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‘Divisive concepts’ ban is New Hampshire law. Will it affect the way teachers discuss race and diversity?

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CONCORD, N.H. — New Hampshire’s Republican lawmakers have inserted, and the governor has signed, a state budget that prohibits the teaching of so-called “divisive concepts” related to race and gender by public schools, state agencies and contractors. But what exactly does that mean?

Though the term divisive concepts no longer appears in the language attached to the two-year $ 13.5 billion state budget, many of its themes are repackaged into several lines of legislation beginning on page 154 of the 220-page bill, according to civil rights groups and educators. 

“One of the central problems with this bill is its ambiguity in what constitutes a banned so-called ‘divisive’ concept,’” said Gilles Bissonnette, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire. “One part of the bill aims to permit ‘workplace sensitivity training’ while other portions of the bill ban speech aimed at addressing ‘unconscious racism’ in the workplace. Similarly, one part of the bill purports to protect academic freedom while another portion bans the teaching on so-called divisive concepts. Frankly, the bill is indecipherable and internally contradictory.”

From the military to classrooms: Find out why critical race theory is causing a divide

The biggest area of concern for opponents of the budget language is its potential impacts on education. The law allows for teachers found in violation to be brought before the state Board of Education for disciplinary proceedings and potential loss of their educators’ credentials. Guidance on how the provision of the law will be enforced is still being formulated at the state department of education, as well as in the state attorney general’s office, according to numerous sources interviewed for this story.

“(The budget) comes across draconian because if a teacher violates it, they can be hauled in front of the state board and lose their license over a law that is confusing to say the least,” said Oyster River Superintendent James Morse, a former member of Republican Gov. Chris Sununu’s Advisory Council on Diversity and Inclusion. Morse was among 10 members who recently resigned from the council in protest over the “divisive concepts.” 

“It’s a fundamental affront to academic freedom in teaching in terms of teachers making decisions on how they apply the curriculum set by the school board,” he continued.

Morse said the budget language is “an intrusion into local education matters,” where school boards set their districts’ curriculums, such as teaching American history and including “racist elements” that plague the nation’s past and present. 

Megan Tuttle, president of National Education Association of New Hampshire, said the budget allows potential bad-faith complaints to the Department of Education or attorney general that could put teachers’ “livelihoods at risk.” She did not rule out the possibility of mounting a legal challenge on behalf of member teachers.

“What educators are trying to do is be honest in education, but because our profession has been politicized to this point, it’s concerning to say the least,” Tuttle said. “History always has different views, but the historical facts don’t change. (Teaching history) now runs the risk of losing the critical thinking piece if we are unable to teach history in its truest form.”

Bissonnette said educators and other public employees will be inclined to “self-censor” and not engage on topics of race, “out of fear of being the subject of a complaint.”

“This is the real danger of the bill and it may very well be the point of it – namely, to cause people to censor themselves in having important conversations on race,” Bissonnette said.

Opinion: Attacks on race education are attacks on spiritual and democratic growth

The governor’s view

Ben Vihstadt, spokesperson for Sununu, said the purpose of the language is to give parents greater ability to report cases of discrimination against their child to the state. He reiterated the term “divisive concepts” does not appear anywhere in the budget language. 

“The governor has always acknowledged that elements of racism exist in our communities,” Vihstadt said. “Nothing in this budget prevents schools from teaching any aspect of American history, such as teaching about racism, sexism, slavery, or implicit bias, as long as those discussions are done without prejudice or discrimination against any student.”

Republican state Sen. Jeb Bradley, the Senate majority leader, amended the original “divisive concepts” language contained in House Bill 544 to make it more palatable to the Senate and governor in the state budget. He pointed to the amended legislation’s specific language stating the provisions of the budget are, “not to be construed” as prohibiting academic discussion and exploration on historic and present issues of race and discrimination.

“The legislation is crystal clear,” Bradley said. “People are trying to create an alternate narrative that this is censorship, that it tries to discourage conversations of past racism, current racism or prohibit anti-bias training. It does none of that, and anyone making those assertions either hasn’t read the legislation or is willfully misrepresenting it.”

The notion of divisive concepts was introduced by New Hampshire House Republicans in House Bill 544, which defined as divisive assertions that New Hampshire or the United States were “fundamentally racist or sexist” or that “by virtue of his or her race or sex, members of any race are inherently racist or are inherently inclined to oppress others, or that members of a sex are inherently sexist or inclined to oppress others.”

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The bill, originally touted by House Republicans, prohibited the propagation by public employees, private businesses and current and prospective state contractors of these so-called divisive concepts, including, “an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously,” and “an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex.”

House Bill 544 was tabled in the current legislative session. However, members of the the governor’s Council on Diversity and Inclusion, the Manchester chapter of the NAACP and the state teacher’s union believe many similar themes from HB 544 found their way into HB2, the state budget.

“The language of this bill is scary, it’s scary for educators, public employees; all of us who want to have, who need to have, deep conversations about the issues really affecting New Hampshire,” said state Rep. Jim Maggiore, D, who resigned in protest from the governor’s Council on Diversity and Inclusion. “We’re not just talking about race, ability, gender and sexual orientation; it’s everything that touches our lives. (With this budget), what we’ve said is we’re going to put a gag order, and put up a time limit on history, and only talk about a historical context that is undefined.”

Sununu previously said the diversity council was entering a “transition period.” He accused the ACLU of “trying to insert politics” into the council’s work. ACLU-NH Executive Director Devon Chaffee has said publicly the mass resignation was started by others. 

Strengthening anti-discrimination law? What the language says

Sen. Bradley, a Republican, introduced the amended language in the budget to the Senate. He said the new language serves only to enhance the state’s existing anti-discrimination law. The language in the budget now only applies to public employees, such as state workers, educators and law enforcement officers after numerous private businesses came out against HB 544.

