Hopewell-Mann is a predominantly Latino neighborhood in the predominantly Latino city of Santa Fe. Close enough to downtown to make it a short commute, yet a world away so that tourism doesn’t quite reach it, it’s a stark reminder of some of the inequalities present in this city. While the stunning adobe architecture downtown looks like it’s been preserved in aspic, Hopewell-Mann’s main drag is lined with big-box stores, fast-food restaurants, and cheap motels offering month-to-month leases. The neighborhood attracts a mix of the transient and the locally displaced, and not surprisingly, people downtown tend to avoid it.
Earlier in the year, I was a writer in residence at the Santa Fe Art Institute, which is located in Hopewell-Mann. One day, I asked a friend to drop me off at the mall downtown, where I needed to pick up a few essentials. From there, I planned to catch a bus and take the scenic route back home.
Calvin and Raul waiting at the bus stopWhen I finished my shopping, I headed over to the bus stop—which took several minutes to locate, thanks to its inconspicuous signage. When I got there, I saw the back of a white-and-blue city bus trundling into the distance. I’d missed it by seconds. According to the timetable, the next bus wouldn’t be for another hour. I was stuck. Just then, the rain began to pour.
All the discussions today of how much racial progress we’ve made since Dr. Martin Luther King was alive reminded me of a disturbing point about the black−white health gap mentioned in recent research, some of which I discussed in an Atlantic
essay over the weekend.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, African Americans have been catching up
with whites in terms of life expectancy at birth. So things are looking up, right?
Yes, and no. To a sizeable extent, what explains the narrowing of the life-expectancy gap in the last couple decades is not just that things are better for African Americans (though they have improved), but also that things are worse for whites—working-class whites above all.
When an unarmed black man dies after a confrontation with police, there is a natural tendency to focus on racist police officers or racist police departments. We saw this after the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, and we saw it, too, after the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson and Walter Scott in North Charleston. Without a doubt, there are plenty of bigoted bad apples to be found, as seen in the shockingly racist emails unearthed in the Department of Justice investigation into Ferguson’s police department. But we also need to consider that big picture, or what sociologists call social structure: institutions like the economy and political system and the roles that people take up within them. After all, the modern-day factors pushing down poor African American communities—and pulling them into hostile encounters with police—involve more than just racial discrimination (or at least discrimination of the plain-vanilla variety).
The cool kids had Lunchables and Mondos. I had a neon cooler ripe with the aroma of kimchi.
Each year I go through the motions of Christmas, rarely ever feeling fully present. I spend the days leading up to the holiday cooking for my family and baking for my neighbors. I send out Christmas cards. I purchase whatever gifts I can afford. I spend the nights sipping bourbon, wrapping presents, and wondering why the holiday doesn't fill me with the kind of joy and lightheartedness we see in movies. Then the day arrives and I remember why: my family can be intolerable.
I realize you’re not supposed to say that. To be clear, I don’t mean “intolerable” in a cute, bickering, loud kind of way. I mean that since my mom died, I’m the lone woman in a family populated by troubled white and brown men—white and brown men who seem to only be capable of bonding over one thing: antiblack racism.
Diversity in literature is something I’ve been thinking about quite a bit lately. Last month I attended a workshop run by the Voices of Our Nation Arts Foundation
(VONA), which sponsors programs for writers of color working in a variety of genres. I sat at the orientation looking around in disbelief at more than 150 writers crammed into a room at UC Berkeley, thinking, “Holy fuck, I had no idea there were so many of us.”
The Heart of Everything That Is tells the little-known story of Red Cloud, a ruthless Lakota chief who brought together the warring tribes of the Great Plains to fight the US government and halt its relentless westward expansion.
Best of In The Fray 2014.
A novelist, poet, and peerless observer of American Indian life, Sherman Alexie has produced an acclaimed body of work that deals with the estrangement, poverty, and tragedy of life on the reservation. Two decades into his career, what really makes him happy, he says, is the way that a new generation of kids are picking up his books for their first real taste of literature.
I talk about race — a lot. I constantly initiate discussions with friends and colleagues, and find that even in our supposedly postracial world many still deem race to be an uncomfortable subject. Although I believe attempts to have a dialogue about race are important, another part of me does it for purely selfish reasons. These conversations help me to figure out my own relationship with race. They validate and invalidate my opinions, and give me a better understanding of where I fit as a light-skinned Latina.
Fifty years after the March on Washington, John Lewis and his collaborators offer a new visual take on the protests and the people behind them, in the graphic novel March
, an illustrated (and unconventional) autobiography of the civil rights leader and longtime member of Congress. In a way, the book brings Lewis full circle: Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story
, a comic book published in 1956, helped inspire him to take up the nonviolent cause as a teenager.
#SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen wasn't meant to be an invitation for white women to participate in a discussion about white women's privilege — again. It was intended to be an outlet for a woman of color's frustrations. It turned into a clever litany of injuries women of color have endured (and do endure) due to the actions (and inactions) of white women whose solidarity has been illusive.
I was never confident that a jury comprised almost exclusively of white women would convict George Zimmerman of second-degree murder, but last night’s not guilty verdict still left me breathless. I had wanted to believe that my worst fears weren’t true, that I am not living in a country where a man can get away with killing a seventeen-year-old child because that child is black.