Tag Archives: Discrimination

Ellen Pao Is Ready to Name Names

Ellen Pao, who sued her Silicon Valley employer Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers for discrimination, was saving the names for her upcoming book Reset: Ajit Nazre, a partner who became hostile after she rejected his advances. Ted Schlein, a managing partner who explained he liked white, Eastern European sex workers — during a private flight in which a tech CEO in attendance bragged about meeting Jenna Jameson. In her six years at Kleiner Perkins, Pao was passed over for promotion, her clients were stolen, her performance maligned, and eventually she was fired after complaining about harassment to an independent investigator, who asked “Well, if they look down on women so much, if they block you from opportunities, they don’t include you at their events, why do they even keep you around in the first place?”

The competitive world of venture capital was familiar to Pao, and she played the game as best she could. But the game was stacked against her, she explains in an excerpt from her book featured at The Cut.

Predicting who will succeed is an imperfect art, but also, sometimes, a self-fulfilling prophecy. When venture capitalists say — and they do say — “We think it’s young white men, ideally Ivy League dropouts, who are the safest bets,” then invest only in young white men with Ivy League backgrounds, of course young white men with Ivy League backgrounds are the only ones who make money for them. They’re also the only ones who lose money for them.

Sometimes the whole world felt like a nerdy frat house. People in the venture world spoke fondly about the early shenanigans at big companies. A friend told me how he sublet office space to Facebook, only to find people having sex there on the floor of the main public area. They wanted to see if the Reactrix — an interactive floor display hooked up to light sensors — would enhance their experience. At VC meetings, male partners frequently spoke over female colleagues or repeated what the women said and took the credit. Women were admonished when they “raised their voices” yet chastised when they couldn’t “own the room.” When I was still relatively new, a male partner made a big show of passing a plate of cookies around the table — but curiously ignored me and the woman next to him. Part of me thought, They’re just cookies. But after everyone left, my co-worker turned to me and shrugged. “It’s like we don’t exist,” she said.

Read the story

Architecture and Religious Bias: A California Case Study

In the green hills east of San Francisco, a group of peaceful Sufis proposed a gigantic sanctuary in the town of Saranap. Many Saranap homeowners resisted, claiming their semi-rural, unincorporated village of native oaks was being taken from them, blemished, they said, by a bubble-looking building straight from the Buckminster Fuller playbook, if Fuller was from Azerbaijan. The Sufis felt discriminated against, and when they dug in their heals, the kind, quiet religious order showed a newly aggressive side of its personality. At the heart of the battle were issues of domain and inclusion that lie at the heart of America itself: who gets to decide who becomes part of a community or not? Why do communities tolerate one religion over another? No surprise that race, class, and wealth are involved. Oh, and the Cheesecake Factory’s wealthy CEO. At The FADER, Amos Barshad tells this story of clashing cultures and religious bias.

But ugly, explicit religious hatred would surface. “The Sufis’ project is a mosque with teachings from the Koran,” railed a fortysomething man named Steven, incoherently, in one meeting. “What other buildings in the area are made of glow-in-the-dark circles, to no end, like the sign of infinity, the time our neighborhood will be dealing with this monstrosity? We don’t care that you eat a lot of cheesecake.” Then he laid down what sounded like a threat.

Others had argued that construction would trigger aggression and cause permanent hearing loss in children, or force homes teetering off the sides of cliffs. Steven, dressed mildly in a white polo shirt and sweater vest, went further: he promised that if construction somehow harmed his own family, “I will make sure there is hell to pay.”

Later in the same session, Pascal Kaplan of Sufism Reoriented took to the lectern. Dapper in a light summer suit, speaking calmly and quietly, he recalled his doctoral studies in theology at Harvard, where he’d read extensively about “unintended religious bias.” He explained that it comes “not out of malice” but simply because people are “unfamiliar with the tenets, symbols, and theology” of the faiths they are biased against. Respectfully, he pushed back.

Read the story

Trump’s Twitter Usage May Be His Downfall

His lawyers have told him to stop. His staff has told him to stop.

But President Donald Trump appears to be “Brokeback Mountain”-style in love with Twitter.