Bradley points to language that states the budget, “declares that practices of discrimination against any New Hampshire inhabitants because of age, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, creed, color, marital status, familial status, mental or physical disability, religion, or national origin are a matter of state concern, that discrimination based on these characteristics not only threatens the rights and proper privileges of New Hampshire inhabitants but menaces the institutions and foundation of a free democratic state.”“The budget strengthens anti-discrimination laws, it’s a very different approach than HB 544,” Bradley said.

The state budget also contains language stating educators cannot teach, “That people of one age, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, creed, color, marital status, familial status, mental or physical disability, religion, or national origin cannot and should not attempt to treat others equally and/or without regard to age, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, creed, color, marital status, familial status, mental or physical disability, religion, or national origin,” in part. It also allows public employees to opt out of any trainings where these components would be purportedly taught without fear of being disciplined.

Teaching CRT at West Point: Gen. Mark Milley fires back against GOP criticism of critical race theory

Opponents of the budget language say these components make the entire section of it contradictory. They believe the budget language was construed in a similar vein to legislation adopted in other states that have recently passed provisions against teaching public school students so-called critical race theory, a law school theory examining how racism is institutionalized in American law.

Superintendent Morse of Oyster River rejected the notion that critical race theory is being taught in any of the state’s public school districts. He said he believes this language in the budget will be ultimately litigated in court.

“It’s a collegiate legal theory that has nothing to do with K through 12 education. We’ve been teaching diversity and equity in our curriculum for at least five years,” Morse said. “Do we want to live in a world where we don’t address the significant social issues of the day where there are all kinds of examples of racism, sexual bias and gender discrimination happening?”

Critical race theory being taught in schools is the most recent conversation that is causing a divide among parents, administrators and government officials. These discussions have been a part of state legislation deciding whether it was fit for K-12 grade levels.

Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida has called critical race theory the practice of “teaching kids to hate their country and hate each other.” Guidelines considered by the Board of Education prohibits teachers from expressing their personal views.

Similarly a dozen or so states — including Iowa, Louisiana, Missouri, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Rhode Island and West Virginia – have introduced bills that would prohibit schools from teaching “divisive,” “racist” or “sexist” concepts.  

Vihstadt, Sununu’s spokesperson, said the governor would have preferred not to have language around so-called divisive concepts included in the budget, but did not want to veto the entire budget over its inclusion.

“The governor believes that it should have been taken up as a standalone bill, but he chose not to veto an entire state budget and risk shutting down government because this was the route the legislature chose to take,” Vihastadt said.

New guidelines: Florida restricts how US history is taught, seen as a way to get critical race theory out of classroom

Related story: Teaching kids to hate America? Republicans want ‘critical race theory’ out of schools

‘Affront to democratic values’

Numerous stakeholders aren’t buying what Bradley and Sununu are selling in the way they portray the language of the law.

JerriAnne Boggis, executive director of the Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire, said the budget is an “affront to democratic values.”

“The Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire is displeased by the passing of a state budget and bill that impedes the ability for New Hampshire’s citizens to engage in open and honest conversations about racism and other forms of systemic oppression,” Boggis said in a statement. “It silences the voices of many people in our state, banning from public schools and state agencies specific types of conversations about histories of inequality and their continuing legacy. This is a step backwards, not a step forward.”

James McKim, president of the Manchester NAACP, called the inclusion of “non-fiscal items” such as the modified divisive concepts language, the abortion ban after 24 weeks and school voucher program, “disturbing, surprising and disappointing.”

He said the budget language makes New Hampshire “unwelcoming” for young people looking to start their careers here, especially younger people of color, for a state with one of the oldest populations in the country.

“We really need to continue the dialogue if we are to get past the divisions we face in our country today,” McKim said. “Having these honest conversations will not deepen our divisions, it will only help heal them.”

Contributing: Emily Bloch and Alia Wong.

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This post originally posted here usnews

Diversity, firsts and more facts from the Emmy nominations

Mj Rodriguez of “Pose” breaks ground as the first trans performer to be nominated in a lead acting category.

LOS ANGELES — Assorted facts and figures drawn from the nominations for the 73rd Emmy Awards:

FENNELL FINDS HONORS ACROSS FIELDS

Fresh off an Oscar win for best original screenplay for “Promising Young Woman,” which she also directed, Renaissance woman Emerald Fennell has earned an Emmy nomination for acting. She’s up for best supporting actress in a drama for playing Camilla Parker Bowles in “The Crown.” Fennell previously earned two nominations for her writing and producing of “Killing Eve” in 2019.

DIVERSITY FIRSTS:

Mj Rodriguez of “ Pose,” nominated for best actress in a drama, breaks ground as the first trans woman to be nominated in a lead acting category. She’s the third trans person overall to be nominated, after Laverne Cox’s 2014 guest drama actress nod for “Orange is the New Black” and Rain Valdez’s 2020 nomination for short form comedy or drama actress for “Razor Tongue.” And Jonathan Majors and Jurnee Smollett, of the canceled HBO sci-fi drama “Lovecraft Country” are the first Black actors to be nominated in the lead acting category for the same drama series. They’re among 46 people of color nominated across all acting categories.

TIMING IS KIND TO RASHAD

Phylicia Rashad landed her third straight Emmy nomination for “This Is Us” after getting harsh criticism for her celebration of the freeing of her former co-star Bill Cosby. The voting that led to Rashad’s nod for best guest actress in a drama series ended on June 28, two days before the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania reversed Cosby’s sexual assault conviction and allowed him to be released from prison. Rashad celebrated the move by tweeting “FINALLY!!!! A terrible wrong is being righted- a miscarriage of justice is corrected!” Her critics included Howard University, where she had just been made dean of the College of Fine Arts. Rashad later tweeted that “I fully support survivors of sexual assault coming forward.” Rashad’s first two Emmy nominations in 1985 and 1986 came for playing Cosby’s wife Clair Huxtable on “The Cosby Show.”

APOLLO 73

At age 73, Carl Weathers has earned his first nomination for a major acting award with a nod for best guest actor in a drama series for “The Mandalorian.” Best known for playing Apollo Creed in four “Rocky” films, the former NFL player has been acting since the mid-1970s in movies including “Predator,” “Action Jackson” and “Happy Gilmore.”

