for lawyers, is there credit to your required billable hours?”

Black employees must also consider whether they have the right emotional reserves, she added. “All eyes and expectations will be on you,” she said. And that could have lasting consequences.

Ms. Crowder used to work for a local government agency. Once, she said, she was asked to hire a replacement for one of her team members. But when Ms. Crowder tried to get her choice — a Black woman — the same salary as the woman’s white predecessor, she was questioned repeatedly about the candidate’s credentials and eventually, Ms. Crowder was sidelined. It wasn’t a unique experience, she said.

“When I tried to speak about my own experiences around racism within organizations, I was shunned and turned into an outcast,” Ms. Crowder said. “I was bullied out of the workplace and didn’t receive fair treatment, nor support or acknowledgment for my ideas and hard work.”

She said she decided to specialize in D.E.I. consulting. “I feel strongly that current employees should avoid and not be asked to become the ‘expert’ on diversity, equity and inclusion within their organizations,” Ms. Crowder said. “They are often not protected and don’t have the power to make changes.”

Untrained employees may also be unprepared to shoulder the emotional weight of the work. “I’m literally a therapist. They dump everything on,” said Jennifer Payne, a communications strategist whose company, Social Sovereign, is consulting on D.E.I. for companies in Michigan and Los Angeles. “I don’t have all the answers, and sometimes it is very emotionally draining. We’re in the midst of a pandemic, an economic crisis, a racial injustice movement. And at same time, everybody wants to ask questions about what is it like to be Black.”

Stacy Parson, a partner at Dignitas, which is based in Boise, Idaho, said Black employees need a chance to heal before they’re asked to help bring about change. “Answering those questions comes at a cost,” she said. “We’re talking about trauma. If we can recognize that witnessing a man getting killed on TV for no good reason is traumatic for Black people, then it’s traumatic for them to revisit it.”

So many companies have issued statements in support of Black Lives Matter that it’s easy for managers to believe that everyone on staff will be receptive to diversity efforts. That’s not the case. This summer, Ms. Payne said, employees of all races have asked her: “Are we supposed to be having these conversations in the workplace? I thought these topics were off limits, like religion and politics.”

That makes it easy for Black employees leading the diversity and inclusion efforts to end up on the receiving end of their colleagues’ confusion and frustration. Even their anger. “When you start digging into political differences, like Black Lives Matter versus All Lives Matter, this can be an ugly discussion,” said Lindsey D.G. Dates, a partner in the Chicago office of Barnes & Thornburg, who has been asked to lead on diversity and inclusion efforts at the law firm. “So the risk that you run by having these discussions so publicly, is that you can be ostracized by colleagues, intentionally or unintentionally.”

Mr. Dates said he had taken on the work despite those risks. “I do not come to these conversations enthusiastically,” he said. “With that said, I do believe I have an obligation to advocate for people like me.”

Qhaurium Douglas, a lawyer and consultant in Oklahoma City, said she gave a categorical “no” when a colleague asked her to lead an educational workshop on the Black Lives Matter protests. She said she had seen other employees at her firm post articles on Twitter about the criminal records of police brutality victims. “As if that was a justification for a death sentence,” Ms. Douglas said.

She understood that her co-workers were uninformed, but she said she suspected they didn’t want to learn. “The willful ignorance was blatant,” she said.

Further, she worried that the conversation would devolve into a political debate, which she was not emotionally prepared to handle. “I didn’t want to contribute to that me vs. you dynamic,” she said. “Black Lives Matter is not a statement for you to disagree with or feel bad about or have to defend.”

Like Ms. Jean, Mr. Dates was approached on LinkedIn to give a talk about diversity and inclusion despite having no training in the field. The request came from a professional organization for in-house counsels, who had seen a post he’d written about systemic racism. He gave a lot of thought about whether to accept, and ultimately said yes.

But he decided to approach the presentation as a litigator. “In many ways, I was freer to make points that a diversity and inclusion professional cannot make,” he said. “It’s not their job to ostracize people but to bring people to the table.” Mr. Dates said he had a different objective: to kick out the table’s legs.

He approached the group as if he were building a legal case before a jury. Brick by brick, he said, he led them to the conclusion that American law firms are bastions for segregation and would remain so until more Black lawyers became capital partners. He wasn’t subtle; he named the hypothetical law firm in his talk Jim and Crow LLP. “I got a lot of surprised looks. A lot of stunned faces,” he said. But he said he believed his argument left an impression.

Mr. Dates said that diversity and inclusion professionals play an important role. His law firm is unusual in that one of its partners is an expert in the field. Her encouragement, he said, is why he decided to join a new committee addressing equity and inclusion at the firm.

“It’s uncomfortable to have these difficult conversations when you have not done the hard work of building relationships with the people you want to talk to,” he said. “But so many firms leave their Black lawyers in utter isolation to the point that it’s embarrassing for them to reach out to them for their own self- interested purposes.”

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Black LinkedIn Is Thriving. Does LinkedIn Have a Problem With That?

One day in September, Elizabeth Leiba opened the LinkedIn app and saw a post by Aaisha Joseph, a diversity consultant with nearly 16,000 followers on the platform.

“Ima need #companies to stop sending their dedicated House Negros to ‘deal with the Blacks’ they deem out of control,” read the item. “It’s really not a good look — it’s actually a very #whitesupremacist and #racist one.”

The post was exactly the sort of thing Ms. Leiba, an instructional design manager at City College in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., was looking for. These days, when she pulls out her phone in search of boisterous conversation, hot takes and the latest tea, she finds herself tapping LinkedIn, which since the killing of George Floyd has become a thriving forum for Black expression.

“I go onto Twitter and I get bored,” Ms. Leiba, 46, said. “Then I go right back to LinkedIn because it’s on fire. I don’t even have to go on any other social media now.”

It’s an unexpected development for what has long been the most polite and perhaps the dullest of the major social networks. LinkedIn was founded in 2003 as a place to network and post résumés — essentially, a directory of white-collar professionals. A few years ago, LinkedIn added a Facebook-like news feed that encouraged users to post links and updates, but it has never been a rollicking space. A team of editors helped enforce a mood best described as corporate.

“You talk on LinkedIn the same way you talk in the office,” Dan Roth, LinkedIn’s editor in chief, told The New York Times in August 2019. “There are certain boundaries around what is acceptable.”

Two staggering events have changed that. In early 2020, the pandemic hit, forcing millions to work from home and miss out on break-room chitchat — boosting LinkedIn as a place to vent. Then, the killing of Mr. Floyd in police custody in May put workers over the edge. Black grief went on display, uninhibited, at corporate America’s virtual water cooler.

“I was just 43 years tired,” said Future Cain, a social and emotional learning director at a middle and high school in Wisconsin. “I was using LinkedIn to post positive things and uplift people during the pandemic, and I decided I can’t sit here quietly anymore.”

As protesters took to the streets to demand police reform, Ms. Leiba and Ms. Cain were among those who discovered that LinkedIn was a place to speak to the executive class on something like their home turf. Black users have taken to the site to call out racial discrimination in the workplace and share their stories of alienation on the job.

Not that it’s all serious: Much of the posting is exuberant — full of memes, Black cultural references and linguistic panache. This summer, Ms. Leiba shared a video about code-switching, in which a Black employee transforms while greeting colleagues of color (“Oh, hey, Black queen!”) and a white one (empty-headed hiking talk). “I’ve watched it at least fifty eleven times,” Ms. Leiba wrote.

These are the kinds of conversations, and ways of speaking, that cubicle-dwelling Black workers have typically held out of earshot of their white colleagues. As unusually charismatic posts appeared in my own feed this summer, it seemed clear that Black LinkedIn was emerging as a professional cousin to Black Twitter — the unapologetically Black digital space where people expose long-ignored injustices and pump their experience into the mainstream.

What’s less clear is how comfortable LinkedIn is with the development, having placed its content moderators in the incendiary position of determining what manner of race-related speech is appropriate for its virtual workplace of 706 million users.

Credit…Benjamin Norman for The New York Times

Black users who post in forceful tones, and some of their allies, say they feel LinkedIn has silenced them — erasing their posts and even freezing their accounts for violating vague rules of decorum.

For example, the “House Negros” post that Ms. Joseph wrote in September vanished from the platform. Ms. Joseph, who lives in Brooklyn, was able to see it when she viewed her own page, but no other users could — a practice known as shadow banning. (Later, LinkedIn added an unsigned note in red, saying the post had been removed for violating the site’s Professional Community Policies, which instruct users to “be civil and respectful in every single interaction.”) Ms. Joseph began a new item: “Let me say it louder since LinkedIn wanted to delete my post the first time.” The company removed that post, too, saying it included “harassment, defamation or disparagement of others.”

Another user, Theresa M. Robinson, a corporate training consultant in Houston, said LinkedIn had deleted a post she wrote about racism, then reinstated it after she complained. She said she had never received an explanation. Two others, Ms. Cain and Madison Butler, who works in Austin, Texas, also said LinkedIn had restricted their commentary on race.

In the absence of clear communication from the company, these users are left guessing as to what the rules are — and feeling that the company is not just policing their tone but stifling their opportunity to force change in corporate America.

Nicole Leverich, a LinkedIn spokeswoman, wrote in an email: “We are not censoring content and have not made any changes to our algorithm to reduce the distribution of content about these important topics.” She added in an interview that LinkedIn was introducing a new process for notifying users when their posts were flagged for violating platform rules, and that some people hadn’t been phased in by the end of September.

The company acknowledged that it had erred in taking action against some users and restored content that was found, on appeal, not to violate its policies.

“If we make a mistake, we will own it,” said Paul Rockwell, the head of LinkedIn’s trust and safety division. “We will be very clear — this is a learning opportunity for us. We’re going to continue to use that in our journey to get better and better. And we do want to nail this thing.”

