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Texas County Swears In Record Number of Black Women Judges

17 new Black female judges were sworn in and they're planning to change the system that has disproportionately criminalized people of color.

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Black women made history in Harris County, Texas as they were elected as judges with aspirations to change the face (and reach) of justice.

"The people said it was time for a change," said Germaine Tanner, one of the women elected.

"We can lead here in Harris County. We can lead in the state of Texas," LaShawn Williams said.

"For black women particularly, we take a seat at the table and things change. For us in this situation it will change in terms of criminal justice reform, health care, these are the kinds of cases that will come before us and really impact our community."

Harris County now has a total of 19 Black women serving as judges — 17 are first timers and two ran for re-election.

On Jan. 1, Black Girl Magic happened and they were sworn in:

Who the judges are: Sandra Peake, Judge Ramona Franklin, Germaine Tanner, Angela Graves-Harrington, Cassandra Hollerman, Tonya Jones, Dedra Davis, LaShawn A. Williams, Latosha Lewis Payne, Linda M. Dunson, Toria J. Finch, Erica Hughes, Lucia G. Bates, Ronnisha Bowman, Michelle Moore, Sharon Burney, Shannon Baldwin and Lori Chambers Gray.

Harris County, Houston's home and the largest county in Texas, which has a 63 percent Black and Latino population, had the largest turn-out at the polls for midterms in the county's history.

There were some voting issues, as also recorded in states like Georgia and Florida, where technology issues resulted in a suit by Texas Civil Rights Project and Texas Organizing Project to keep polls open later, avoiding disenfranchisement.

Additionally, there were outright attempts to suppress the Black vote, including a Harris County poll worker who told a Black voter, "Maybe if I'd worn my blackface makeup today you could comprehend what I'm saying to you."

When the voter said she was going to call the police, the poll worker responded: "If you call the police, they're going to take you to jail and do something to you, because I'm white."

She was subsequently fired, and voters made their voices heard in an election that featured more Black women on Harris County's ballot than any other.

The newly elected judges will make decisions in the county, where 80 percent of the inmates are people of color.

Although judges are not the only ones at fault for racial disparities in sentencing, they can change the status quo. They set the tone in the courtroom and can make sure everyone gets a fair hearing.

"We talked about coming in and being more compassionate," Ms. Latosha Lewis Payne said of her newly elected colleagues.

"Being more understanding of the poor and disadvantaged that come into the judicial system."She added, "I hope that our election will usher in courts that ensure an equal opportunity for justice for all."

Reader Question: What issues do you think these women can tackle as a collective?


Michelle Obama Speaks Candidly to Black Male College Students: Video

Obama gives students advice on how to respond when someone questions if they belong.

Former First Lady Michelle Obama visited Motown Museum in Detroit and spoke with Black male students from Wayne State University, many of whom are the first in their family to attend college. Obama's message of encouragement is poignant in a time when the viewpoint of Black males in this country is so negatively skewed.

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Racists Beat Down Oregon Man, Police Are Not Investigating as Hate Crime

Meanwhile, Parsham Rabiee, a Lyft driver, now can't work to save the life he took years to build.

Parsham Rabiee was attacked by two white Lyft passengers outside of Portland, Ore., who verbally and physically assaulted him, including repeated use of racial slurs and making fun of his music. But the Gresham police are claiming it wasn't a racially-biased attack.

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Viral Video of 'Grey's Anatomy' Star Shows How White Women Can Be Allies for Women of Color​

Shonda Rhimes shared a video where Ellen Pompeo demands diversity during an interview.

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Shonda Rhimes, creator, head writer and executive producer of "Grey's Anatomy," shared a video of the star of her show, Ellen Pompeo, talking about how white people need to be advocates for diversity. It's gone viral with more than 2 million views.

"As Caucasian people, it's our job, it's our task, it's our responsibility to make sure we speak up in every single room we walk into. It's our job because we created the problem," Pompeo says in the video, during a photo shoot for Porter magazine.

Pompeo called out the lack of diversity in the magazine crew, and in Hollywood, without mincing words.

"This day has been incredible, and there's a ton of women in the room," she said. "But, I don't see enough color. And I didn't see enough color when I walked in the room today."

Actress Gabrielle Union is seen in the video giving a look of approval.

DiversityInc COO Carolynn Johnson said that both white women and women of color have a responsibility to each other to say there needs to be equality across the board.

"We need diversity of all walks represented," said Johnson, who in October launched DiversityInc's annual Women of Color and Their Allies event.

She said that people of color have a responsibility to talk about what's wrong and how it can be improved.

"We need to communicate," she said.

And for allies, "their responsibility is to recognize where there is no diversity and be bold enough to say something about it."

Johnson offered the example of Christopher J. Nassetta, CEO of Hilton (No. 10 on the DiversityInc Top 50 Companies list). She said he was in one of his executive board meetings and looked around and said there wasn't enough women in this room.

So he did something about it.

"He was present enough in the moment to look around and see what was missing … not what he was comfortable with," Johnson said.

For white women who choose to be allies, "It's also your responsibility to know these stories and share them," she said.

Allies should also ask questions like: Why aren't there people of color on the set, as interviewers and production staff, scholarship recipients or in executive boardrooms?