NOMS BY THE NUMBERS:

306: Emmy nominations through the years for “Saturday Night Live.” With 21 new nods in 2021, the sketch institution extends a record that is unlikely ever to be broken. It has nearly double the total of the closest contender, “Game of Thrones” which earned 161.

24: Nods for the queen and the bounty hunter. “The Crown” and “The Mandalorian” are the year’s top nominees with two dozen nods apiece.

23: Nominations for fake TV. “ WandaVision ” with its synthesized faux-shows in the style of “I Love Lucy” “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and “Malcolm In The Middle,” has a shot at a whole bunch of very real Emmys.

20: Nominations for the coach. The total for “Ted Lasso” tops the 19 earned by “Glee” in 2010 to make it the most nominated first-season comedy ever. It fell just short of the record for a comedy series, 22, set by “30 Rock” in 2009.

6: First-time nominations for cast members of “Ted Lasso.” Most of the half-dozen performers were virtually unknown in the U.S. before the upstart soccer comedy. They include star Jason Sudeikis along with Brett Goldstein, Nick Mohammed, Hannah Waddingham, Jeremy Swift and Juno Temple.

5: First-time nominations for cast members of “Hamilton.” There are few things “Hamilton” hasn’t done, few awards it hasn’t won, but the Broadway show’s television version on Disney+ brought the first career Emmy nods to Renée Elise Goldsberry, Jonathan Groff, Anthony Ramos, Phillipa Soo and Daveed Diggs.

4: Men from “Ted Lasso” nominated in the same category. Goldstein, Mohammed, Swift and Brendan Hunt make up half the nominees for best supporting actor in a comedy series.

3: Actors nominated for two different shows. Jean Smart is up for best actress in a comedy series for “Hacks” and best supporting actress in a limited series or TV movie for “Mare of Easttown.” Aidy Bryant was nominated for best actress in a comedy for “Shrill” and best supporting actress in a comedy for “Saturday Night Live.” Her “SNL” castmate Kenan Thompson was nominated for best supporting actor in a comedy for that show and best actor in a comedy for “Kenan.”

2: Nominees for best variety sketch series. The category will be a game of one-on-one between “Saturday Night Live” and “A Black Lady Sketch Show” in a year of slim sketch pickings. The relatively new category had just three nominees last year, but has included either five or six in every year since 2015.

1: Acting nomination for Rosie Perez, who scored her first this year, for best supporting actress in a comedy series in “The Flight Attendant.” Her Emmy noms resume is deep and diversified, though. She was nominated three times for her choreography on “In Living Color” and once as a host on “The View.”

0: The number of times Netflix has won the Emmys top prize, best drama series, despite a dominant performance in the sheer number of nominations in recent years. It has a very strong chance this year to finally win best drama series with top nominee “The Crown.”

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This post originally posted here CBS8 – Entertainment

Clubhouse Aimed to Foster Diversity. Is it Working?

Here’s what you need to know before joining the social audio platform, especially if you’re a person of color.

It’s not that hard to get an invite to Clubhouse anymore.

More than a year after its initial release in March 2020, the invite-only social media app is still technically in beta mode, but after a few appearances from the likes of Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg, everyone wanted in—and most of them got in. The audio-only platform that was almost built for a global pandemic has exploded to host about 10 million users in nine countries and the European Union on both iOS and Android.

Conversations occur in real time about everything from international politics to watch parties, and you can dip in and out of rooms without saying a word or be invited “on stage” to be heard by 5, 50, 500, or 5,000 people (the current maximum—although Musk has blown past that before). It’s basically a virtual conference, about anything and everything, sold to users with a premium on real-time conversation. But now that Clubhouse’s users are beginning to step out of quarantine isolation and take their conversations offline, the app is being kicked out of the nest to see whether it can fly.

‘Intimacy at Scale’

Like Zuckerberg, Paul Davison and Rohan Seth of Alpha Exploration started their social experiment small, intending to “collect feedback, quietly iterate, and avoid making noise until we felt the product was ready for everyone.” But as the buzz caught on in Silicon Valley, they soon learned that wouldn’t be possible.

“I think part of the appeal of Clubhouse is the scarcity of conversations that are only going to happen live and that you won’t be able to catch anywhere else,” said Jordan Harrod, a user who joined in November 2020 after hearing about the app on Twitter. But after a while, she said, “I think the scarcity idea kind of wears off after you are in too many rooms and not necessarily hearing particularly novel information.”

Since conversations aren’t recorded, fact-checking is difficult, and users aren’t always held accountable for what they say. Sound familiar?

“I’ve been in many a room where I’ve hopped on and fairly quickly realized that the people who called themselves experts on some topic had absolutely no idea what they’re talking about. But everyone in the audience was taking it as fact,” Harrod said.

At the same time, some users say the medium allows for more nuance and critical thinking than other social media platforms, where users can scan over an image or a post in seconds and like or share immediately. Without visual cues like videos, comments or even the infamous blue checkmark, says Abraxas Higgins, a self-described impact influencer and social audio strategist, the app truly is audio-only, and he likes it that way. And while some have compared the app’s content to podcasts, broadcasting live (as radio hosts will tell you) is not the same thing as recording content with the knowledge that you can edit it later.

“Thousands of people are listening to you, and it’s just your voice—there is no image—and you’re having to think of things on the fly and be witty and funny and have lexical prowess,” he said. “If you’re lying, you get caught out pretty quickly. If you’re an idiot, you get caught out pretty quickly. If you don’t know what you’re talking about, you get caught out pretty quickly.”

So while a large following might bring an audience into your room, there’s no guarantee they’ll stay—especially when time is a premium in modern life. And you have to spend time engaging with users on the app, a lot more than you do to scroll through Facebook or Twitter and like someone’s content.

“The power of this app is intimacy at scale,” said Higgins, who said he has friends in cities all over the world today from the platform.