Few people think LinkedIn should look anything like the wilds of Reddit or Twitter, which have a certain amount of anonymity and even anarchy built into their DNA. Much of LinkedIn’s value — Microsoft acquired it in 2016 for $26 billion — is tied to its sense of professionalism and respectful conduct. Users must share their real names and credentials, and it’s understood that their current or prospective employers might well scan anything they post.

For Black people in the corporate realm, however, words like “professional” and “respectful” are red flags. Like the natural Black hairstyles that were once widely considered unprofessional, certain behaviors — being too Black, speaking too Black or talking too much about Black topics — have long limited advancement in companies with white cultures.

That’s what has changed on LinkedIn in the last few months. Black people are being, to use a technical term, Blackity-Black Black on LinkedIn. Much of the behavior is not so different from Black Twitter; users pepper their posts with clap emojis to emphasize every syllable, and GIFs celebrate cultural touchstones like Issa Rae’s “Insecure” and Jordan Peele’s “Get Out.” The difference is that it is all happening on a social network that mirrors the business world — a place that is predominantly white.

“It is liberating. It feels like it’s about time,” Ms. Joseph said. “We are taking back what was stolen from us — and that’s our voice. I’m talking specifically to my people in the way that we talk to each other in other spaces, and without regard for any outside audience. No longer having to stifle that has been freeing.”

Part of what Black LinkedIn has done is brought together Black professionals to be their authentic selves in front of their white colleagues. For many, it has been an existential relief, and may provide a blueprint for how Black employees choose to conduct themselves once the physical workplace reopens.

“The days of hiding and masking who you are and dealing with the BS — I just can’t even go back to that,” said Jessica Pharm, 33, who works in human resources at a manufacturing firm near Milwaukee. “Any company that gets me next is getting the full-on Jessica.”

Ms. Leiba posted on Sept. 17: “It means code-switching is OUT. It means the AFRO is coming at you on a daily basis. It means you’re getting these bangle earrings and the poppin’ lip gloss.”

Inevitably, not everyone accepts this kind of exuberance. Posts about Black Lives Matter and racial justice often attract the same kind of dismissive, and sometimes bigoted, responses found on other platforms: rejoinders that “all lives matter,” for instance, or claims about Black-on-Black crime. But because the activity takes place on LinkedIn, these comments typically come with the user’s headshot, place of employment and entire work history attached.

“You start to see these people who are absolutely not OK with this focus on Blackness popping up in commentary, with their name and their company fully on display, giving zero deference to the moment,” said John Graham Jr., 39, a digital marketer and strategist at a California biotechnology company. “I find it telling that people would put their careers in jeopardy and their unconscious biases on full display.”

LinkedIn has also struggled internally with how to respond to the Black Lives Matter movement. In June, the chief executive, Ryan Roslansky, publicly apologized for “appalling” racial comments some employees had made at a companywide staff meeting.

Rosanna Durruthy, LinkedIn’s head of diversity, inclusion and belonging, said in an interview that the company was engaging in hard conversations about race, both inside the company and out.

“We’re really beginning to focus very consistently on how we begin to address this externally” on the platform, she said.


Credit…Eli Durst for The New York Times

One of the most vociferous presences on Black LinkedIn is Ms. Butler, a human resources consultant and vice president at a start-up. She has posted on LinkedIn since 2018 and with increasing frequency and fervor this year. The potential to speak truth to capital, she said, makes the resulting rounds of death threats worth it.

“There is something to be said about the access LinkedIn gives you to powerful C.E.O.s and V.C.s to help change their outlook and how they support Black employees and founders,” said Ms. Butler, 29, referring to venture capitalists. “The conversation that has to happen in order to break down the status quo in corporate America isn’t happening on Instagram.”

Ms. Butler, who has about 40,000 followers, posts on LinkedIn daily. Her style is to be prescriptive, assail corporate norms and call out whitesplainers and trolls; she tends to close each missive with the hashtags #isaidwhatisaid, #thatsthetea and #blackgirlmagic. One recent post scolded companies that make a show of cheering on the Black Lives Matter movement but haven’t done right by their employees.

“Do the Black people in your organization feel like they matter, or do they feel like the Black stock photos you used to enhance your ‘wokeness’ footprint in the marketplace. If you can’t make the Black lives under your own roof matter, do not use Black Lives Matter as a brand strategy,” Ms. Butler wrote recently. “Don’t talk about it, be about it. Period.”

Other stars of Black LinkedIn target specific companies. Ms. Joseph, for example, has recently called out Wells Fargo, DoorDash, Microsoft and Google.

There has also been no shortage of criticism of LinkedIn itself. Users are holding the company to a standard it set for itself in June, when Melissa Selcher, the chief marketing and communications officer, wrote an open letter on the platform.

“We have a responsibility to use our platform and resources to intentionally address the systemic barriers to economic opportunity,” she wrote. “We also believe we play a critical role in amplifying Black voices.”

Also in June, with Black Lives Matter protests spreading across the country, LinkedIn highlighted “Black Voices to Follow and Amplify,” a curated list of chief executives, media personalities and other influencers, including the Rev. Bernice King and Karamo Brown from the Netflix show “Queer Eye.” For the most part, members of the list post content that is general, motivational and safe.

Ms. Joseph and others took to LinkedIn to say the group contained too many establishment names and not enough activists. “Where are the Tamika Mallorys of LinkedIn on that list?” Ms. Joseph wrote, referring to a co-founder of the 2017 Women’s March.

“Black voices aren’t just corporate C-Suite ones,” wrote Patricia S. Gatlin, a talent sourcing specialist in Las Vegas. “All Black voices need to be heard in this moment,” added Scott Taylor, a recruiter in Los Angeles. “Not just the ones your team of analysts think we should hear from.”

Ms. Leverich, the LinkedIn spokeswoman, said by email: “We use a number of factors in our selection, including members who have self-identified as Black, people from a variety of industries and with an interesting perspective to share. We’re constantly adding new voices and sorting through requests to join this program.”

In September, LinkedIn used its own company page to pose a question to its 13 million followers: “What are the best ways to normalize having conversations about race and anti-racism in the workplace? #ConversationsForChange”

The responses quickly turned sour. “LinkedIn, you can facilitate that objective by normalizing those conversations on your platform,” wrote Lenzy Ruffin, a communications strategist in Washington, D.C.

“The irony that you should post this!” wrote Abi Adamson, a diversity and inclusion consultant in London. “Kindly stop censoring Black content around racism. People like me have had our engagement go down astronomically when highlighting racism or how to be anti racist. Help amplify our voices and stop silencing us.”

Sabrina McClimans, a graduate student in Seattle, asked the platform to “stop ‘accidentally’ disappearing the posts of Black women on your platform when they talk about race and anti-racism.”

“I have seen cases in which individuals who harass Black women on this platform have maintained their accounts while those who speak out against racism and prejudice have had accounts suspended,” added Phil Molé, who works at a software company in Chicago. “It’s time for a thorough review of the way the issues are handled.”

LinkedIn did not respond to those comments. Philip Mix, a consultant in London, added to the thread after a day and a half, when there were 344 comments, saying he had gone through them “three times to make sure I wasn’t mistaken.” By his count, LinkedIn had replied to five users — four times to say “Thank you for sharing” and once with “Nicely put.”

Mr. Mix concluded: “Not sure if I’m more shocked or depressed by this miserably inadequate show from LinkedIn.”

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Coronavirus Tests the Leadership Style of Goldman Sachs’s C.E.O.

David M. Solomon started 2020 on his back foot.

Mr. Solomon had been on the job as chief executive of Goldman Sachs, perhaps Wall Street’s most storied and vilified institution, for just over a year, working to broaden the bank’s offerings by pursuing lines of business that his predecessors had long avoided.

But his Main Street push had failed to impress shareholders. After Goldman’s investor day in January, the bank analyst Mike Mayo described some of these moves, including a credit card offered in partnership with Apple, as “somewhere between a distraction and a moonshot” and added that he didn’t know of a single investor who had bought Goldman’s stock for those reasons.

If stockholders were scratching their heads at the direction of the bank under Mr. Solomon, employees weren’t much clearer on what kind of leader he was. Lloyd C. Blankfein, the previous chief executive, was seen as a coolheaded strategist who had steered Goldman through the 2008 financial crisis. Mr. Solomon, a spare-time disc jockey, had a reputation for being blunt and pragmatic, but also intuitive and flexible.

Then, as Mr. Solomon was still getting situated, the pandemic hit, presenting him with the biggest leadership challenge — and opportunity — of his short time atop the bank. The crisis has shown Mr. Solomon to be a deft navigator who quickly adapted to changes that caught some of his bank’s bigger competitors flat-footed. But it brought an unforced error by Mr. Solomon that underscored the perils of a fun-loving attitude he has viewed as an asset when dealing with Goldman’s young work force.

Other challenges remain, including investigations by U.S. prosecutors and bank regulators into Goldman’s role in helping raise billions of dollars for 1MDB, a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund that some officials used as a personal piggy bank. A framework for the settlement with the U.S. authorities has been reached but not finalized, a person familiar with the matter said. Prosecutors declined to comment.

When New York City went into lockdown in March, Mr. Solomon sent most of the bank’s 40,000 employees home immediately and blessed the firm’s procurement of thousands of monitors and landline phone systems for use in home offices. He also got on hundreds of Zoom calls with clients to reassure them that Goldman would help see them through their mounting obstacles — and not necessarily for a fee.

Credit…September Dawn Bottoms/The New York Times

Goldman’s early embrace of working from home helped traders capitalize on surging market activity in the first and second quarters. Their efforts pushed the firm’s stock and bond-trading revenues to recent records, while minimizing disruptions and encouraging worker loyalty. By contrast, JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America stumbled initially as they struggled to ready backup sites and, in some cases, created an atmosphere in which trading-floor workers felt pressured to go to the office.

