Marking four years of this race beat journey

Before we (briefly) Haiku our way into whatever passes for a weekend these days, I wanted to take a breath to express my sincere thanks to all of you: RaceAhead turns four years old today.

I’ve been looking forward to this moment for three years and 364 days. At launch, the newsletter seemed impossibly daunting. Daily content about the one thing that nobody really wants to talk about? I imagined I would default to coverage of barely-budging diversity data, profiles of inspiring chief human resource officers, and sage reminders to not be a racist jerk at Halloween. Instead, the world served up white supremacist rallies, police shootings, children in cages at the U.S. border, debates about Robert E. Lee, and a commander-in-chief who traffics in dangerous and racist rhetoric.

I went there and you went with me. 

Honestly, I wouldn’t have pitched this beat. But it was my two bosses, Alan Murray and Clifton Leaf—then the head of Fortune the brand inside Time Inc., and editor-in-chief of the magazine, respectively—who saw an opportunity in the marketplace of ideas for Fortuneto lead this vital conversation and decided to take some strategic risks in digital, print, and purpose. The world affirmed their instincts, but the biggest risk they took was on me.

I am so grateful to all of you who read and share and ping me on all the socials, to the extraordinary DEI professionals who have taken the time to make sure I understand what’s at stake, and to my peerless colleagues who make me smarter and more courageous every day. A special thank you to my edit-partner Tamara El-Waylly who shares the load and patiently saves me from myself on the regular. She is a true believer.

Truth be told, I miss the pre-pandemic raceAhead, in part because building it daily had become such a big part of how I understand the world. But the fierce urgency that described life before has become a global emergency of disparate impact now. I’m struggling to get my arms around how to cover it all, but I find solace in knowing that I’m not alone.

It is always you, dear reader, who is doing the real work. My new mantra: I represent the village that raises me daily. I hope you’re taking good care.

I will end with the wisest of words from the Broadsheet’s Kristen Bellstrom. She was one of the first people I turned to before I launched this damn thing. Her advice turned out to be ideal for anyone facing an important, intimidating, and risky new adventure—like we all are now.

Don’t have an opinion before you have an opinion, she advised. Take a breath and think it through. “It’s okay to cover something the next day, it’s better to be sure you know how you feel about it.” Next, find people to advocate for you and ask for help when you need it. Then, the brass tacks: “If you survive the first three months, you know you’re going to make it.”

Now, here’s a tribute to you, in Haiku.

You do the work, you
make the way. You shine the light.
Now: Go out and play.

Wishing you a happy and (socially distant) playful weekend. 

Ellen McGirt

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