That’s not to say the app is free of disinformation or disingenuous people. Anti-vaxxers, anti-maskers, and Covid-19 deniers have formed their own communities on the app, making unproven claims in their bios and conversations. And while some rooms hold space for conversations between Israelis and Palestinians during the ongoing crisis, the app has also struggled to shut down anti-Semitism and other forms of racism. In April the app shut down a number of rooms and removed users who violated the community guidelines, which ban discrimination, hateful content, or threats of violence or harm against “any person or groups of people.” The growing pains are unavoidable, but how the company handles them moving forward could make or break its future in the social media sphere.

The Evolution of Clubhouse

It wasn’t always this way, and chances are it won’t remain the same either. The app has gone through several evolutions, or cycles, as more and more people were invited on. Each user gets two invites when they join, but Clubhouse gives you more seemingly indiscriminately—which makes any perceived exclusivity short-lived. When it first opened up in July 2020, after three months of development and testing with a few friends, the company stated its intention to “foster a diverse set of voices”—and to a certain extent it managed to do so.

“It’s an app that was created for people in Silicon Valley, and there’s already a hierarchy in Silicon Valley, so that’s sort of how the app became popular. It also gained popularity because of the exclusivity: You wanted to be a part of something that everyone else wanted to be a part of, but only certain people were allowed to be a part of,” said Beth, an early user who did not want her real name shared due to her connections within the tech industry.

That hierarchy involves race, gender, and class dynamics. White men have long dominated the tech industry and white workers make up two-thirds of the workplace, followed by Asian Americans, who make up just under one-quarter of computing and mathematical occupations and are more likely to be found in technical positions than leadership positions. Black and Latinx workers each make up less than 10 percent of the industry and even less of the executive positions.

But a lot changed when the entertainment industry got on the platform last September, including a wave of Black creatives, ushering in a new era for the app.

“I said, ‘I’m not going to use this platform the way that maybe some people would,’ in the sense that there’s an opportunity here to use this outside of just speaking,” said Noelle Chesnut Whitmore, the chief marketing officer at Geojam and founder of More in Music.

Within a few months, Whitmore pulled together the now-viral and critically acclaimed performance of The Lion King: The Musical as the executive producer and director. When she joined the app, like other Black users, Whitmore invited her community into the wave of users of color joining the app, from cities like Los Angeles, New York City, and Atlanta.

“My Clubhouse experience has always been inclusive of very, very diverse groups, like extremely diverse groups, so much so that it was ironic, because some of these people I would never have talked to just based off of location, based off of some of the sectors in which they worked. The beautiful thing about Clubhouse is it put all of us in one space and forced us to talk to each other,” said Whitmore.

Higgins, who is based in London, joined this wave in October last year, calling it a “music renaissance,” and said the user base—at least to him—was much more Black at the time than it is today, diversifying from the mostly white tech base of its early days. Now the app is taking off in India, having spread to the UK and other parts of Europe as well as Africa, Australia, and South America.

“Each of those cities had some kind of cultural impact on the kinds of rooms we would see,” said creator Minh Do, who hosts clubs like Crazy Good Fun and the Movie Club, which often have more than 500 users in the room. One example he gave was the green moderator signifier, which Atlanta users began calling the “green beam”—and it stuck.

“In the very beginning, it was fairly tech-heavy, but I also came in after George Floyd, and my impression of what happened then is that there was a push for diversity from the user base at that time, and I think that has continued ever since,” he added. “I don’t think that Clubhouse has a strong amount of control over the demographic changes on the app, because it’s kind of in the hands of the users to invite who comes on.”

Clubhouse doesn’t collect demographic information from users when they create an account, so there’s no way to know quantitatively how diverse the platform is. A spokesperson for the company pointed to several top creators of color, some of whom are based in other countries, with audiences of more than 1,000 users.

Other social media platforms with an international base are similarly diverse, and users can turn Clubhouse into an echo chamber of sorts, but the app’s algorithm—while somewhat a mystery—heavily relies on user-selected “interests” to populate your hallway, making it more likely that you’ll find users outside of your bubble. With only a single profile image and a username to identify users, the app also sidesteps some of the racial bias built into artificial intelligence that has gotten apps like Twitter in trouble before. Still, while there are plenty of examples of what not to do, the question remains: Does the company know what to do next?

What Does Growth Look Like?

In recent months, Clubhouse has started to cater more to creators, rolling out a “Creator First” initiative to support selected creators by providing resources, services, and a stipend. The app also added a payment feature using Stripe that allows users to monetize their audience—with 100 percent of the money going directly to the user, unlike other platforms, which take a cut of the money.

Features like these are encouraging, especially for creatives of color, who are often cut out of the profits made online. Beyond the user base, however, part of the inclusivity equation as the app grows is biased by the people behind the technology. One of the app’s two male cofounders, Seth, is a person of color, while the other, Davison, is white.

“There’s definitely an air of strong male energy. The more popular rooms tend to be the rooms where it’s mostly white, male tech speakers,” said Beth, noting that other voices were present as well—if you went looking. “When two men start an app with roots in Silicon Valley, with this agenda of being inclusive, it’s a different air than when a woman starts an app to ensure that women feel safe in that community. With Clubhouse, perhaps the exclusivity was once a marketing tactic, but at a certain point it can become their Achilles’ heel.”

The small company of roughly a dozen employees is hiring, however, and would double in size if it filled all currently open positions. If they follow through on opening the platform, as the website says they intend to do, they’re likely to need the help.

“The beautiful thing they have on their side is that there is some sense of culture that they had early on. I think the hard part, though, is how do you establish and communicate and share that culture as it scaled,” said Whitmore. “People are just getting dumped onto Clubhouse and are unfortunately bringing some of those norms from other platforms without realizing that there is a unique opportunity for us here to develop a new standard, a new culture, and new ways in which we use this platform.”


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Author: Anagha Srikanth
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Report alleges ‘fallout’ at ESPN after leaked recording of Rachel Nichols’ comments on diversity

A New York Times report said ESPN is fixing damage after Nichols made controversial suggestions on diversity and hiring involving fellow reporter Maria Taylor.