“David has done a solid job navigating the Covid crisis,” said Justin Gmelich, a partner at the hedge fund King Street and longtime Goldman markets executive before that. He praised the firm’s flexible work-at-home policies and the insights that analysts and traders had provided him as a client, although he said he had concerns about the talent pool because at least a half-dozen senior traders had left the bank since Mr. Solomon’s ascension.

With nearly half the bank’s employees under the age of 30, his messaging appears attuned to the mores of a changing finance industry. Already, Mr. Solomon — a yogi and music lover — had brought a different vibe to the job, ripping up the firm’s stodgy dress code and talking about bringing one’s “whole self” to work. In managing Goldman’s response to the virus, he is also becoming an unlikely poster boy for a softer era on Wall Street, where personal well-being can take precedence over profits and displaying anxieties isn’t a matter of embarrassment.

Mr. Solomon, 58, did stumble into a minor scandal recently while indulging his favorite hobby. Last month, he took the stage to D.J. at a concert in New York’s affluent Hamptons beach community, while a large crowd partied in close quarters. The gathering drew the ire of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who demanded an investigation. A spokesman for the state’s health department said the inquiry was continuing.


Credit…Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Safe & Sound

Credit…Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Safe & Sound

In two separate meetings with Goldman Sachs partners and members of the firm’s management committee after the event, he acknowledged that he had made a mistake, according to two people familiar with the matter.

And while he has long said that mixing and recording music is an enjoyable outlet that helps him connect with Goldman’s younger generation, some of the firm’s directors raised concerns last summer about the optics of his hobby, the people said. In side conversations, some directors have suggested that golf might be a better alternative, one of those people said.

“David admits it was a mistake to participate, and he’s told people at the firm that,” a Goldman spokesman, Jake Siewert, said of the Hamptons concert. Mr. Siewert added that Mr. Solomon had put live events on hold for the foreseeable future but planned to continue recording electronic music.

Since the earliest days of the coronavirus, Mr. Solomon had been watching it make its way from China to the United States and worried about its potential economic impact. In early February, he spoke with David Tepper, a well-known stock investor and Goldman alumnus, who had read a dire forecast for the virus in the medical journal The Lancet. The two were at a Super Bowl event in Miami, and Mr. Tepper said he had come to believe the illness could hobble the United States.

“I was struck by the fact that he was more worried than I was, and I was worried,” Mr. Solomon recalled. He began working on larger-scale contingency plans.

By the end of February, Mr. Solomon’s senior team was holding regular 6:30 a.m. meetings to discuss what Goldman should do to safeguard both its employees and its business if the virus spread more widely.


Credit…September Dawn Bottoms/The New York Times

Credit…September Dawn Bottoms/The New York Times

In March, after the coronavirus was declared a pandemic and most of Goldman’s workers went home, Mr. Solomon chose to go into the office daily. To lead, he said, was to show up physically.

“For me, it doesn’t seem right the C.E.O. of Goldman Sachs goes out to, you know, a country house, a suburb or some other place, and is not in charge, in the office, because that’s what we do,” he said in a phone interview in late June.

Mr. Solomon’s approach to the crisis has been a contrast to some of his peers. James Gorman, the chief executive of Morgan Stanley, worked remotely until early July, worried that returning to the office would put undue pressure on employees to follow suit. A visit to the trading floor by Bank of America’s chief executive, Brian Moynihan, early in the outbreak led some employees to question their decisions to work from home. (A bank spokeswoman said that was not the intent.)

“The message from David on down was so clear, that there were no questions asked, it didn’t matter,” said Jen Roth, 39, who runs the firm’s U.S. currencies and emerging markets business, about Goldman’s quick approval of work-from-home plans. Ms. Roth, who had never worked a single day from home until this year, set up shop in a bathroom of her parents’ suburban Philadelphia house — one of the few available rooms with a lockable door to field client calls with her spouse, children and parents nearby.

Zachary Fields, a 26-year-old associate in one of Goldman’s investing businesses, worked from his high school desk from his parents’ home in Delray Beach, Fla. “As long as I have a Wi-Fi connection, access to my computer, and Bluetooth headphones and videoconferencing, I can do my job,” he said.

But Mr. Solomon’s request this summer that some employees return to the office has led to grumbling among those who think a longer stretch of working from home is warranted. Others, however, would like to see Mr. Solomon encourage even more people to resume working from the office and have expressed those views to the C.E.O., a person familiar with the matter said.

The bank hasn’t determined when to bring all its workers back, but it won’t be this fall given the ongoing uncertainty about the virus, Mr. Siewert said.

For now, with everyone dispersed, Mr. Solomon has sought new ways to keep in touch with workers.

“Your jobs are safe during this crisis,” he said in an audio message distributed to the firm’s workers on April 2, noting that Goldman would provide additional family leave to employees. He attended an after-work “geek-out” session for employees on the topic of winemaking, and sipped the wine under discussion as he watched. All 150 participants had received the same bottle from the bank.


In late May, after a Black man, George Floyd, was killed by a white police officer, touching off nationwide protests over racial injustice, Mr. Solomon encouraged employees to speak more openly about race and intolerance. Fred Baba, a managing director in the firm’s markets division, responded with an email to a small group of colleagues discussing his experience with racism and describing the previous few months as “demoralizing.”

The email, which argued for mentoring people of color and supporting minority-owned business, soon inspired a Goldman podcast with Mr. Baba and an op-ed article on Bloomberg. Mr. Solomon also convened an emotional town-hall meeting on race, during which he choked up as Black partners shared their anguish over police violence toward Black people.

Mr. Solomon believes more openness will pay off. He recently held a virtual meeting with eight drug-industry chief executives in which they discussed race and the health crisis in a way, he said, that felt more frank than usual.

“We’re all being much more vulnerable as we’re trying to lead our people,” he said. “I think that’s effective leadership, and it’s working.”

Matthew Goldstein contributed reporting.

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A Rush to Use Black Art Leaves the Artists Feeling Used

The streets of New York were crowded with protesters when Shantell Martin received an email from an ad agency last month.

M:United, a firm owned by the global advertising company McCann, wanted to know if Ms. Martin, a Black artist, would be interested in creating a mural about the Black Lives Matter movement on Microsoft’s boarded-up Fifth Avenue storefront. And could she do it, the email said, “while the protests are still relevant and the boards are still up, ideally no later than this coming Sunday?”

Several other Black artists received the same email. In an open letter to Microsoft and McCann, Ms. Martin and the other artists described the invitation as “both shocking and somehow predictable.” They also wrote that it “betrays a telling and dangerous opportunism.”

“In their rush to portray a public solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, companies risk reinscribing what got us all here: the instrumentalization and exploitation of Black labor, ideas and talent for what is ultimately their own benefit and safety,” the group wrote.

The efforts of major companies to publicly support the protests against racism and police brutality have rung hollow for some Black workers in creative fields.

Artists, models, designers, copywriters and others said they had been drafted to lend legitimacy to companies that fail to live up to principles of diversity and inclusion. They said they had been pigeonholed for roles in ad campaigns or penalized when they raised objections about efforts they felt were insensitive, and had been underpaid, or not given proper credit for their work.

After Ms. Martin posted on Instagram on June 6 about the mural request, several McCann employees told her that the ad agency had reached out to her and other artists despite some internal objections about how the project was being handled, she said in an interview. Both Chris Capossela, the chief marketing officer of Microsoft, and Harris Diamond, the chief executive of McCann, apologized publicly to Ms. Martin on Twitter.

The language used in the email to Ms. Martin “was flat out wrong,” Mr. Diamond wrote. Microsoft said in a statement that the message was “an unacceptable mistake” and that the company took “full accountability.”

A group of marketing professionals, Lexie Pérez, Julian Cole, Stephanie Vitacca and Davis Ballard, began tracking the flood of company statements of solidarity in an open Google Slides document that they released on June 5. They noted that companies often seemed to be “seeking participation trophies” and trivializing the Black Lives Matter movement with “empty and vague platitudes,” providing no concrete plans for change and ignoring complaints of inequality internally.

“This is the current issue of the day,” said Sonya Grier, a marketing professor at American University. “It has become almost standard for companies to jump in, because everyone expects them to have some kind of social presence explaining how they align on race.”

So-called protest art has appeared on the doors and boarded windows of upscale brands like Free People, 7 For All Mankind and Hugo Boss. Scores of companies participated in #BlackoutTuesday on Instagram last month, posting black squares on their feeds with captions expressing solidarity with the movement.

But consumers are increasingly sensitive to how companies express their positions. Twenty percent of U.S. adults surveyed in late June said they would stop buying from a company deemed to be acting hypocritically on the issues of police violence and racial injustice, the polling and market research firm Opinium said last week.

After the publishing giant Condé Nast and the website Refinery29 publicly backed the Black Lives Matter movement, they faced accusations of mistreating employees of color. Leaked grooming guidelines for store employees of the Australian fashion label Zimmerman, which recently denounced racism and quoted Archbishop Desmond Tutu on its Instagram account, were found to discriminate against Black women who wear their hair naturally.

In a statement, Zimmerman said it condemned racism and was “determined to be part of meaningful and positive change in the global fashion industry.”

Ifeoma Ozoma, a former manager for the image-sharing web service Pinterest, said on Twitter that she and another Black woman had recently left the company after they were subjected to racist and sexist behavior. That behavior included negative feedback from a manager after Ms. Ozoma pushed back against the promotion of plantation weddings on the platform, she said.

The company said in a statement that it planned to diversify its board and commission an external review of employee pay.

Many creative workers are self-employed and are not protected by human resources departments or represented in corporate surveys. Many independent Black artists, like Ms. Martin, said they were frequently asked to provide input on diversity initiatives, but were not compensated as consultants.

