Newsletter: Race and racism in business

People march on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco as part of a June 6 protest over the death of George Floyd.
(Jeff Chiu / Associated Press)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Friday, June 26. I’m Kiera Feldman, filling in for Julia Wick, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.

Kept out of the tech industry, made to suffer indignities on the job, denied loans, shut out from promotions. This week a series of L.A. Times stories dug into race and racism in business, from the Googleplex in NYC to Snap in West L.A. and TV shows in Hollywood.

Times journalists conducted a survey of 68 tech workers and found troubling stories of discrimination against women, LGBTQ-identified people, and people of color. They described a two-tiered system where, as one Hulu employee put it, “A single mom that didn’t go to college is seen as uneducated whereas a white college dropout is seen as a ‘genius,’ as if he’s too good for college.”

One Black worker at Google said he was accosted by a white employee who demanded to see his badge. A Black programmer on contract said she tried to get a full-time job but was instead asked to train her unqualified white replacement. Across the board, Times reporters found common themes in their interviews: working at companies where people of color were severely underrepresented and then made to feel targeted by superiors, endure daily repeated slights (called microaggressions), and forced to defend companies’ diversity practices.


The numbers are bad: As of May, Google reported that 5.9% of its employees and contractors are Latino and 3.7% are Black, and they’re not any better across the industry, from top executives to entrepreneurs who found companies and venture capitalists who invest in startups. The problem, tech workers explained, wasn’t a pipeline problem but rather a lack of support and investment in diverse talent.

[Read the story: “Black and brown tech workers share their experiences of racism on the job” in the Los Angeles Times]

[See also: “Why are Black and Latino people still kept out of the tech industry?” in the Los Angeles Times]

Meanwhile, Black-owned businesses are consistently left behind when it comes to loans. Loans are denied far less for Latino-owned businesses, Asian-owned businesses and white-owned businesses.

One reason is “absolute racism,” said Teri Williams, president and chief operating officer of OneUnited Bank, the nation’s largest Black-owned bank. “They just do not perceive us as being successful.”

[Read the story: “Black-owned businesses face a system set up against them. COVID-19 makes it worse” in the Los Angeles Times]

In Hollywood, Black writers are getting jobs but denied opportunities for advancement. “People in my position are either not selling shows or not moving up in the room,” one Black TV writer told The Times. “If we are gonna talk about Black Lives Matter ... then you actually have to let people of color run the room.”

And it’s all in the data. A recent survey of nearly 3,000 TV jobs by the Writers Guild of America, West found that most senior decision makers on TV shows last year — the showrunners and executive producers — were overwhelmingly white men.


[Read the story: “Black writers are getting hired. But they aren’t getting promoted” in the Los Angeles Times]

Earlier this month, The Times reported on how the COVID-19 pandemic is exposing and exacerbating racial disparities in unemployment. As the unemployment rate nationwide was dropping slightly, going from 14% in April to 13% in May, it was rising for Black workers. In May, 16.8% of the Black labor force was out of work.

[Read the story: “There’s a black jobs crisis. Coronavirus is making it worse” in the Los Angeles Times]

As mass civil uprising against police brutality took place from coast to coast in the wake of George Floyd’s death, longstanding deep economic inequities helped fuel Black protestors’ outrage.

“Nearly half the Black community has had either no job or a poverty, dead-end job that doesn’t pay basic needs of housing and food,” Lola Smallwood Cuevas, the founder of the Black Worker Center in South Los Angeles, told The Times. “The financial instability has been tearing at the social fabric of Black communities.”

