Weekend Briefing No. 331

Welcome to the weekend. Here’s my June playlist (a little late… sorry).

Did your brilliant friend forward this to you? Subscribe here.

Prime Numbers

40 – An analysis of 105 police killings captured by bodycams in 2017 found that 40 of them never saw the light of day, not being released to the public to undergo scrutiny.

32 – A new study found that the F-word has powerful palliative quality. Dropping the F-bomb when in pain increases your pain threshold 32  percent.

9 Nine out of 13 members of the Minneapolis City Council—a veto-proof majority—announced Sunday they will defund and dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department, shifting funding to other needs and establishing a replacement law enforcement arm after a transition period.


Why is it so difficult to convict police who kill? Qualified immunity. This 50-year-old creation of the U.S. Supreme Court is meant to protect government employees from frivolous litigation. In recent years, however, it has become a highly effective shield in thousands of lawsuits seeking to hold cops accountable when they are accused of using excessive force. In an unprecedented analysis of appellate court records, Reuters found that since 2005, the courts have shown an increasing tendency to grant immunity in excessive force cases—rulings that the district courts below them must follow. The trend has accelerated in recent years. In addition, the US Supreme Court has built qualified immunity into an often insurmountable police defense by intervening in cases mostly to favor the police. Over the past 15 years, the high court took up 12 appeals of qualified immunity decisions from police, but only three from plaintiffs, even though plaintiffs asked the court to review nearly as many cases as police did. The court’s acceptance rate for police appeals seeking immunity was three times its average acceptance rate for all appeals. In the cases it accepts, the court nearly always decides in favor of police. The high court has also put its thumb on the scale by repeatedly tweaking the process. It has allowed police to request immunity before all evidence has been presented. And if police are denied immunity, they can appeal immediately—an option unavailable to most other litigants, who typically must wait until after a final judgment to appeal. Reuters (16 minutes)

Movement Momentum

Over the last two weeks, support for Black Lives Matter increased by 28 percent – nearly as much as it had over the previous two years, according to data from Civiqs, an online survey research firm. The only section of Americans polled that dropped in support were Republicans by a 39 percent margin, Democrats on the other hand increased support by 84 percent. For 18-34 year olds, support grew by 48 percent, and 65-and-older support grew by 13 percent. White support grew by 15 percent, while Black support grew by 82 percent. The Upshot (9 minutes)

New Reality for CEOs

Expectations on CEOs are changing rapidly too. The virus and renewed focus on racism have greatly accelerated the pace of the bottom-up revolution. The next wave of great leaders will adapt their styles and organizations to harness the passion—the weaker ones will be paralyzed and pummeled by it. Any CEO who ignores this bottom-up revolution will suffer public backlash, recruitment and retention challenges, and fits of internal turmoil. (1) There’s no market for half-assed diversity and inclusion efforts. This was true before the renewed focus on racism but will be an urgent essential for many years to come, thanks to the public response to the George Floyd murder. (2) Quit ducking uncomfortable conversations. CEOs are often more cautious and contrived than politicians when it comes to tough staff-wide conversations about race, LGBTQ issues, idealism or topics beyond business performance. You will have no credibility when you slip up or need it if you choose silence over authentic transparency. If they cannot speak authentically to these issues, leaders need to listen and learn authentically. It is amazing how much tension and suspicion gets eased with an honest ear. (3) Doing good is no longer a niche. It’s a necessity. The judgment CEOs feared most in the past was pesky reporters or regulators. The judgment they should fear the most now is idealistic employees on the inside and the social media warriors on the outside. (4) The new employee has expectations. Talented people have almost unlimited opportunities in today’s distributed world, so they expect—and can often demand—constant communications, true transparency and the chance to do good while also working. Axios (8 minutes)

Cool It

In Esquire’s July 1968 issue, published just after the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the magazine talked to James Baldwin about the state of race relations in the country. They republished the interview in full—and his words are incredibly relevant today. Here’s a snippet: ESQ: How can we get the black people to cool it? JAMES BALDWIN: It is not for us to cool it. ESQ: But aren’t you the ones who are getting hurt the most? JAMES BALDWIN: No, we are only the ones who are dying fastest. Esquire (16 minutes)