Credit…Maggie Shannon for The New York Times

Last month, the fashion designer Dionne Clouser saw a design from her Dionne by T brand replicated on the Instagram account of the fast fashion label Pretty Little Thing. She had seen her work borrowed without credit before, but this time, the theft seemed especially brazen. Just a few months earlier, Ms. Clouser said she had turned down an offer to be a brand ambassador for Pretty Little Thing.

But as a small-business owner with limited funds, she opted not to take on the far larger company in court. Pretty Little Thing declined to comment.

“I’ve gotten used to it, but it leaves a bad taste for me,” Ms. Clouser said.

Lydia Okello, a Black queer influencer who uses the pronouns they and them, said they also felt powerless pushing back against large fashion companies. Mx. Okello received an offer from Anthropologie of a free outfit if they published content on Instagram and provided several images to the company for a social media campaign pegged to Pride month. Mx. Okello responded with their standard rates, but said the producer who had reached out repeatedly evaded their request for payment — treatment that they did not believe a straight, white influencer would have experienced.

URBN, the company that owns Anthropologie, said in a statement that it “handled our overture to Lydia poorly.” The company said it was evaluating how to make future interactions with influencers more transparent and respectful while clarifying guidelines for compensation.

“I’ve worked as a Black creative all my adult life, and I’ve noticed that there’s often an assumption that you should feel flattered that this large company is reaching out to you, that it has noticed you, and that reflects a greater cultural narrative that the creative work of marginalized groups is less valuable,” Mx. Okello said. “It’s like, ‘Just shut up and take it, or we’ll find someone else.’”


Credit…Hannah Rebecca Ackeral

Exacerbating the problem is a lack of diversity in leadership roles in the industry. Ad agencies and marketing executives from companies such as General Motors, McDonald’s and Walmart vowed in a public letter to address the issue.

But the messages of solidarity, while encouraging, “ring hollow in the face of our daily lived experiences,” according to a letter signed by hundreds of Black advertising employees in June.

“You have extremely limited people of color in positions of authority at the same time that the marketplace itself is becoming much more diverse,” said Judy Foster Davis, a marketing professor at Eastern Michigan University, who has studied the troubled history of brands like Aunt Jemima. “Then, over the past few years, you see all sorts of marketing blunders.”

Recent gaffes have included racist ads and images from Volkswagen, Dove and H&M.

Saturday Morning, a creative collective focused on racial justice, which has worked with companies like Procter & Gamble and Spotify, issued a call last month for brands to “take bold steps.”

“In order for us to find true equality, there has to be sacrifice and not just sympathy,” said the group of Black advertising executives behind Saturday Morning. “Otherwise this moment will fade away like so many before it.”

Elizabeth Paton contributed reporting.

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City That Once Guided a Nation Now Shows Its Cracks

Ashley Daily Stegall hated how the plywood looked covering the smashed windows at her parents’ jewelry store in Peoria, Ill. So she asked a local artist to paint flowers on the boards. “The goal is to make people happy,” said Ms. Stegall.

For Janet Davis, the reality of what happened in Peoria cannot be easily painted over. She erected plywood to protect her clothing store from looting that followed peaceful protests over the killing of George Floyd. A month later, Ms. Davis still hasn’t fully reopened because she worries more violence is ahead.

Big retailers are struggling, too. The Dollar General, near a large subsidized housing development, dumped all of its food last week because the vandalized store is likely to stay closed six more weeks for repairs. “They are throwing out food in a food desert,” said Denise Moore, a City Council member.

A city of about 111,000 in the central part of the state, Peoria has historically been a bellwether for the Midwest and, at times, the nation. It is a place where marketers tested products, politicians honed their slogans and rock stars kicked off tours. “Will it play in Peoria?” the saying went.

But it has been many years since companies like Pampers and Folgers coffee debuted products in Peoria before rolling them out nationally.

Some residents and local leaders say Peoria is now emblematic for a different reason. It is a city where many Black residents, who make up about 27 percent of the population, and white residents experience starkly different economic realities, leading to years of frustration and despair.

Credit…Evan Jenkins for The New York Times

On May 30, there were peaceful protests throughout the city. But the next night, Peoria experienced a burst of looting, vandalism and violence when, the police and residents say, a group of young people drove through the city, ransacking beauty stores, breaking into a guns and ammunition store, and even cutting the locks at the city zoo to let the donkeys out.

One month later, business owners are still struggling to make repairs and reopen, while also debating the roots of the looting and how to respond. Many residents say the vandalism was a random spasm of rage and opportunism. But others say some of the looting was deliberate, targeting large chains and certain other retailers while sparing many Black-owned businesses.

Chama St. Louis, a former president of Peoria’s Black Chamber of Commerce who is running for mayor, said she believed at least some of the looting was meant to send a message, and she bailed out four people who were arrested in connection with the unrest. But in doing so, Ms. St. Louis, 35, found herself at odds with both white and Black leaders in Peoria, who denounced the vandalism and theft as simply crimes, not political acts.

Ms. St. Louis said the people she had bailed out targeted “corporate businesses and businesses that leech off the community.”


Credit…Evan Jenkins for The New York Times

“But I understand why this was being done,” she said. “It should have been part of a bigger conversation about how communities of color have been treated in Peoria. Instead they are focused on denouncing the behavior, not on why this happened.”

Ms. Moore, who is the first Black woman elected to the City Council, said there was a more troubling reason Black businesses seemed spared from the looting.

“There just aren’t enough Black-owned businesses in Peoria,” she said. “That is the bigger issue.”

Peoria’s South Side has one of the poorest ZIP codes in Illinois, and one publication has, for several years, named the city among the worst places to live if you are Black. The median household income for Black residents of Peoria is $41,200, compared with $60,300 for white residents, according to census data. White residents are twice as likely to hold a college degree as Black residents are.


Credit…Evan Jenkins for The New York Times

And yet Peoria, which boasts a revived riverfront, a minor-league baseball stadium and a new drive-in movie theater, was also cited by Business Insider as one of the best cities to live in after the pandemic. Caterpillar, the construction equipment company, still has a large presence in the city.

“At the same time that it is being lauded as an all-American city it is being named, again and again, as one of the worst places to be Black,” said Terrion Williamson, a professor of African-American and African studies at the University of Minnesota, who grew up on the South Side. “Perhaps what it is to be ‘quintessentially American’ is to be necessarily hostile to Black life.”

Before the looting occurred, it seemed to be well telegraphed and widely expected among many in Peoria. In court documents, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said some of the looters had used Facebook to rally and coordinate people to converge on certain retailers and a mall.

In all, 27 businesses were burglarized, 14 other properties were damaged, and there were several reports of arson, according to the F.B.I.


Credit…Evan Jenkins for The New York Times

One of those businesses was Kelly Beauty Supply, which boasts “the largest selection of wigs in Peoria.”

Kelly Park, 44, opened the shop three years ago, thinking a smaller city like Peoria would be less competitive than Chicago, where she and her husband had settled after immigrating from South Korea in their 20s.

In a shopping plaza, next to a Walmart, Kelly Beauty Supply focuses on items for Black women, offering hair extensions and nail products. The store had been closed since late March because of the pandemic and had no income for about two months.

The store was set to open on June 1, but the night before, one of Ms. Park’s former employees texted her: There was talk in local Facebook circles, the person said, that looters were going to hit the beauty shop.

Early that morning, Ms. Park got a call from her alarm company that the store had been vandalized. When her husband arrived at the store, the police had already left. Inside, the display counters had been wrecked and some of the most expensive hair extensions had been stolen, Ms. Park said. The Walmart had also been vandalized.

The worst part was watching the security camera footage from that night. Ms. Park said she recognized some of the people who had broken into the store, because they were among her customers.

“There were some familiar faces,” she said. “It is too much stress thinking about it. I just try to focus on the kind people.”


Credit…Evan Jenkins for The New York Times

Credit…Evan Jenkins for The New York Times

Ms. Park said she planned to donate more money for college scholarships for local students. But in two years, when their lease is up, she said, they will most likely move their business out of Peoria.

“I feel very tired,” said Ms. Park, who has been battling cancer during the pandemic.

Ms. Davis, who runs the clothing store, also received a tip from friends monitoring Facebook that her business, Janet’s Just for You, was a target. The daughter of a Peoria police detective, and a leader in the Black community, Ms. Davis, 63, went on a local radio station to plead for the looting to stop.

“They say they are about Black Lives Matter, but if you break into my business, you are taking a Black life,” said Ms. Davis, who opened her shop 28 years ago.

Although her store was spared, she blames the mayhem on young people outside Peoria, who “hyped up” local residents.

Ms. Davis has no plans to reopen to the general public soon. Taking down the plywood costs money, and she’s not sure how good business would be.

“I am selling designer clothing,” she said. “I want people to feel good, not wondering whether they should run or duck when they are in my store.”

Travis Mohlenbrink reopened four of his seven restaurants in June for outdoor and partial indoor dining. None of them were damaged by the looting. Late last month, though, the windows in five of his catering vans were smashed, the first time his business had ever been vandalized.

“I hope there are enough people who have been made aware of the issues and the dialogue can continue,” Mr. Mohlenbrink said. “I am an optimist in general. But the realist side of me is scared about our future. A lot of things have to change.”


Credit…Evan Jenkins for The New York Times

Ms. Stegall is feeling more hopeful. Her family’s store, Bremer Jewelry, was hit twice by looters. First, they smashed the front windows but couldn’t get past a metal security gate. On the next try, people attempted to pry the back door open with a crowbar.

“They did this because there was jewelry in the store and they wanted it,” she said. “It was not personal.”

The day after the looting, Ms. Stegall, 31, invited the police and City Council members to pray for harmony in the store’s parking lot. She said the group had included Black and white residents reading from the Bible.