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

New alarms are raised as California coronavirus hospitalizations jump 32% in two weeks. Gov. Gavin Newsom announced this new high was double the two-week increase of 16% that he had reported on Monday. Los Angeles Times

Nonwhites are now a majority among the nation’s youngest, census shows. For the first time, nonwhites and Hispanics were a majority of people under age 16 in 2019, an expected demographic shift that will grow over the coming decades, according to figures released by the U.S. Census Bureau on Thursday. Los Angeles Times

The Los Angeles Times is moving to settle a proposed class-action lawsuit filed by six Black, Hispanic and female journalists at the paper contending longstanding discriminatory pay practices. The news comes as the paper is facing a painful internal reckoning over glaring deficiencies and missteps regarding race and representation in its pages and its staff. On Wednesday, Executive Editor Norman Pearlstine heard from aggrieved newsroom staff members during a more than four-hour meeting examining the mistreatment of Black and brown editorial staff members past and present. NPR


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The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department is stonewalling the inspector general tasked with investigating deputies’ killing of Andres Guardado and Terron Boone. An official explained that the oversight office asked for information “but they refused to give it to us.” Meanwhile, details about the deputies involved in the incident are emerging, including earlier allegations faced by the officer who fatally shot Guardado. Los Angeles Times


L.A. Metro board pushes police reform and seeks to shift funds to homeless outreach. The proposal would cut funding from police and aims to start the reform of policing on buses and trains, including no longer sending armed officers to respond to nonviolent crimes. Los Angeles Times


L.A. City Councilman Jose Huizar was arrested on Tuesday on corruption charges, and Eastside residents and community leaders felt let down. “At one point,” said one Boyle Heights resident, “he was good.” Los Angeles Times

Daily coronavirus cases hit new high in the U.S. as states mandate masks and new restrictions. The nation may be opening up, but COVID-19 is on the rise. There were 38,459 new cases of the virus reported nationwide on Thursday, a number that surpassed a record set the prior day of 38,115. Los Angeles Times

The Trump administration urges the Supreme Court to topple Obamacare: Amid the pandemic, the Trump administration filed a brief with the court on Thursday night arguing that the Affordable Care Act is invalid, including its protections for people with preexisting conditions. Bloomberg


Proposal slashes L.A. County Sheriff’s Department budget by $162 million. Officials said the proposed cuts to the 2020-21 budget were largely due to shortfalls in sales tax funds due to the pandemic and that the “defund the police” movement was not a factor in the decision to reduce spending at the department. Los Angeles Times


California’s clean energy programs are mainly benefiting the rich. A new study by UCLA researchers found that people living in “disadvantaged communities” use half as much energy as people in wealthier areas, with some low-income families not able to afford to use enough energy to stay warm or cool. Los Angeles Times


The CDC broadens guidance on Americans facing risk of developing severe cases of COVID-19 to include more risk factors and warns that the number of infections may be 10 times what is reported. Heightened risks included diabetes, pregnancy, obesity (having a body mass index of 30 or higher), cardiovascular disease, chronic kidney disease and more. Stat News


Farmworkers at a Central California pistachio farm strike after dozens test positive for the coronavirus. A group of about 50 farmworkers went on strike Thursday at a Central California pistachio farm demanding free face coverings, gloves and information from the farm’s owner after they said they learned from the media that dozens of their co-workers tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Associated Press

Five things to know about Walter Thompson-Hernández and his book “The Compton Cowboys.” Times Metro reporter Angel Jennings joined Thompson-Hernández to discuss identity, how the book came to be and the author’s upcoming projects. Los Angeles Times

“The scariest days of my life”: a Black journalist describes how harrowing it’s been covering civil rights protests in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd. “The Fairfax District felt like a one-sided war zone, a term I don’t use lightly,” writes Lexis-Olivier Ray. L.A. Taco

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Los Angeles: sunny, 77. San Diego: sunny, 73. San Francisco: partly sunny, 65. San Jose: sunny, 84. Fresno: sunny, 105. Sacramento: sunny, 101. More weather is here.



Today’s California memory comes from Peter Mortimer:

When I was 13, my great aunt would take me to visit California from where I lived in Chicago. Back then, Disneyland had only been open for a couple of years. I remember that the little stores on Main Street had boxes and boxes of original painted cartoon movie cells. You could buy scenes from Snow White and other very popular Disney animated films. They only cost a dollar or two. But I never bought any because I was afraid they would get damaged on the trip back home. For many years, I’ve always been sorry that I didn’t risk it!

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints, ideas and unrelated book recommendations to Julia Wick. Follow her on Twitter @Sherlyholmes.