Strands of Genius: America's Compounding Moral Debts, When The Law Doesn't Apply, A Sermon On The Project of Whiteness, The Injustice of Bail & The Anti-Racism Bookshelf

plus our thoughts on anti-racism + covert vs. covert white supremacy

WRITING FROM | Greenville, SC
WORKING ON | a brief sprint for

June 8-12 | Beyond Boring Briefs Sprint on tSOSG
June 15 | Out of Office Hours for Apprentices on tSOSG


We’re back to our regularly schedule programming, except how could we be? We’re empaths and we’ve been feeling all the feels: disgust, sadness, guilt, shame, and yeah, a little bit of that helplessness feeling, too. As Janaya Khan summed it up, there’s a “questioning and curiosity mingling with despair.” So we can’t just publish a newsletter and not talk about all that’s been happening. “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of oppressor,” said Desmond Tutu.

This week, we’re especially thankful for: 

outdoor handstands, growing plants, all of the birthday love we got over the weekend and friends willing to have the tough conversations.


Join us as a member for access to tools and templates, or as an apprentice to join the live discussions. Learn more @

:: THE LINKS :: 

  • "Just as the capitalist system is not a capitalist plot, so racial oppression is not the work of "racists." It is maintained by the principal institutions of society, including the schools (which define "excellence"), the labor market (which defines "employment"), the legal system (which defines "crime"), the welfare system (which defines "poverty"), the medical industry (which defines "health"), and the family (which defines "kinship"). Many of these institutions are administered by people who would be offended if accused of complicity with racial oppression. It is reinforced by reform programs that address problems traditionally of concern to the "left" - for example, federal housing loan guarantees. The simple fact is that the public schools and the welfare departments are doing more harm to black children than all the "racist" groups combined… 

    ...The white race is a club. Certain people are enrolled in it at birth, without their consent, and brought up according to its rules. For the most part they go through life accepting the privileges of membership, without reflecting on the costs.” (Talk given at the conference "The Making and Unmaking of Whiteness" Berkeley, California, April 11-13, 1997.)

  • Remember the Ideal Bookshelf Tumblr? Or did we date ourselves? The founder, illustrator Jane Mount, has put together an Anti-Racist Ideal Bookshelf. We’ve added several to our reading list, and give our highest recommendation for Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. (Bookshop)

  • "The income gap between black and white households is roughly the same today as it was in 1970. Patrick Sharkey, a sociologist at New York University, studied children born from 1955 through 1970 and found that 4 percent of whites and 62 percent of blacks across America had been raised in poor neighborhoods. A generation later, the same study showed, virtually nothing had changed. And whereas whites born into affluent neighborhoods tended to remain in affluent neighborhoods, blacks tended to fall out of them.

    This is not surprising. Black families, regardless of income, are significantly less wealthy than white families. The Pew Research Center estimates that white households are worth roughly 20 times as much as black households, and that whereas only 15 percent of whites have zero or negative wealth, more than a third of blacks do. Effectively, the black family in America is working without a safety net. When financial calamity strikes—a medical emergency, divorce, job loss—the fall is precipitous.

    The wealth accorded America by slavery was not just in what the slaves pulled from the land but in the slaves themselves. “In 1860, slaves as an asset were worth more than all of America’s manufacturing, all of the railroads, all of the productive capacity of the United States put together,” the Yale historian David W. Blight has noted. “Slaves were the single largest, by far, financial asset of property in the entire American economy.” The sale of these slaves—“in whose bodies that money congealed,” writes Walter Johnson, a Harvard historian—generated even more ancillary wealth...

    The consequences of 250 years of enslavement, of war upon black families and black people, were profound...

    The idea of reparations is frightening not simply because we might lack the ability to pay. The idea of reparations threatens something much deeper—America’s heritage, history, and standing in the world...