Ms. Stegall, who runs the marketing side of the business, asked local artists to come up with an idea for a mural to cover the plywood. One artist wanted to convey a political message, but Ms. Stegall rejected that idea.

“This is about turning the other cheek and reminding people that not everything is horrible,” she said.

“We have customers from every walk of life and from every race and income level who come here to celebrate a wedding or an engagement or a special occasion,” Ms. Stegall added. “And we are a family of 30 employees, all with different opinions. We don’t feel the need to express one opinion publicly.”


Credit…Evan Jenkins for The New York Times

Young’s Popcorn Heaven, a Black-owned business, was also spared damage. But JoAnn Young, 66, who opened the shop with her husband, Greg, after she retired as a card dealer at a local casino, said she worried that big chains that were damaged, like Walmart, would raise their prices to pay for the repairs.

“They will pass those costs along to consumers, and prices are already going higher because of the coronavirus,” she said.

Last week, the Dollar General store was dumping even packaged food in trash bins because of liability and health concerns in case any of it had been damaged when vandals broke in, Ms. Moore said. She worries that nearby residents now have to travel more than a mile for affordable food.

“Yes, you have a right to be angry,” she said. “But you are hurting the people who can least afford it.”

A Dollar General spokeswoman said the company anticipated that the store would reopen within the next four to six weeks, adding in a statement that “as part of the repair process, we are discarding all remaining products in the store, including foods, since we cannot fully validate the integrity and quality of these products were not compromised.”

Ms. St. Louis, the mayoral candidate, said looting at places like Walmart and Dollar General may have been the only way to get the city’s attention, after years of warning about widening inequality and racism.

“You can’t just talk about the how and what,” she said. “You have to dig into why this behavior happened.”


Credit…Evan Jenkins for The New York Times

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Marty Baron Made The Post Great Again. Now, the News Is Changing.

Almost anyone who works in the Washington Post newsroom can look inside its publishing system, Methode, to see what stories are coming. And at the height of the furor over Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court in 2018, some who did saw a shocking article awaiting publication.

In the article, Bob Woodward, the Post legend who protected the identity of his Watergate source, Deep Throat, for 30 years, was going to unmask one of his own confidential sources. He was, in particular, going to disclose that Judge Kavanaugh had been an anonymous source in his 1999 book “Shadow: Five Presidents and the Legacy of Watergate.”

Mr. Woodward was planning to expose Mr. Kavanaugh because the judge had publicly denied — in a huffy letter in 1999 to The Post — an account about Kenneth Starr’s investigation of President Bill Clinton that he had himself, confidentially, provided to Mr. Woodward for his book. (Mr. Kavanaugh served as a lawyer on Mr. Starr’s team.)

The article, described by two Post journalists who read it, would have been explosive, arriving as the nominee battled a decades-old sexual assault allegation and was fighting to prove his integrity.

The article was nearly ready when the executive editor, Martin Baron, stepped in. Mr. Baron urged Mr. Woodward not to breach his arrangement with Mr. Kavanaugh and to protect his old source’s anonymity, three Post employees said. (The three, as well as other Post journalists who spoke to me, insisted on anonymity because The Post prefers that its employees not talk to the media.)

Mr. Baron and other editors persuaded Mr. Woodward that it would be bad for The Post and “bad for Bob” to disclose a source, one of the journalists told me. The piece never ran.

And the steadfast adherence to the longstanding rules of newspaper journalism and the defense of the institution, which have defined Mr. Baron’s tenure at The Post, prevailed.

Happy newsrooms are all alike but every unhappy newsroom is unhappy in its own way. And in this moment of cultural reckoning, most American newsrooms are unhappy places. They’re reeling from the coronavirus pandemic and under attack from the president of the United States even as they reckon with America’s racial inequalities in their own institutions. At The Post, black staff members’ discontent burst onto Twitter, as a set of high-profile journalists who have left the paper discussed how they felt pushed aside or pushed out. Their complaints, along with previously untold stories recently shared with me, paint a picture of an essential American institution caught in fierce cultural crosscurrents.

The revival of The Post by Mr. Baron and its owner, the Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos, is perhaps the greatest news business success story of the past decade. But that journalistic revival has in some ways masked a messier story, one of many contradictions.

The Post has published some of the best reporting in the 20th century American newspaper tradition that’s ever been done, like the sprawling exposé of America’s war in Afghanistan — all wrapped in a digital marketing, advertising and publishing machine that The Post licenses lucratively to news organizations around the world. It’s a faceless institution in an era of influencers and personal brands. It’s a place where one of the managing editors, Tracy Grant, still hands new reporters a copy of Katharine Graham’s 1997 memoir, though, of course, The Post is no longer owned by the beloved Graham family, but by the world’s richest man. Mr. Baron’s fearless focus on White House coverage and investigations has put it at the center of the American media’s response to President Trump.

But it’s also a top-down institution whose constrained view of what journalism is today has frustrated some of the industry’s creative young stars.

At the heart of The Post’s identity is Mr. Baron, 65, the ultimate old school editor. He rose through the ranks of The Miami Herald and The Los Angeles Times, then arrived at The New York Times in 1996, where he took over the powerful role of night editor, the stern gatekeeper and final approver of any article headed into the print newspaper.

But he frustrated reporters with his punctiliousness, and didn’t play the internal politics of succession. He left The Times in 2000 to take over The Miami Herald, leading its staff to a Pulitzer Prize, and then The Boston Globe, where he published a historic investigation of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church. That showdown became the movie “Spotlight,” in which Liev Schreiber played Mr. Baron as introverted, irascible, and unbending — a depiction that Post employees describe as uncannily accurate.

He arrived at The Post in 2013 “stubbornly retro,” according to a National Journal profile, but when the Amazon founder, Mr. Bezos, bought the paper later that year, Mr. Baron proved the perfect ballast: He wasn’t personally a man of the internet, but he made clear he was all for it. And his journalistic gravitas gave the newsroom comfort during its frantic, overdue shift to the digital age. When other publications seemed unnerved by the election of President Trump, Mr. Baron’s assertion, “We’re not at war with the administration, we’re at work,” seemed to fortify journalists everywhere.

Credit…Justin T. Gellerson for The New York Times

Mr. Baron’s opposition to Mr. Woodward’s story, people who work with him said, wasn’t about favoring Mr. Kavanaugh, or being afraid of a fight. Publishing the article would simply violate the traditional principle that sources should be protected. And it would veer into an uncomfortable and potentially embarrassing new form of journalism, and, in Mr. Baron’s view, imperil the reputation of the institution.

When I asked, repeatedly, for an interview with Mr. Baron, The Post’s spokeswoman, Kris Coratti, instead sent me 4,000 words of excerpts from his many speeches about journalism. The speeches reflected his sophisticated articulation of the importance of open-minded, rigorous and brave journalism. But the speech excerpts didn’t include the credo that stuck with me from a recent memo written by Mr. Baron.

“The Post is more than a collection of individuals who wish to express themselves,” Mr. Baron wrote. “The reputation of The Post must prevail over any one individual’s desire for expression.”

This principle reflects Mr. Baron’s frequently expressed frustration that his reporters’ tweets could undermine The Post’s journalism. It sometimes seems that Mr. Baron is standing athwart Twitter yelling, “Stop!” and nobody’s listening.

The intensity of the debate inside The Post over its journalists’ tweets emerged in an internal survey of reporters’ attitudes, commissioned by the national editor, Steven Ginsberg, without Mr. Baron’s participation. The report, which was circulated in April, described Post management as “ill-equipped to deal with social media in the modern era” and suggested that managers are more forgiving of mistakes “by white men and newsroom stars than they are of women, minorities and less high-profile reporters.”

(The Times, where management has cultivated stars and taken a relatively softer line on Twitter, has its own challenges, and was forced last week to try to purge the vitriol from its internal conversations on Slack. Its chief executive, Mark Thompson, asked employees to avoid “saying insulting and threatening things about co-workers.”)

The Post survey presaged the more intense concerns expressed this month by current and former black journalists about the news industry, in general, and The Post, in particular. Such concerns are not new.

But many Posties (which is how some on the staff refer to themselves) date the current gap between black staff members and leaders of The Post — Mr. Baron and his three managing editors, Cameron Barr, Ms. Grant and Emilio Garcia-Ruiz — to the departure in 2015 of Kevin Merida, then The Post’s managing editor, to lead the ESPN sports and culture site The Undefeated. A handful of black journalists followed him.

The union that represents newsroom employees, The Washington Post Guild, now says it has assembled 32 pages of concerns from current and former employees of color. Black staff members active with the union are pushing for a Twitter campaign to highlight the issues, modeled after a similar recent demonstration at The Los Angeles Times. But such a step would be more provocative at The Post, given the paper’s institutional unease about expressing opinions on Twitter.

Some have already surfaced. Kimbriell Kelly, who left The Post last year for The Los Angeles Times after being passed over for an editing job, tweeted that she was the “only black investigative reporter on WaPo’s Investigative Unit for most of my 7 years there.”

“The notion that only you had to prove yourself as an editor, while sooo many others who didn’t look like you, never did, steamed many of us,” replied Dana Priest, a white veteran national security reporter.

Questions have also arisen within The Post’s video operation, which, like other areas outside Mr. Baron’s core obsessions, has suffered from a lack of clear strategy. Employees said in a meeting this month that personal favoritism had substituted for clear goals, according to detailed notes of the meeting by a participant. One employee said black video editors felt they had to ask permission to get up even to go to the bathroom, when white producers didn’t. Two black editors, who spoke on the condition they not be named, said they’d felt that difference in treatment.

“Staff are always free to take breaks,” Ms. Coratti said. “They are just asked to give others a heads-up that they will be away to ensure that the video hub is not unoccupied in the event of unanticipated news developments.”