In the aftermath of this weekend’s terrorist attacks in London, Trump took to Twitter to promote his attempt to block travel into the U.S. by citizens of certain Muslim-majority countries. The American Civil Liberties Union and other lawyers have sued over the initiative and it is being blocked by judges, while official White House spokespersons have argued against calling the initiative a “travel ban.”

Unfortunately for those official White House spokespersons and the lawyers defending the policy in court, Trump repeatedly used the phrase “Travel Ban” — capitalized as such — in his tweets.

The ACLU almost immediately responded, “Glad we both agree the ban is a ban.”

In the intervening days, Trump doubled down with even more tweets, repeatedly using the phrase “Travel Ban,” characterizing the amended initiatives his lawyers are pushing as a “watered down Travel Ban,” and even declaring, “People, the lawyers and the courts can call it whatever they want, but I am calling it what we need and what it is, a TRAVEL BAN!” (Caps lock his.)

In response to Twitter users’ outcry, the ACLU tweeted Monday that they may use Trump’s own tweets against him in front of the Supreme Court.

A lawyer fighting the ban in a separate case brought in Hawaii tweeted thanks to Trump for “acting as our co-counsel.”

In an article following Trump’s infamous errant “covfefe” tweet last week, the New York Times reported that “every lawyer consulted by White House aides in recent days has made the same point about the president’s tweets: he can power through the investigations, but he is his own worst enemy if he continues to vent online.”

Judges in the travel ban cases have already cited Trump’s campaign statements as evidence of his motives, the Times noted, and some lawyers believe his tweets following his firing of former FBI director James Comey could be construed as witness tampering, particularly when Trump tweeted that Comey “better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations.” (Comey is set to testify in front of Congress on Thursday.)

The lawyers the Times spoke with said it was unclear if the same could happen in the Russia-related criminal proceedings Trump is facing, “but they asked why he would take the chance.” According to the Times, Trump does not view his White House counsel “as a peer,” and respects his personal lawyer more “for building a successful business.” The president’s aides are hoping his personal lawyer can succeed where the White House counsel has failed, and convince Trump to curb his tweeting.

An analysis by Lawfare concluded that there is legal precedent to limit what judges look at in a case, which would render Trump’s tweets irrelevant. But the tweets could bolster his opposing counsels’ arguments in applications for stays and petitions for certiorari, enabling his opponents to at least temporarily block or hamstring the president’s efforts.

His spokesman, Sean Spicer, is refusing to comment on the various Russia-related investigations plaguing Trump and his administration, directing the press to send inquiries to Trump’s personal lawyer.

But as the President continues to tweet, a new Twitter “bot” has been set up, which formats his tweets as official White House statements.  

‘I felt dirty, a lesser person somehow than when I had left a week before.’

Rafia Zakaria᾿s essay in The Baffler on flying while Muslim is an important read that exposes a long list of things that most white, non-Muslim Americans never have to think about while traveling — what language they’re speaking, what books they’re reading, or who’s sending them text messages.

After landing in Boston, I put away my book and took out my customs form and my passport, my courage and my patience. As our herd of hopeful entrants was separated—as it always is between U.S. passport holders and Legal Permanent Residents, and the lesser “everyone else”—I reminded myself that I was the less vulnerable. The white and real American couple in front of me considered their dinner options. I sweated and deleted all the texts from my family members, every one of them having a Muslim name.

Read the essay

If Oprah Can’t Achieve Permanent Weight Loss, Can Anyone?


Longtime Oprah lover over here. Since my tweens, I’ve admired how she’s made celebrities seem like regular people and turned regular people into celebrities. I read the books her Book Club boosted. Hell, I’m wearing a bra she recommended on her “Favorite Things” episode in 2003. I think she has earned every ounce of success she enjoys, so I am glad for her that she made $70 million on the first day of her deal with Weight Watchers. That amount of money will be heavy, and if she binds it together, she can use it to weigh down stacks of her other money so none of it blows away when she opens a window in one of her many beautiful homes.

But by the ninth or 10th time I heard Oprah talk about how we’re gonna go on this weight loss journey together, I had an epiphany: I have put on my sneakers and jogged down this road with Oprah before.

— Writer and television producer Caissie St. Onge, writing in Vox, on Oprah, diets, and liking (or not liking) yourself — and how all the money and drive in the world doesn’t help.

Read the full essay