Allies should hold decision makers accountable for age, class, ethnicity, ability, and gender diversity. And Johnson said, allies need to be helpful in the solution piece.

"We have countless examples of people who are doing this work … who are present in their everyday interactions," Johnson said.

She called attention to the fact that sometimes leaders don't hear what they need to from the vantage point of the people who need support, but from the vantage point of others in similar positions.

Reader Question: Do you think those who don't have Ellen Pompeo's position in Hollywood would speak up the way she did?

Dow Highlights "All IN" Movement with First Inclusion Report

The company's new inclusion strategy demonstrates commitment to making progress.

Originally Published by Dow.

Dow today released its first-ever annual Inclusion Report, titled SHINE, which puts a spotlight on the Company's global INclusion 2020 strategy and progress in 2017.

Dow accelerated actions, deepened its commitment to strengthening inclusion and diversity (I&D) across the organization and implemented a fully integrated and holistic strategy. This included institutionalizing a new I&D governance structure that shares ownership among Dow's leadership and drives accountability for creating a more inclusive work environment down and across the Company. Building an inclusive workplace for all will benefit employees, customers, suppliers, communities and the bottom line.

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The New Congress Must Change 'Appalling Lack of Diversity Among Top Staff'

"The American public was more likely to elect a person of color to the House than House members were to hire top staff of color," according to a Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies report.

As a result of Tuesday's midterm elections, Democrats have won a majority in the House of Representatives, and Republicans will remain in control of the Senate, but Congress, as a whole, needs to make diversity a priority when it comes to hiring top staff members.

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Report on Racism in Philly Suburb School District Causes White Officials to Get Defensive

Instead of hiring a diversity and inclusion specialist to address diversity issues, they chose to hire mental health professionals and white-led university consultants.

Screenshot from Haverford School Board Video

After a report was released detailing racist incidents in the Haverford, Pa., school district and town, leadership in one of the most affluent regions in the country, with a predominantly white population, decided that diversity is not a priority.

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Kavanaugh vs. Ford

A tale of a complete lack of diversity causing bad decisions, and shifting opinions nationwide, as well as a teachable moment for corporate America.

Having zero diversity, and by trying to make it "Kavanaugh vs. Ford," the old, white Republican men lost control of the nomination, and made it about them versus all women, a situation that, at best, will be a Pyrrhic victory.

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Latino Employees Fired in Miami for Being Too Latino

Company leadership says loud, sexy, Hispanic employees with ethnic mannerisms are not allowed.

REUTERS

Former employees at Swire Properties filed a lawsuit in August against the company claiming they were fired because there was no place for "Hispanic Emotionalism" at work.

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Chris Rock's Latest Instagram Post Calls Out Trump — Where's the Black Women?

Chris Rock highlights the lack of diversity in President Trump's White House.

Chris Rock's latest post on Instagram, hilariously, calls out the lack of diversity at The White House. There's, literally, been a "whiteout" at The White House since Omarosa's, um, "departure" from President Trump's administration.

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Angela Rye Questions What it Would be Like Working in Trump's White House

"Should I go work for the KKK and try to help them not be so racist? Probably not," Rye stated.

The absence of diversity in the President Trump's administration has been a subject of ongoing debate.

In an interview on Thursday with "The Breakfast Club," a radio show based in New York City, Angela Rye, an attorney, political commentator and a leader of the Congressional Black Caucus Institute, implied that the predominantly white, White House is intentional.

"This is the least diverse White House in decades," Rye said. "They are definitely trying to bring it back to the real white house."

According to an analysis from The New York Times, Trump's cabinet contains more white men than that of the last six presidents. Trump's 24-member advisory body has four women and four minorities.

The radio show hosts asked Rye if Black people should aspire to work in the White House to try and bring about change.

Rye responded: "Should I go work for the KKK and try to help them not be so racist? Probably not."

Trump's racism has been well documented, from calling immigrants "animals," "criminals," and "rapists," to his "sh**hole countries" comment about African countries, to saying Maxine Waters has a "low IQ," and calling Black athletes "sons of bitches."

Related Story: If You Support Trump, You Hate Who I Am

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has said she "can't guarantee" that Trump has never used a racial epithet, yet also said the White House values diversity, and is trying to increase it.

After being pressed by reporters to give numbers of Black staffers in the West Wing, Sanders said, "I'm not going to do a count — the same way I'm not going to do a sit-down and count up the [number of Black] staffers that are in your news organizations."

In April, the White House drew backlash for its lack of diversity after releasing a photo of spring interns who appeared to be all white.

Obama's White House had seven women and 10 minorities in his first 22-member Cabinet, including Valerie Jarrett, a senior advisor who sat in the West Wing, in many meetings including the situation room.

That's 32% female and 45% minorities for Obama, and 17% female and minorities for Trump.

Of Trump's White House: "There's not a single Black person shaping policy, sitting in the White House," said Rye. "Steven Miller, a bigot, is shaping immigration policy."

If You Want Alexa to Respond, Sound Like a White Person from California

AI products like Amazon's Alexa and Google Home discriminate against minorities with accents.

REUTERS

A study done recently by two research groups, Globalme and Pulse Labs, and the Washington Post revealed that certain artificial intelligence (AI) technology only works for people who resemble the demographic of its creators and testers.

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