Credit…Alex Wong/Getty Images

A particularly striking issue arose from the coverage of the 2018 killing of a Post columnist, Jamal Khashoggi, by Saudi agents. Karen Attiah, Mr. Khashoggi’s editor, rallied support for him on Twitter, on television and on The Post’s op-ed pages. But when it came time to apply for a Pulitzer Prize — an unscientific process that often serves as an X-ray of newsroom politics and power — Ms. Attiah’s work wasn’t among the 20 pieces submitted. The exclusion, she told me, “stung,” and surprised people who had been following The Post’s work closely.

“I was appalled,” said Mohamed Soltan, a former Egyptian political prisoner and friend of Mr. Khashoggi, who described Ms. Attiah as one of the key journalists on the story.

The Post’s editorial page editor, Fred Hiatt, defended the decision in an email to me: “What you have to leave out in such situations, in this case including excellent work by Jackson Diehl, Karen Attiah and several others, is never easy.”

One thing that is clear is that The Post — which prides itself on providing not just jobs for its staff but long enriching careers — has lost some people any newsroom would want to keep, including Ms. Kelly and Wesley Lowery, who left to become a correspondent for a new “60 Minutes” project on the streaming service Quibi. Another is Soraya Nadia McDonald, who said she had hoped to stretch beyond blogging twice a day on pop culture, which she did at The Post, and wanted “permission and support to be ambitious.” She followed Mr. Merida to The Undefeated, where she was a Pulitzer finalist this year for “essays on theater and film that bring a fresh, delightful intelligence to the intersections of race and art.”

”I don’t think any of that would have been published there,” she said of The Post. “This place just seems to run off its best people.”


Credit…Laurent Chevalier

The last time Mr. Baron faced sustained complaints from his black staff was in 2016, after Mr. Merida left. Then, a group of black Posties sent Mr. Baron a memo making the case for a new deputy managing editor for diversity. Mr. Baron responded that The Post was relatively diverse compared with other newsrooms and that Ms. Grant had diversity issues in hand. “They represent the bulk of her work and the most rewarding aspects of her job,” Mr. Baron wrote in the memo. “I can’t imagine taking them away from her.”

This time, as The Post rushed to quell the kind of staff uprising that broke out at The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times, that role suddenly held appeal to Mr. Baron. The Post announced on June 18 that it would hire for the role, and an internal email says the deadline for applying is July 3. Mr. Baron would vet applications himself, and he reached out to Shani O. Hilton, my former colleague who is now a deputy managing editor at The Los Angeles Times overseeing its Washington bureau, its national coverage and its foreign desk, suggesting she apply.

“You may have seen the announcement of our new initiatives focused on race, ethnicity and identity,” Mr. Baron wrote to Ms. Hilton.

Ms. Hilton was not interested.

“I have seen over the years that diversity roles, particularly for black women, are the fastest way to be sidelined out of the most important conversations about coverage and hiring,” she wrote back. “The moniker lets other managers think the work of improving representation and newsroom culture doesn’t fall on them.”

Mr. Barr, one of the managing editors, said the job would, in fact, focus on coverage, even if it might not involve directly managing reporters. “This is a job that brings together the journalism and the leadership of the room,” he said.

That new editor will face questions about identity and journalism that extend beyond race. Two Post employees said editors had barred a Post reporter who publicly accused another journalist of sexual assault, Felicia Sonmez, from writing about the subject, citing the appearance of conflict of interest in her public comments. But it’s hard to imagine reporters are expected to be neutral on the issue of sexual assault — and the decision seems almost a caricature of the old idea that only people imagined to have no stake in an issue, often white men, can cover it.

It can, in this fraught moment, be difficult to untangle the forces driving the arguments about newsroom culture, objectivity and fairness. There are, no doubt, real disagreements around the issue of how much journalists’ opinions, identities and experiences should shape coverage and be shared with their audience, and when “objectivity” simply means a dominant point of view.

But one clear strain in the tensions at The Post is simply, and sometimes hilariously, generational. In the happier times of early January 2020, the writer Maura Judkis blew up the internet with the article “People are seeing ‘Cats’ while high out of their minds.” It featured irresistible testimonials from people who described watching the film of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical while on marijuana, psilocybin mushrooms or other substances, such as: “The most terrifying experience of my life. I swear to God my soul escaped me.”

Mr. Baron, who had not seen the piece before it was published, erupted, two Post employees said, furious that the story was “glorifying recreational drug use,” one of them said.

Ms. Coratti said that Mr. Baron was not “upset” but did “advise that we should be careful not to be seen as celebrating or championing recreational use of drugs.” So the dispute seems to be less about journalistic principle than about whether you like edibles.

Even those who are frustrated by Mr. Baron’s strong-willed style of management speak with reverence of his obsessive commitment to reporting. Still, some of The Post’s challenges will probably be left to his successor. Mr. Baron has told colleagues he will be around through next year’s presidential inauguration, but perhaps not much longer. “Marty will give us a great deal of notice before he retires, and that notice has not been given,” Ms. Coratti said.

But what separates today’s cultural conflicts inside newsrooms from previous generations’ is that they now play out, in real time, in public on social media. And they offer a window into an industry, and society, struggling to find its moral footing around issues of racism.

That seemed a painful takeaway from the recent Post article about a white woman who came as Megyn Kelly-in-blackface to a Halloween party at the home of a Washington Post cartoonist in 2018. The woman lost her job when she told her employer about the coming article, which readers reacted to with outrage and questions about its news value.

“Was this ⁩story intended to be a spoof of our culture?” Patrick Gaspard, who served as ambassador to South Africa during the Obama administration and is now the president of the grant-making Open Society Foundations, asked on Twitter. “Did they really invest all this Investigatory resource on this piece to shame this average person who holds no discernible power?”

The story’s handling inside The Post underscores some of the paper’s underlying tensions.

After a guest at the party who believed the woman was a Post employee complained to the paper, editors assigned it to two trusted veterans: Sydney Trent, an experienced former editor, and Marc Fisher, a reporter whom The Post also turned to when someone had to write about Mr. Bezos’s explicit text messages. Mr. Fisher, who is white, reportedly told people he had doubts about the news value of the costume party story, though he led the reporting and writing. Ms. Trent, who is black, saw it as worth doing, three Post journalists said.

White senior editors, including Mr. Baron and Mr. Barr, signed off on the story and sided with Ms. Trent on some questions of tone. That played to old reflexes and new ones: They chose to address a complex moment with the most traditional reportorial form, and they trusted the judgment of a black reporter with a long history of writing and reporting about race. And while many Posties were conspicuously silent about the story on social media, Ms. Trent stood by it, and posted it to her Facebook page to a positive reception.

But black reporters are, of course, not monolithic, and many reporters of all backgrounds at The Post found the 3,000-word investigation puzzling. A random person “dressing like a famous lady in blackface at a party 2 years ago seems the least of our concerns right now,” Ms. Attiah tweeted.

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As Facebook Boycott Grows, Advertisers Grapple With Race

At this time of year, hordes of advertising executives are usually striking deals on yachts in the French Riviera or at meetings in Manhattan, not sitting at home worrying about their future.

But the industry, hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, has watched its glamorous midyear calendar morph into a procession of video presentations recorded in bathrooms and backyard sheds. The discussions about audience metrics and targeting technologies have now expanded to include difficult reflections on systemic racism and concerns about an economy in recession.

The annual Cannes Lions advertising festival, which was supposed to take place this week in the south of France, was replaced by several days of online sessions featuring companies like Unilever and guests like Chelsea Clinton. The NewFronts, a separate series of springtime events in New York intended to showcase digital platforms such as Snap, TikTok and Roku, were instead streamed online this week. (YouTube sent out thousands of pizzas to accompany personalized videos.)

But many in the industry were distracted during the week by a growing boycott against Facebook, which Unilever, one of the largest advertisers in the world, joined on Friday. The effort involves dozens of advertisers, such as Honda, Verizon and Patagonia, that are displeased with the social media giant’s hands-off attitude toward posts from President Trump amid widespread protests against racism and police brutality.

Unilever said it would not run advertising on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter in the United States for at least the rest of the year, during a “polarized election period.” The company added in a statement that “continuing to advertise on these platforms at this time would not add value to people and society.” Unilever spent $42.4 million advertising on Facebook in the United States last year, according to the advertising analytics platform Pathmatics.

Marc Pritchard, the chief brand officer of Procter & Gamble, said in an online speech for Cannes Lions on Wednesday that the company would not be “advertising on or near content that we determine is hateful, denigrating or discriminatory.” A spokeswoman for Procter & Gamble declined to say where the company advertises. Ad agencies like IPG Mediabrands said they were working with companies that wanted to cut ties with Facebook.

Coca-Cola said on Friday that it would stop all paid ads on social media platforms globally for at least 30 days, but would not join the official Facebook boycott. The company’s chief executive, James Quincey, said in a statement that it would use the time to re-evaluate its advertising standards and would inform the platforms that “we expect greater accountability, action and transparency from them.”

Coca-Cola spent $22.1 million on Facebook ads last year and more than $18 million on Twitter, according to Pathmatics.

Facebook spends billions of dollars a year to keep its platforms safe and works with outside experts to review and update its policies, the company said in a statement on Friday. But it added that “we know we have more work to do.”

The worldwide uproar over race after the police killing of George Floyd last month was never far from the NewFronts and Cannes presentations this week.

YouTube prefaced its session with a message from Susan Wojcicki, its chief executive, that highlighted black YouTube creators like Marques Brownlee and Greta Onieogou. Hulu kicked off its segment with the rapper RZA calling on viewers to “take action, help us fight against this systemic racism,” saying “you have the platform — use it.” Cannes Lions released a study on bias that found that people of color represented more than 46 percent of screen time in ads last year, but were less likely than white characters to be shown working or portrayed as “smart.”