A recording of a phone conversation which happened last year, said to have been leaked, is reportedly creating a tense situation inside sports network ESPN after one of their top reporters made some controversial suggestions on the issue of diversity aimed at a fellow reporter at the network. 

A Sunday New York Times report detailed how one of the ESPN’s star sports broadcasters, Rachel Nichols, who is white, was heard on a recording suggesting that her colleague at the network, reporter Maria Taylor — a Black woman — was given a hosting assignment to help the network with its diversity efforts.

The assignment was ESPN’s broadcast of the NBA Finals last year, where executives at the network are said to have selected Taylor over Nichols, making Taylor their primary host for the broadcast. 

In a phone conversation that included Adam Mendelsohn, a longtime advisor to LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers, Nichols is heard voicing her frustrations with not getting the assignment, appearing to suggest that the decision to pick one of the two women was made on the basis of race, reports on the recording detailed

The report from the Times said the call was recorded on a camera that Nichols had in her hotel room at the time. The set up allowed her to appear on-camera from the NBA bubble. The audio recording of her comments were saved to a video server at ESPN’s headquarters. It is not known exactly how many ESPN employees had access, and were able to listen to it, USA Today reported

Nichols is heard saying on the recording, “I wish Maria Taylor all the success in the world — she covers football, she covers basketball.” In the audio take reported on by the New York Times, Nichols then goes on to say, “If you need to give her more things to do because you are feeling pressure about your crappy longtime record on diversity — which, by the way, I know personally from the female side of it — like, go for it. Just find it somewhere else. You are not going to find it from me or taking my thing away.” 

The New York Times made contact with employees at ESPN, and at least one expressed that the network’s choice to apparently not discipline Nichols for making the comments had been an “active source of pain,” according to at least one account reported on

A spokesperson for ESPN named Josh Krulewitz told the Times, “A diverse group of executives thoroughly and fairly considered all the facts related to the incident and then addressed the situation appropriately. We’re proud of the coverage we continue to produce, and our focus will remain on Maria, Rachel and the rest of the talented team collectively serving N.B.A. fans.” 

Nichols herself responded to the Times report suggesting that the conversation was simply her venting in private to her friend saying she was just “unloading to a friend about ESPN’s process, not about Maria.” Nichols said, “my own intentions in that conversation, and the opinion of those in charge at ESPN, are not the sum of what matters here — if Maria felt the conversation was upsetting, then it was, and I was the cause of that for her.” 

Taylor’s contract at ESPN will reportedly expire in a matter of weeks, which would fall during NBA Finals according to reports. The New York Times said there haven’t been many steps taken to form a new deal with Taylor. ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro reportedly highlighted Taylor as one of the network’s potential next stars. 

Krulewitz of ESPN said, “We, of course, are not going to comment on the specifics of any commentator contract.” Pitaro was not made available for comment on the story.

It is rumored that Taylor could possibly leave the network at the end of her current contract, but that could not be confirmed at the time of this report. 

This is a developing story and will continue to be updated. 

Author: Douglas Jones
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Diversity of Pediatric Residents, Fellows Continues to Lag

Researchers acknowledged that some of the factors contributing to the low proportion of minorities in the pediatric workforce may include educational disparities starting in primary or secondary school, such as underfunded schools and lack of educational resources.

“Something I really appreciated about the paper is that this goes beyond a student stepping into medical school, finding a mentor in pediatrics, and then eventually matriculating into a pediatric residency,” said Christle Nwora, MD, an internal medicine–pediatrics resident physician at Johns Hopkins Urban Health Residency Program in Baltimore, who was not involved in the study. “I like the idea of knowing that people aren’t going into the field and being very critical as to why.”

Prior studies, including a 2019 study published in JAMA Network Open, has found that minority students remain underrepresented in medical schools. However, this most recent study, published in Pediatrics, is one of the first to report trends in the race or ethnicity of pediatric residents and fellows.

“It’s been pretty well documented throughout the medical literature that the representation of underrepresented [groups] in medicine is low among all specialties,” study author Kimberly Montez, MD, MPH, FAAP, said in an interview. “This is one of the first studies that [show this trend] in pediatrics, [but] we were kind of expecting [these findings] knowing the rest of the literature out there.”

Montez and colleagues examined self-reported race and ethnicity data from 2007 to 2019 for pediatric residents and fellows from the GME Census reports. The annual number of pediatric trainees increased from 7,964 to 8,950 between 2007 and 2019. For pediatric subspecialty fellows, that number increased from 2,684 to 3,966.

The number of underrepresented pediatric trainees also increased over time, from 1,277 to 1,478 residents and 382 to 532 subspecialty fellows. However, researchers found that the trend in proportion of underrepresented in medicine (URiM) trainees was unchanged in pediatric residencies – 16% in 2007 to 16.5% in 2019 – and, overall, decreased for URiM subspecialty fellows from 14.2% in 2007 to 13.5% in 2019.

“I was shocked at the fact that there has been no significant increase either over the last 12 years,” said Joan Park, MD, a pediatric resident at Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, who was not involved in the study. “In the news, we’re seeing way more discussions in regards to racism and representation and the fact that that hasn’t really fueled or caught fire yet in medicine at all to really move that arrow is definitely really shocking.”

The recent study also pointed out that the percentage of underrepresented groups in pediatric residencies and fellowships is considerably lower in comparison with those groups’ representations in the U.S. population. For example, Black or African American people make up 13.4% of the U.S. population but just 5.6% of pediatric trainees. Meanwhile, American Indian or Alaskan Native people make up 1.3% of the U.S. population but make up 0.2% of pediatric trainees.

Montez hypothesized that the lack of underrepresented groups as pediatric trainees — or in the medical field, in general — may have to do with systemic barriers that span the entire educational continuum and affects them even before they reach medical school, including attendance at underfunded primary and secondary schools.

“Just think about all the barriers that exist for underrepresented minorities in medicine,” said Montez, assistant professor of pediatrics at Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, N.C. “We know that underrepresented minorities are accepted and matriculate at lower rates than [those of] their nonminority counterparts. All of this occurs even just before getting into the field of pediatrics. So multiple barriers exist.”

