What cool means today

💡 The Big Idea

In 2020, it’s cool to care. And the changing nature of cool is affecting what shoppers buy, who they follow, and how companies behave.

Here’s the TLDR to our field guide on the new meaning of cool.

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Author: Quartz Staff

How Black Americans have shaped cool globally

On New Year’s Eve, 1962, a 13-year-old named Valery Saifudinov took the stage with his band at a party in Latvia’s capital city Riga, then still under Soviet control. In front of a crowd of several hundred factory workers, they launched into covers of songs by artists such as Chuck Berry and Little Richard—Black Americans who, along with forebears like Sister Rosetta Tharpe, created rock ‘n’ roll. The crowd loved it.

“The whole city was talking about rock ‘n’ roll,” Saifudinov, who would ultimately move to California, told the San Diego Union-Tribune in 2012. By the time of that performance, rock records had been circulating in the Soviet Union, despite authorities restricting them. They feared what the music represented: It was new, dangerous, and rebellious—in a word, cool. In the years that followed, rock music would become so popular debates persist over whether it stoked dissent that helped destabilize the Soviet regime.

Culture is one of America’s most powerful means of exerting its influence in the world, and in ways large and small, Black Americans have shaped that culture. They’ve held an outsized sway on what the US, and consequently much of the globe, deems cool.

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Author: Marc Bain

How reparations would work today

The unprecedented protests following the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and the growing support of the Black Lives Matter movement, have brought diversity and inclusion to the forefront of discussions in the US and around the world. They’ve also pushed the issue of reparations for the enslavement of African Americans to the political front burners in cities, states, and even the US Congress.

Arguments for reparations have moved beyond whether they should be paid. Today they are more focused on how they should be paid, and to whom.

Governments as geographically and politically distinct as Asheville, North Carolina, and the state of California have approved or are considering resolutions apologizing for slavery and approving reparations for their African American residents. Resolutions are at some stage of consideration in Evanston, Illinois; Providence, Rhode Island; and Burlington, Vermont.

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Author: Rodney Brooks

The environmental racism threatening South Carolina’s Black communities

Black history in Charleston sits at the water’s edge. On the same spot where thousands of enslaved Africans took their first steps on South Carolina’s shore, a monument to their endurance and their descendants is under construction. The International African American Museum (IAAM), set to open in 2022, faces the Cooper River just over a mile from where it pours into the Atlantic Ocean.

The museum will stand in defiance of centuries of Black South Carolinians’ erasure from the historic record. But even as IAAM’s pillars are being poured, climate change threatens to uproot the people and heritage the museum represents. Those Black communities in South Carolina’s Lowcountry region are searching for ways to ensure their culture outlasts ever-strengthening storms and the economic losses that could follow in their wake.

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Author: Dasia Moore

The CDC says 25% of US young adults considered suicide in June

Medical experts predicted that the Covid-19 pandemic would prompt a mental-health crisis. A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows they were right.

One-fourth of young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 said they had considered suicide in the past 30 days, according to the online survey of 5,412 adults administered by Qualtrics in late June.

A similar percentage also said they’d started to use or increased their consumption of substances as a way of coping with the stress and emotional toll of the pandemic. And roughly half of young adults reported experiencing symptoms of anxiety and depression between April and June of this year.

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Author: Sarah Todd

The CDC says 25% of US young adults considered suicide in June

Medical experts predicted that the Covid-19 pandemic would prompt a mental-health crisis. A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows they were right.

One-fourth of young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 said they had considered suicide in the past 30 days, according to the online survey of 5,412 adults administered by Qualtrics in late June.

A similar percentage also said they’d started to use or increased their consumption of substances as a way of coping with the stress and emotional toll of the pandemic. And roughly half of young adults reported experiencing symptoms of anxiety and depression between April and June of this year.

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Author: Sarah Todd

Cuts to the US Postal Service will hurt Black people the most

Unlike many fields, including law, medicine, technology, fashion, and media, Black Americans have had good opportunities at the United States Postal Service, including in senior management roles.

But the service, a federal government agency in the US, has serious financial problems, and has undergone policy changes that have affected its reliability. These issues are likely to hurt all of its workers, and since this is one of the few industries where Black people appear to get a fair shake, they will be disproportionately affected.

Today, the USPS announced its quarterly revenue had risen by $547 million to $17.6 billion. While the volume of first-class mail declined by more than 8%, revenue from shipping and packages skyrocketed by $2.9 billion, an increase of more than 53%. This helped reduce the agency’s quarterly net loss to $2.2 billion compared to $2.3 billion in the same period last year.

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Author: Karen Ho

Watch: Quartz’s workshop on how to build an anti-racist company

So your company released a statement aligning itself with the Black community and gave money to a social-justice organization. How do business leaders or other concerned employees now carry the momentum forward into meaningful, transformative action?

In our Quartz at Work (from home) workshop on June 11, on how to build an anti-racist company, Quartz spoke with four experts on diversity, inclusion, and racial justice to get their perspectives and some actionable advice.

Click the image above for the full replay of the workshop, and read on for the big takeaways.

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Author: Sarah Todd

When rural hospitals close, minorities pay the biggest price

Rural hospitals in the US have been struggling for years, and coronavirus has accelerated their demise.

About 25% of rural hospitals were already in dire financial situations before coronavirus, according to the 2020 Rural Hospital Sustainability Index, published April 8 by Guidehouse, a consulting firm. These hospitals, according to the report, employ 51,800 people, and provide over 222,350 annual treatments that generates $8.3 billion in revenue from patients. About 81% of these hospitals facing closure are considered essential to their communities.

While Covid-19 is only now spreading to rural communities, the preventative measures hospitals took to avoid putting patients at risk—such as pausing outpatient services and elective procedures—have cut important revenue streams for rural hospitals, making their financial situation even more precarious.

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Author: Annalisa Merelli

A black Adidas designer is calling on the company to apologize for its complacency on racism

After protests broke out around the US condemning the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Sean Reed, and the long history of violence against black Americans, Adidas—like numerous other companies—took to social media to share a message of solidarity. The sneaker and sportswear company posted an image on Instagram of the word “Racism” crossed out, with text calling for unity in fighting injustice. “Take action,” the caption read. “Things won’t change unless we create that change.”

That statement contrasts sharply with the culture inside the company’s North American headquarters in Portland, Oregon, according to Julia Bond, who is black and works as an assistant designer at Adidas. In a June 3 letter she sent to Adidas’s leadership that she shared with Quartz, Bond labeled Adidas’s response “shameful” and called out its “consistent complacency in taking active steps against a racist work environment.” The letter described an atmosphere where black employees are afraid of speaking out and their complaints often disregarded, echoing frustrations that have surfaced repeatedly in recent years among black employees of Adidas in the US.

“Crossing out the word racism does not negate it’s reality, rather, it makes you feel comfortable knowing that it’s ‘gone,’” the letter said. “Unless you are actively working and instilling practices against it, you uphold the very thing you claim to admonish.” It called on Adidas to “issue a public apology for the racism and discrimination that they have openly enabled and perpetuated across the brand.”

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Author: Marc Bain