Vice Media Group announced a plan at the NewFronts to expand its coverage of racism, which it called “The 8:46 Project,” a reference to the nearly nine minutes a police officer spent kneeling on Mr. Floyd’s neck. Vice also asked advertisers to reconsider the “antiquated practice of keyword blocklists,” which it said had recently hurt revenue by keeping ads from appearing next to content that mentions terms like “Black Lives Matter,” “protest” and even “Black people.”

The Vice presentation glossed over Refinery29, the women’s lifestyle publication it acquired last year, which faced accusations of discrimination from former employees this month.

Condé Nast’s presentation, however, dealt directly with what one executive called “the elephant in the kitchen”: concerns about racism that led to recent leadership changes at the food publication Bon Appétit and the Condé Nast Entertainment studio. Roger Lynch, Condé Nast’s chief executive, said in a live address that the company had been forced to “hold a mirror up to ourselves” and would create an antiracism advisory council.

“As society is changing, Condé Nast is changing,” he said.

Many of the NewFront sessions were also shot through with anxiety about the advertising industry’s health. Ad spending this year, excluding political advertising, will slump 13 percent in the United States and grow 4 percent next year, according to a forecast this month from GroupM, the media investing arm of the ad giant WPP. That estimate assumes that the reopening of the economy will continue without a resurgence of coronavirus cases pushing the country back into lockdown.


“When advertisers can’t predict what’s going to happen in July, it’s hard to make any substantial commitments for the remainder of the year,” said Christian Juhl, the global chief executive of GroupM. “The underlying economic understanding just isn’t in place right now for people to make a good bet.”

The reluctance to lock down long-term contracts has already led to calls for television networks to adjust how they sell space for commercials during the broadcast year, which starts in October. This week, while previewing programs during their Newfront presentations, many digital platforms tried to address the uncertainty by promising performance guarantees and flexibility in contracts.

Roku offered clients a range of options, including 14-day cancellations and the ability to quickly remove ads from areas where they are no longer relevant (for example, if local stay-at-home guidelines shift).

“The beauty of digital has always been the flexibility and fluidity; unlike linear television, where you commit to a year and you have some limited flexibility, there is a lot more agility built into the digital ecosystem,” said David Cohen, the president of the Interactive Advertising Bureau trade group, which organizes the Newfronts.

But this year, he said, “regardless of the media type, there’s not going to be a wholesale appetite for committing to a long-term deal without the opportunity to optimize or cancel based on business performance.”

The presentations also promoted technology that would allow viewers to shop directly from commercials. Using QR codes and push notifications on smartphones, Hulu said, viewers will be able to buy directly from companies like Sweetgreen and TheRealReal through ads made using its new GatewayGo format. Condé Nast’s Prime Shoppable technology will be featured in online programs from Vogue and GQ. “The Drop,” a show on Snapchat, will feature fashion collaborations that viewers can purchase while watching.

More than 12,500 people registered for the NewFronts, which wrapped up on Friday afternoon with a plea from the event’s host, the comedian Scott Rogowsky. “If you’re a brand, don’t be scared,” he said. “Stand up — this is your moment.”

Mike Isaac contributed reporting.

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Bail Funds, Flush With Cash, Learn to ‘Grind Through This Horrible Process’

One afternoon in June, Elisabeth Epps hopped into her partner’s Jeep and rode from Denver to Boulder, carrying cashier’s checks worth nearly $16,000.

She wasn’t going on vacation or buying a new car. She made the 30-mile trip to sit in the reception area at the Boulder jail — or as she called it, the “Boulder County cage” — to bail out three men she had never met.

“I’m here to pay ransom,” Ms. Epps told her followers as she live-streamed herself on Twitter.

Ms. Epps, 40, founded the Colorado Freedom Fund in 2018 — one of nearly 100 community bail funds that have started up across the country in the past decade. The organizations use donor money to secure the release of individuals who are awaiting trial behind bars because they cannot afford their bail. Minus certain fees and lost bonds for people who miss their court dates, the money comes back as clients meet their legal obligations and can be spent again on the next person’s bail.

The grass-roots movement achieved a new level of mainstream attention after the May killing of George Floyd by the police in Minneapolis, when demonstrators took to the streets across the country.

During protests in Denver, volunteer medics handed out water bottles with the Colorado Freedom Fund’s phone number on the side. “I took a picture of it, thinking, ‘This is really smart,” said Desiree Wines, who was arrested along with her husband for violating curfew. “In the paddy wagon, I told everyone the number for the Colorado Freedom Fund. I said, ‘Hey guys, repeat this number until you get to a phone,’” Ms. Wines said. The fund paid $500 bail each for her and her husband.

Bail funds have become an instant cause célèbre, with actors and models, singers and rappers posting screenshots of their donations. Since the protests began, more than 3.5 million people and organizations have donated more than $75 million to groups associated with an umbrella organization called the National Bail Fund Network. Another group, the Bail Project — started by the founder of the pathbreaking Bronx Freedom Fund — said it had raised an additional $15 million.

The Colorado Freedom Fund received $1 million, 10 times more than the group had received in the previous two years combined. On a recent Monday, Ms. Epps freed a woman with a single $50,000 cashier’s check — more than the $43,876 her group handed out in all of 2019, to pay 182 bonds.

A thousand miles east, the Chicago Community Bond Fund paid a $400,000 bond on behalf of Chrystul Kizer, 19. She had been held in a Wisconsin jail for two years, accused of killing Randall Volar, 34, in what her supporters say was an act of self-defense by a victim of sex trafficking.

Credit… Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Another group in the network, the Minnesota Freedom Fund, received more than $30 million in donations, nearly 300 times the amount it received in all of 2018, the year of its last public tax filing. Some donors have begun to criticize the group for not putting a large enough share of the money to work quickly enough.

“Nonprofits will get themselves into trouble with donors if they try to save funds or divert funds to other purposes. Witness the post-9/11 problems of the Red Cross,” said Alan J. Abramson, director at the Center for Nonprofit Management, Philanthropy, and Policy at George Mason University. The Red Cross raised over half a billion dollars after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and was criticized after trying to repurpose some of the windfall for future disasters.

“It was very easy for people to make donations — click, click,” said Pilar Maria Weiss, director of the Community Justice Exchange, which runs the National Bail Fund Network. “They wanted the freedom part to go the same way.”

“You can’t show up with $31 million and say, ‘Now everybody gets to go home,’” Ms. Weiss added. “You have to grind through this horrible process.”

In greater Denver, Ms. Epps has learned that grind over the past two years. Each jurisdiction has a different payment system — in-person, online, kiosk. Some take cash or debit cards, others only cashier’s checks. It’s a piecemeal system of buying freedom that runs the mileage up on her car and tries her patience daily.

Ms. Epps, who said she was tear-gassed and shot with rubber bullets during the recent demonstrations, had an up-close view of the system last year, when she spent 16 days in the Arapahoe County Detention Center. She had been convicted of obstructing a police officer, after interceding when the police tried to question a mentally unstable man. Under the terms of her work release, she typically spent nights in the jail before leaving with an ankle monitor to spend the day bailing other people out.

“Not one woman in my unit needed to be there,” Ms. Epps said. “It even deepened my commitment to abolition. The community was not safer with any of those women spending nights in jail.”

Bail funds have been around in different forms for decades, used by civil-rights groups to prepare for arrests that follow protests and acts of civil disobedience. Some scholars trace their roots to black communities’ pooling money to buy the freedom of enslaved people. But the modern push for bail funds gained momentum with the start of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2013; the unrest after the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., by police in 2014; and the death of Sandra Bland in a Texas jail in 2015, while her family tried to post $500 to bail her out.

Jocelyn Simonson, a professor at Brooklyn Law School who studies bail funds, said that when she started looking at them in 2014 there were just three or four active ones.

Many bail funds began around fund-raising for specific events before developing into something more permanent. The Chicago Community Bond Fund grew out of an informal effort in 2014 for people arrested at a vigil for 17-year-old DeSean Pittman, who had been shot and killed by the police.

Sharlyn Grace, the executive director, described the appeal: “It’s extremely concrete. There’s immediate impact. You go down to the jail and buy someone’s freedom.”

The organization has raised $5 million since Mr. Floyd’s death. But not all of the funds may go to paying bail. Ms. Grace said she saw the money as belonging to the Black Lives Matter cause more broadly and that the donations were “a movement resource.” How the money is distributed to other groups could raise questions from donors, but Ms. Grace cautioned against too narrow a focus on bonds over broader problems in the criminal justice system. “We have to avoid the fetishization of bail funds in this moment,” she said.

In Colorado, Ms. Epps was inspired by the Black Mama’s Bail Out, which began in 2017 as an annual effort to secure the release of as many black mothers on Mother’s Day as possible. In 2018, Ms. Epps held her own fund-raisers and used the money to help get almost 20 women out.

She set a new goal of running a more permanent fund — the Colorado Freedom Fund. She did not realize just how challenging the “patchwork of administrative red tape” could be, she said. In Boulder, she has to present checks made out to the 20th Judicial District; in Arapahoe, they have to be in the defendant’s name; and in Weld County, they are made out to the sheriff.


Credit…Joe Amon/The Denver Post, via Getty Images

Ms. Epps also works as an organizer in the policy department at the ACLU of Colorado. In 2018, the organization sued the city of Denver on behalf of a Colorado Freedom Fund client. As a result, the city agreed to stop collecting a $30 booking fee and a $50 bond fee that were preventing the release of poor defendants.

While using donations to pay bail, Ms. Epps and her co-director, Eva Frickle, also advocate legislative reforms, like a bill signed into law by the governor of Colorado last year eliminating bail for petty crimes.