Those barriers may also include racism, bias, and discrimination, which may play out unconsciously when members of an underrepresented group are applying for residencies or med school, such as “recognizing a name that may be from a different ethnic or racial background and then unconsciously biasing yourself against that applicant, for example,” Montez explained.

Montez said that although there has been progress, there is still a long way to go. She hopes the study will help academic institutions and professional organizations recognize the importance of diversity in pediatrics. She noted that pediatric trainees are more likely to experience microaggressions, which could potentially cause them to leave a program.

“I hope this will galvanize pediatric programs to really think a lot about the environment that they create for underrepresented minority trainees and also about their recruitment process in terms of making sure it’s standardized, using a holistic review,” Montez explained.

In 2016, the Association of American Medical Colleges published a diversity and inclusion strategic planning guide to improve training programs. Furthermore, in 2019, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education instituted a new common program requirement on diversity that requires programs to focus on systematic recruitment and retention of a diverse and inclusive workforce of residents and fellows.

“The same way pediatricians are aware of how the environment will shape the way a child grows up, we have to be mindful of the way an environment that surrounds the medical student will shape where they eventually end up as well,” said Nwora.

The experts disclosed no conflicts of interest.

This article originally appeared on MDedge.com, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

Author:
This post originally appeared on Medscape Medical News Headlines

VC Pledged to 'Do Better' on Diversity. It's Barely Changed

The language isn’t meant to be strictly enforceable, but rather to introduce a conversation that investors usually don’t have. In other words, it’s pretty toothless, something Guerrero acknowledges. “The diversity rider is not a silver bullet,” he says, “but it is a framework.” Talking about how white the industry is can be awkward, which is why Guerrero thinks firms need to standardize a diversity check in each deal. “Sometimes it’s difficult to find a moment for like, when do we bring this up, how do we bring this up?”

Industrywide, however, there’s still a long way to go. “Every time there’s a conversation about how there are people who have been left out, there are other people who just want to move on,” he says.

Brian Dixon, a partner at Kapor Capital, wrote a blog post last summer encouraging firms to look beyond their own networks to hire talent, including partners. “If you do not publicize the jobs that are available at your venture firm, then you are intentionally being exclusionary,” he wrote. The blog struck a chord with the VC firm First Round, which held an open call for its latest partner search. It ended up hiring its first Black investment partner, Meka Asonye, this year.

Groce says he has seen concerted efforts to recruit Black VCs at the junior level. BLCK VC launched a program called the Black Venture Institute in 2020, which has now trained more than 100 operators on how to make venture and angel investments. A separate program, called Breaking Into Venture, is designed to train would-be Black investors on the basics of crafting an investing thesis, sourcing deals, and performing due diligence. Groce says 70 percent of people in that program have secured jobs as analysts or associates at venture funds.

Other initiatives aim to provide support to a diverse set of emerging fund managers. Screendoor, a new $ 50 million investment vehicle backed by ten general partners at prominent VC firms, will provide capital to a class of underrepresented investors who are raising their first institutional fund. “Waiting for today’s venture capitalists to embrace diversity will take too long,” the partners wrote in a blog post. “Our goal isn’t just to raise funds, but to help build lasting firms.”

Programs like these aim to support and grow a new class of investors. But the industry has a long way to go, especially at the partner level. “The reality is that there are only 34 Black investors that can write a $ 3 million check,” says Groce, based on BLCK VC’s data. “That’s a seed round.”

Wealth requirements placed on investors are another barrier to entry in the field. Most venture firms require a “GP commit,” meaning that between 1 and 5 percent of the committed capital comes from the fund’s general partners. The requirement is meant to ensure that partners have skin in the game, but also reserves power in venture capital to those with the highest amount of wealth. Similarly, angel investors have long been required by the SEC to meet income and wealth criteria that exclude all but the wealthiest people. And in the US, the wealthiest people tend to be white: The net worth of a typical white family in 2016 was nearly 10 times greater than a Black family, according to research from Brookings. Racial disparities, discrimination, and wealth inequality feed off each other, exacerbating problems in so many facets of American life, including VC.

Some investors have turned to nontraditional platforms to help close the racial funding gap. Clarence Wooten, a longtime entrepreneur and investor, created the venture studio Revitalize last year to “change the complexion of tech” by investing specifically in Black founders at very early stages. The firm leverages equity crowdfunding platforms, like Republic, as a way to diversify the cap table. Those platforms let people invest small checks into startups, which Wooten says can help Black founders engage their communities, as well as help those communities in turn to benefit from their success. “We don’t just want to make wealthy people wealthier,” says Wooten. “That’s why we’re bullish on crowdfunding. We want to democratize wealth-building opportunities.”

Author: Arielle Pardes
This post originally appeared on Business Latest

13 Investigates: Houston-area law enforcement lacks diversity; could lead to more force and arrests

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) — When Major Quincy Whitaker joined the Harris County Sheriff’s Office as a jailer in 1991, he said getting promoted to his current position would have probably meant another Black officer couldn’t also be a major.

There wasn’t a policy in writing stating that and it was never explained. Whitaker said it was just understood, learned through observation and years of minorities taking the test to get promoted and being passed over.

“When I came, every rank from sergeant all the way up had one representation of different groups, and it was understood that that’s probably all it was going to be,” said Whitaker, who oversees the sheriff’s office’s administrative services bureau and oversees recruiting.

Whitaker said the sheriff’s office has made concerted efforts to diversify the force over the years. He still remembers the first time there were two Black chief deputies at the same time, and the first time an Asian was promoted to command staff.

“We’ve come a long way. Today we are 62% non-white at the sheriff’s office compared to 71% of non-white (people) in this county,” Whitaker told 13 Investigates’ Ted Oberg. “In ’91, it wasn’t quite that diverse.”

Despite the progress, the sheriff’s office is still nine percentage points away from being as diverse as the community it serves. It’s not the only law enforcement agency that doesn’t completely reflect its community, but did have one of the smallest gaps in diversity, according to our investigation.