The Revolution on Google Docs

Facebook and Twitter might have the bells and whistles, but Google Docs’ simplicity and accessibility have made it a winning tool. Now, in the wake of George Floyd’s murder on Memorial Day weekend, communities are using the software to organize. One of the most popular Google Docs to emerge in the past week is Resources for Accountability and Actions for Black Lives, which features clear steps people can take to support victims of police brutality. What’s special about a Google Doc versus a newsfeed is its persistence and editability. While social media has been great for publicizing movements, it’s far less efficient at creating stable shelves of information that a person can return to. What makes Google Docs especially attractive is that they are at once dynamic and static, he says. They’re editable and can be viewed simultaneously on countless screens, but they are easily shareable via tweet or post. People want a persistent artifact. If you are in an action-oriented network, you need an artifact to coordinate with those outside of the conversation and the platform you’re using, so you can actually go outside of the feed and do something. It helps that Google Docs are fairly straightforward to access and simple to use. But anonymity is an important advantage over Twitter or Facebook. Users who click on a publicly shareable link are assigned an animal avatar, hiding their identity. No one can put you on blast on Google Docs. Google Docs allows for a wider breadth of participation for people who are not looking to get into a high-stakes political argument in front of millions of people. MIT Technology Review (8 minutes)

America’s Therapist

The week we lost the world we knew, Brené Brown held church. Wearing a floral blouse and hoop earrings, she settled into her home office, in Houston, in front of a bookcase with spines arranged by color: cerulean blue and daffodil yellow and blush pink. She livestreamed a 15-minute service, Brené Brown–style: There was a prayer, yes, but also a Beatles sing-along. There was God talk but also cussing. And there was a sermon about offering grace to anyone you might like to punch in the face. The pandemic turned Brené Brown into America’s therapist. But for heaven’s sake, the best-selling author, unapologetic cusser and fifth-generation Texan would rather not be called that. I’ve been a huge fan of Brené for years, so I’m glad to see her step up over the last couple of months. Texas Monthly (18 minutes)


The number 1 rule on the internet: Do not piss off K-Pop fans! They are fierce. In an anti-racist move that demonstrates their formidable social-media power, K-Pop fans took over the hashtag #whitelivesmatter, drowning out white-supremacist messages with nonsensical or anti-racist posts. Variety (5 minutes)


I recommended a lot of books last week. If you missed them, see 20 for 2020 below. This week, I’m recommending a film streaming for free this month. A powerful and thought-provoking true story, Just Mercy follows young lawyer Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan) and his history-making battle for justice. After graduating from Harvard, Bryan had his pick of lucrative jobs. Instead, he heads to Alabama to defend those wrongly condemned or who were not afforded proper representation, with the support of local advocate Eva Ansley (Brie Larson). One of his first, and most incendiary, cases is that of Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx), who, in 1987, was sentenced to die for the notorious murder of an 18-year-old girl, despite a preponderance of evidence proving his innocence and the fact that the only testimony against him came from a criminal with a motive to lie. In the years that follow, Bryan becomes embroiled in a labyrinth of legal and political maneuverings, along with overt, unabashed racism, while he fights for Walter, and others like him, with the odds—and the system—stacked against them. YouTube

Most Read Last Week

20 For 2020 – My ranked reading list on race in America.

Budgets & Boomers – Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel’s take. He says: We cannot end systemic racism without simultaneously creating opportunity for all people, regardless of their background.

#hireandwire – #hireandwire is a movement amongst the startup community to take action by hiring black employees and investing in startups led by black entrepreneurs.

About the Weekend Briefing

A Saturday morning briefing on innovation & society by Kyle Westaway – Managing Partner of Westaway and author of Profit & Purpose. Photo by Joe Yates.

Should We Work Together?

This newsletter is my passion project. I hope it helps you gain deeper insight and equips you to create meaningful impact in the world. Many readers have asked about how we can work together. I run a law firm for startups. We try to keep things simple by offering transparent flat fees. We structure our engagements in two ways: (1) Per-project flat fee engagements—No billable hour means no surprise legal bills. (2) General Counsel—A simple monthly fee for all your day-to-day legal needs. It’s like getting a subscription to your own general counsel. If you’re interested, let’s jump on a call to see if you’re a good fit for the firm. Click here to schedule a call.

Weekend Wisdom

It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.James Baldwin

Did your brilliant friend forward this to you? Subscribe here.