“Our mission is to work ourselves out of existence,” Ms. Epps said. “We are unapologetically working through an abolitionist lens.”

Before the legislation passed, the Colorado Freedom Fund typically paid bail only up to $500. With minor offenses exempted and the recent influx of donations, Ms. Epps and Ms. Frickle are now able to handle cases with much higher amounts.

The fund receives requests from defendants and their lawyers, as well as referrals from family and friends. They prioritize defendants who have been held longer; one of the men in Boulder had been incarcerated since June 2019. Ms. Epps noted that $50,000 for someone whose court date is in December may be a better use of funds than 50 $1,000 bonds for people with trials in a week.

Above all, the group puts those “most harmed by the system first in line for release from it,” Ms. Epps said. “We prioritize the most vulnerable.”

One of those vulnerable people is M.J. Coleman. In 2018, she called the police for help leaving a hostile living situation. She did not know there was an outstanding warrant for her arrest, related to an incident when she’d hit a tree with her car. She was put behind bars, with bail set at an unaffordable $500.

Legal experts say that people who cannot afford to pay bail disproportionately take plea deals instead of fighting their cases. Ms. Coleman’s court date was months later. “I would have lost my job, my livelihood, had I had to sit in jail like that,” Ms. Coleman said in an interview.

As a transgender woman, she was kept in an isolation cell, wearing an orange jumpsuit, while other detainees mingled in a holding area wearing their own clothes. “It’s dangerous for them in general pop and dangerous in solitary,” Ms. Epps said. “It’s torture on top of the trauma of the cage.”

By coincidence, Ms. Coleman had met Ms. Epps once before, in the reception area of another jail, where both were waiting to bail people out. Ms. Epps ended up bailing out Ms. Coleman’s friend, and she was ready to help again when Ms. Coleman was arrested.

Free from jail and able to work, Ms. Coleman contested the charge, waited for her day in court, and ultimately settled for the price of a new tree.

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Amazon Workers Urge Bezos to Match His Words on Race With Actions

SEATTLE — Last week, Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s chief executive, wrote a rare note to all of the company’s employees. His leadership team had been reflecting on the “systemic racism” facing black communities, he said, and he urged employees to take time to learn and reflect on Juneteenth, the holiday marking the end of slavery in the United States.

“I’m canceling all my meetings on Friday, and I encourage you to do the same if you can,” he said.

But some of Amazon’s employees said there was one big problem with his suggestion: For the vast majority of Amazon’s black workers, canceling a meeting is not an option. They work in Amazon’s fulfillment operations, packing, shipping and delivering products to millions of customers.

Several other retailers, like Target, J.C. Penney and Nike, made Juneteenth a paid holiday. At Amazon, many warehouses recognized the day by encouraging workers to dress in black.

“What does a black shirt do for anybody in terms of social justice?” said Adrienne Williams, a black contract driver for Amazon in the Bay Area, who organized a vigil for Juneteenth. Better pay, she said, would do far more. “That would cut down the pre-existing condition that is poverty,” she said.

Ms. Williams and more employees and contractors are arguing that Amazon, one of the nation’s largest employers, needs to do much more to address racial inequality within its own walls. The calls for change — including diversifying its top ranks and addressing racism in its warehouses — have generated an unusual degree of turmoil inside the tech giant.

Credit…Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Many other large businesses also face calls for change from within. But Amazon stands out because it has a large percentage of black employees — more than a quarter of its 500,000-person domestic work force, most of them in hourly jobs at its sprawling logistics operations, where they earn far less than their corporate counterparts. That percentage is slightly higher than among Walmart’s employees in the United States, and far higher than at other big tech companies. At Facebook, for example, less than 4 percent of its work force is black.

And few executives have been as blunt in their public support of the Black Lives Matter movement as Mr. Bezos, the world’s richest person. On Instagram, Mr. Bezos posted disturbing messages he had received in response to his support of racial equality, including an email from a person named Dave, who used racist slurs and said that he would no longer do business with Amazon.

“Dave,” Mr. Bezos wrote, “you’re the kind of customer I’m happy to lose.”

Johnnie Corina III, who last week filed a discrimination complaint accusing Amazon of fostering a hostile work environment for black warehouse employees, said it was hard to consider those statements as more than lip service.

“The ‘in’ thing right now is Black Lives Matter and equal justice,” Mr. Corina said. “You can tell when something is genuine and something is not.”

An Amazon spokeswoman, Jaci Anderson, said that the company stood in solidarity with the black community, and that it was “committed to helping build a country and a world where everyone can live with dignity and free from fear.” She said employees had been free to take vacation or accrued unpaid time off to attend Juneteenth events. “We respect and encourage their choice to do so,” she said.

This month, the company said it would temporarily stop selling its facial recognition software, which researchers have found to misidentify people of color, to police departments. The one-year moratorium was striking because Amazon had long denied problems and resisted calls to slow its deployment.

But Amazon’s critics, including some employees, say even that was a half-step — pointing out that the company did not directly acknowledge concerns about the technology nor did it stop selling the tools to federal law enforcement offices.

The pause is a “great start,” one employee wrote on an internal website. But the goal, the person wrote, should be broader, to ensure the products Amazon builds “are not directly at odds with promoting inclusion and diversity and perpetuating biases and injustices to black and brown communities.”


Credit…Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times

Employees and some shareholders have long groused about the lack of diversity on Mr. Bezos’s senior leadership team, a group known as the “S-Team” that has 22 executives, none of whom are black.

At a town hall in 2017, after Michael Brown, Philando Castile and Sandra Bland had already become household names, an employee asked Mr. Bezos about the lack of diversity on his team. Mr. Bezos said his top deputies had been by his side for years, and he saw the low turnover as an asset. Any transition on the team, he said, would “happen very incrementally over a long period of time.”

In April, before George Floyd was killed in police custody in Minneapolis, a group of midlevel employees wrote to Mr. Bezos and his senior team, saying there was “a systemic pattern of racial bias that permeates Amazon,” according to emails viewed by The New York Times. They said they were prompted to write after a leak of meeting notes showed that David Zapolsky, Amazon’s general counsel, had called a black warehouse employee in Staten Island “not smart or articulate.”

Mr. Zapolsky had said his comments were “personal and emotional” and that he did not know the employee was black. But in their email, the corporate employees said it “was not an isolated incident, but rather a symptom of a bigger problem.”

They said Amazon adopted the entrenched racism that plagued America, evidenced by the “homogeneity” of the its leadership compared with “the rich racial and ethic diversity amongst our hourly worker population.”

The group proposed almost a dozen specific changes, including conducting a third-party audit of bias, releasing detailed figures on race and promotions, establishing goals for representation in management and leadership roles, and having the head of diversity be a member of Mr. Bezos’s S-Team.

Amazon said that senior leaders offered resources to help the group develop their suggestions into a formal proposal.

On Tuesday, Microsoft, one of Amazon’s top competitors for tech talent, said it would spend $150 million on diversity efforts and planned to double the number of black managers and senior employees by 2025.

Mr. Bezos’ leadership team in recent weeks has been holding “listening circles” with black employees, and many Amazon executives have written personal emails to their departments. Some teams have moved away from biased technical terms, ditching phrases like “black lists” and “white lists” to connote network access, according to an email shared among some employees.


Credit…Mandel Ngan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

But many employees want more to be done. They have been collaborating on a document to propose that Amazon make diversity a new “leadership principle,” the guiding list of attributes Amazon uses to hire, review and promote workers.

In the document, dozens of employees anonymously cited experiences of discrimination in daily work interactions. When a black employee “said something honest, he was told, ‘You’re not earning trust,’” one wrote. “But when a White Stanford M.B.A. said the exact same thing, he got an accolade.” Others wrote about being passed over for promotions, or not being mentored.

Ms. Anderson said that the anecdotes “do not reflect our values.” The company does not tolerate workplace discrimination, she said, and it investigates all claims reported through official channels. She added that the current leadership principles encouraged diversity because they “remind team members to seek diverse perspectives, learn and be curious, and constantly earn others’ trust.”

In the warehouses where Ms. Williams and the bulk of Amazon’s black employees work, the concerns of some workers can be even more explicit. Mr. Corina, in his discrimination complaint filed in California, said Amazon repeatedly failed to adequately respond to racist graffiti in bathrooms of the warehouse where he works east of Los Angeles.

Mr. Corina, who is involved with the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said that since November he had repeatedly reported racist graffiti and that the language worsened after Mr. Floyd’s death. Some used racial epithets to express hatred toward black people and said that they should “go back to Africa.”

He said Amazon had not addressed the warehouses’ employees to say such behavior was unacceptable, nor had he seen any evidence that Amazon has investigated who wrote the racist graffiti, even though he had asked.

The result, he said, left him scared to go to work. “To not do any interventions is really not a safe environment for a black person,” he said.

In another complaint filed last week with California’s fair employment agency, a black janitorial contractor at the same warehouse said he was fired in early June because Amazon thought he had taken a photo of new racist graffiti that a colleague posted on Twitter.

The contractor, Donald Archie II, said that Amazon had not tried to uncover who wrote the racist words.

“They are firing a black guy because of their perception that he was responsible for calling out racism in their facility,” said Dennis Moss of Moss Bollinger, the lawyer representing Mr. Corina and Mr. Archie.

Amazon said it told warehouse employees about “unacceptable graffiti” in December, and then discussed it again in February. The company said it started to investigate the markings in June. Mr. Archie was removed from Amazon buildings for not escalating concerns about the graffiti and violating the company’s cellphone use policy, the company said.

On June 16, a colleague sent Mr. Archie a photo from the bathroom, with racist phrases once again scrawled on the wall. Below it was an internal newsletter that quoted Amazon’s public statement from May 31, reading, “The inequitable and brutal treatment of Black people in our country must stop.”