13 Investigates looked at the 14 largest police departments and sheriff’s offices in the Houston area and found none of their departments reflect the diversity within their communities. Our investigation also found a department’s diversity, even at the leadership level, impacts how officers interact with members of the community.

How diverse is your local law enforcement agency? 13 Investigates looked at the Houston areas 14 largest police departments and sheriff’s offices to see how they measure up.
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When our ABC data team looked at arrests in the 100 largest metro areas in the U.S., Black people were five times more likely to be arrested in departments where just 10% of officers were people of color.

When diversity rose to 50%, Black people were just twice as likely to be arrested.

Dr. Andrea Headley, an assistant professor at Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy, has conducted similar research, which shows not only do arrests change when police forces are more diverse, but Black officers also use less severe use of force when making arrests.

“We do see differences with regards to [how] Black officers and white officers interact with the community,” she said. “When everyone is making a decision to use force, there’s still less severe force by Black officers.”

Pasadena had the worst disparity in our region with just 32% of minority officers compared to 76% minority residents. Baytown was next with 35% of minority officers compared to 68% minority residents, followed by Pearland where 33% of its officers are minorities compared to a 58% minority population.

Baytown PD spokesperson, Eric Freed, said 150 people showed interest in its latest civil service exam, but only 115 met the hiring qualifications. After written and physical agility tests, only 22 people passed and made it to the stage in the application process where the personnel division conducts backgrounds.

He said 64% – or 14 of the 22 people in the backgrounding stage – are minorities.

“We understand the importance of having a diverse police department and continue to identify and attend job fairs and forums whose attendance, or student body, reflects our community,” Freed said.

Our investigation found some communities have made strides in diversifying their police force. The Galveston County Sheriff’s Office most closely represents its community, with 42.4% minority officers compared to 43.3% minority residents.

In Harris County, 62.4% of deputies in the sheriff’s office are minorities compared to 71.3% of the county’s population that are minorities.

Cadet Ciara Menifee, who just went through training with HCSO last month to fulfill her childhood dream of being a law enforcement officer, said her perspective growing up as a minority in Acres Homes will allow her to interact with the community differently than someone without that background.

“For someone that looks like me to understand them, that’s very important to me, because I’m going to know and understand where they’re coming from,” Menifee said.

‘Leaders still matter’

Since Americans live, work and play across neighboring police jurisdiction boundaries, our analysis also looked at diversity among officers in metro areas. The numbers weren’t any better.

In 99 of the country’s 100 largest metropolitan areas, the percent of white officers is larger than the percent of residents who are white, according to an ABC Owned Television Stations analysis of U.S. Census occupation data.

In Minneapolis, where a former police officer was convicted of murdering Houstonian George Floyd, about 26% of residents are minorities, but people of color hold less than 12% of police jobs across 15 counties in the metro area.

The Houston, The Woodlands and Sugar Land areas also showed what ABC’s data team called severe inequity. More than half of officers are white while 64% of the population are minorities, according to our analysis of Census data.

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Fatal shootings also happen less often than in communities where the top leader is Black compared to white, even when accounting for city and department size, according to a study by Hamilton College’s Dr. Stephen Wu.

Wu, who studied fatal police shootings in small and large cities across the country over a five-year period, found that fatal shootings are 40 to 50% higher in departments that have white police chiefs compared to departments with Black police chiefs.

For cities with about 1 million residents, Wu said it’s a difference of 20 fatal officer-involved shootings at departments with a Black chief compared to 30 fatalities at departments with white chiefs.

READ ALSO: 1st police-worn body camera footage released under HPD’s new policy

“Every individual is a human life that we’re talking about,” said Wu, a professor of economics. “Even if it seems like those numbers are not as big of a percentage of the number of interactions, it certainly has an impact on people’s everyday lives in terms of the way they think about those potential interactions with officers.”

Wu said the study shows diversity is important across all ranks of law enforcement.

“Leaders still matter,” Wu said. “Whoever is at the top is really setting an agenda, is setting a tone, is helping determine the culture from that very top.”

WATCH: New HPD chief sits down with Ted Oberg to discuss plans to tackle ‘criminal system with cracks’

Menifee said it means a lot to see other people of color move up in the ranks, and hopes she, too, can make a positive difference in the community.

“I can show them when I was growing up, this is how it was, and this is how it should be,” Menifee said. “We’re supposed to protect and serve our community and our county. It’s not always bad.”

‘Can’t teach life experience’

When he went through training to join the HCSO 30 years ago, Whitaker said only five of the 30 cadets were Black. But at last month’s training, nearly the opposite was true — 82% of cadets were minorities.

HCSO Cadet Christian Villanueva said working at a county jail for two years taught him how to talk to people and deescalate situations.

“You need to understand that people are going through things when they call you and they’re usually calling you at the worst times, so you need to learn how to talk to them,” Villanueva said. “You have to have some sympathy and empathy with them.”

That ability to relate to people isn’t something that can be taught and having more minorities in the police force means better opportunities to relate to people in the community and make a positive impact when it comes to crime and safety, Villanueva said.

“Whenever you speak to someone of similar race it makes a big difference. Probably just because you came from the same background, you know what they went through, they know what you went through and it’s just sort of an unspoken bond,” he said. “It’s life experience. You can’t teach life experience.”

As part of her research, Headley said she’s spoken with officers who said that having white and minority officers work alongside one another, white officers are able to observe how a minority officer might respond to a certain situation and apply that behavior to how they approach a similar situation in the future.

“We don’t only want white officers policing white neighborhoods and Black officers policing Black neighborhoods and turn to a time that almost approaches a segregated police force,” Headley said. “There are clear benefits to having diverse police forces.”

In Baytown, Freed said recruiting officers is more challenging now than it has been in the past. Additionally, the city has to compete with other agencies in the Greater Houston area.

“Recruiting is challenging as this line of work is not currently as popular as it once was,” Freed said. “We strive to provide a workplace where differences are honored, with a workforce that reflects the diversity of the people we serve.”