    The early american economy was built on slave labor. The Capitol and the White House were built by slaves. President James K. Polk traded slaves from the Oval Office. The laments about “black pathology,” the criticism of black family structures by pundits and intellectuals, ring hollow in a country whose existence was predicated on the torture of black fathers, on the rape of black mothers, on the sale of black children. An honest assessment of America’s relationship to the black family reveals the country to be not its nurturer but its destroyer...

    And this destruction did not end with slavery. Discriminatory laws joined the equal burden of citizenship to unequal distribution of its bounty. These laws reached their apex in the mid-20th century, when the federal government—through housing policies—engineered the wealth gap, which remains with us to this day. 

    When we think of white supremacy, we picture colored only signs, but we should picture pirate flags." (The Atlantic

Strands of Genius is currently read by more than 11,000 subscribers. Support us by sponsoring an issue, becoming a member of The School of Stolen Genius or encouraging friends or colleagues to subscribe.


We are disgusted and appalled by so many in power, those who use their power to promote and support racial injustice. We are heartbroken to read about the continued brutalization of black men by our police force, to see people posting about their fury in Colin Kaepernick taking a knee, rather than their fury about the knee on George Floyd’s neck.

Martin Luther King Jr said, “Riot is the language of the unheard,” and in the USA, we’re seeing riots and protests from people whose voices are consistently silenced.

If you’re feeling heartbroken, you’re not alone. We *should* feel heartbroken. How could we not? If you’re feeling helpless, you’re also not alone. We sometimes feel a sense of despair when we think about the big systems at play. But, we also try to remind each other that small actions can have a big impact — especially when we have a large number of people doing those small things, like having tough conversations, giving to organizations who are making a difference, and educating ourselves on our own biases and privilege.

It's important for all of us to continue to educate ourselves on what’s happening and why… and for those of us who are white to consider as well all of the ways we've benefited from the system at play. Only through education can we combat our biases at work, and in the work we produce.

You might be seeing conversations around anti-racism. These are important, especially for the white folk among us. From the Alberta Civil Liberties Research Center, anti-racism is defined as such:

For some, the prefix ‘anti’ may conjure up images of public protests and violent clashes. While anti-racism does call for and include public protest and vocal opposition, it comprises much more than this as well, including learning, listening, creating community collaboratively in a broad range of ways and places: role-modelling, refusal to participate/perpetuate, and so on. 

Anti-racism is strong, and it is compassionate. 

Here’s the thing — we’re still learning. We are not ashamed to say that we don’t have all of the answers. If you know voices or perspectives we should be highlighting, please hit reply and let us know.

Our friend Ivan spurred us into writing this, because as he has rightly said, our silence contributes to the problem.

We’d like to turn back to the community, and ask you to weigh in, too.

  • We are creators and curators of culture. What responsibility do we have as marketers?

  • We know that diverse input leads to better output. How can we battle racial discrimination in the workplace?

  • We’re all biased. What are some tools and resources you use to help spot your biases, or overcome them?

We’ve left the comments open, and we’d love to hear from you.



Try it. Go ahead and google:

  • “Racial wealth gap”

  • “Educational attainment rates by race”

  • “Housing disparities by race”

  • “Life expectancy rate by race”

  • “Maternal and infant mortality rates by race”

via We Are Beloved

If we can ever be of help to you, even outside of a formal engagement, please don’t hesitate to let us know.

faris & rosie & ashley | your friends over at

@faris is always tweeting
@rosieyakob hangs out on instagram
@ashley also writes for deaf, tattooed & employed

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It's called Genius Steals because we believe ideas are new combinations and that nothing can come from nothingBut copying is lazy. We believe the best way to innovate is to look at the best of that which came before and combine those elements into new solutions. 

Co-Founders Faris & Rosie are award-winning strategists and creative directors, writers, consultants and public speakers who have been living on the road/runway since March 2013, working with companies all over the world. Our Director of Operations is nomadic like us, our accounting team is based out of Washington, our company is registered in Tennessee, and our collaborators are all over the world. Being nomadic allows us to go wherever clients need us to be, and to be inspired by the world in between.

Hit reply and let’s talk about how we might be able to work together :)