With the social justice movements over the last year, Whitaker said it’s “taboo” for minorities to even think about being a police officer. He said he tries to convince minorities to join by helping them understand how a diverse police force will lead to better interactions between police and communities of color.

“You feel comfortable with someone that you have something in common with, something similar to, and when you get out, if they see me around in the neighborhood, out of uniform, they’re more comfortable to talk to me,” he said. “It’s important because you don’t want to give a hostile approach or position or perception to the community, so we try to make it diversified and put someone in there that looks like them, talks like them (and) understands.”

Whitaker said he always hoped his agency would be more diverse, but never thought during his career that HCSO would reach where it’s at today with 62% of officers who are minorities.

As he continues to recruit applicants from different backgrounds and experiences, he said it’s important for people of color to understand the importance of representation within law enforcement and that the path to leadership is possible.

“I tell him how it was when I started and how it is today. Look at where I am,” Whitaker said. “Thirty years ago it was one major that looked like me. Now there’s several that look like me.”

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Author: Ted Oberg

This post originally appeared on ABC13 RSS Feed

Millennium- old poop reveals the surprising diversity of our ancestors’ microbiomes

Human gut microbiomes are intimately linked to health and wellbeing, but how our bowel buddies today differ from those in early humans had been a mystery. Now, new research and analysis of ancient preserved feces reveal that the humans of a thousand years ago had much more diverse colonies of bacteria thriving in their digestive tracts. 

Researchers gathered samples from eight coprolites (preserved feces) taken from caves around northern Mexico and the southwestern US. Each was between 1,000 and 2,000 years old. They then moved their samples to the lab for DNA analysis and dating. To ensure no new bacteria would contaminate the paleofeces (that’s archeological speak for fossilized human dung), the scientists donned “clean suits” and sterilized gear to extract DNA from each coprolite and sequence the genomes present in the poop. Their analysis found 181 genomes that were likely from ancient human microbiomes. Of those genomes, 39 percent had never been seen before. 

The large proportion of novel bacterial genomes in these coprolites suggests that, sometime over the last thousand or so years, there was an “extinction event” in the human gut that eliminated dozens of bacterial species, lead author and Harvard microbiologist Aleksandar Kostic told Science. “These are things we don’t get back.”

[Related: Gut bacteria might flip the effects of a common cancer-causing mutation in an unexpected way]

In their findings, published in Nature, the study authors also show that the gut microbiomes of our ancestors more closely resembled those of people living today in non-industrial societies versus more industrialized populations. These findings give scientists greater understanding of how industrialization and urbanization have contributed to lasting changes in our microbiome diversity and gut health. 

“When we study people today—anywhere on the planet—we know that their gut microbiomes have been influenced by our modern world, either through diet, chemicals, antibiotics or a host of other things,” one of the study authors, University of Montana anthropologist Meradeth Snow, said in a statement. “So understanding what the gut microbiome looked like before industrialization happened helps us understand what’s different in today’s guts.”

The microbiomes of ancient humans had fewer genes related to antibiotic resistance and intestinal degradation, for example—healthier qualities that scientists hope to recover in the future.

It’s important to note that these coprolite samples almost certainly came from Indigenous populations. Feces aren’t considered human remains under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, but some tribes were upset and concerned that they hadn’t been consulted early enough in the research process, as the samples are links to their ancestors, another co-author told Science
In addition to sequencing, scientists also attempted to reconstruct the genomes of the ancient microbes. While synthetic biology is not quite at the level where we can “reseed” people with these ancient gut microbes, Kostic told CNN, future science based on “recovered” microbes could lead to therapies that help with conditions like obesity or autoimmune diseases.

Author: Monroe Hammond
This post originally appeared on Science – Popular Science

T-Squared: Our report on The Texas Tribune's staff diversity in 2020

Author Corrie MacLaggan
This post originally appeared on The Texas Tribune: Main Feed

Study: Lack of diversity in Hollywood costs industry $10B

Despite regularly outperforming other films, Black-led projects have been “consistently underfunded and undervalued,” concluded the McKinsey study.

NEW YORK — For years, researchers have said a lack of diversity in Hollywood films doesn’t just poorly reflect demographics, it’s bad business. A new study by the consulting firm McKinsey & Company estimates just how much Hollywood is leaving on the table: $ 10 billion.

The McKinsey report, released Thursday, analyzes how inequality shapes the industry and how much it ultimately costs its bottom line. The consulting firm deduced that the $ 148 billion film and TV industry loses $ 10 billion, or 7%, every year by undervaluing Black films, filmmakers and executives.
“Fewer Black-led stories get told, and when they are, these projects have been consistently underfunded and undervalued, despite often earning higher relative returns than other properties,” wrote the study’s authors: Jonathan Dunn, Sheldon Lyn, Nony Onyeador and Ammanuel Zegeye.
The study, spanning the years 2015-2019, was conducted over the last six months and drew on earlier research by the University of California, Los Angeles, the University of Southern California and Nielsen. The BlackLight Collective, a coalition of Black executives and talent in the industry, collaborate with McKinsey researchers. The company also interviewed more than 50 executives, producers, agents, actors, directors and writers anonymously.
McKinsey attributed at least some of Hollywood’s slow progress to its complex and multi-layered business — an ecosystem of production companies, networks, distributors, talent agencies and other separate but intertwined realms.
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But the lack of Black representation in top positions of power plays a prominent role. The study found that 92% of film executives are white and 87% are in television. Agents and executives at the top three talent agencies are approximately 90% white — and a striking 97% among partners.
Researchers found that films with a Black lead or co-lead are budgeted 24% less than movies that don’t — a disparity that nearly doubles when there are two or more Black people working as director, producer or writer.
Among other measures, McKinsey recommends that a “well-funded, third-party organization” be created for a more comprehensive approach to racial equality. The film business, it said, is less diverse than industries such as energy, finance and transport.
Following the Black Lives Matter protests last year, McKinsey said it would dedicate $ 200 million to pro-bono work to advance racial equality.
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