2020年1月4日 星期六

Race/Related: A Dose of Optimism As You Start the New Year

Stories About Equality That Give Us Hope

A basketball star took a sabbatical to help free a man she believed was wrongly convicted. Residents of a neighborhood in Mobile, Ala., sought to raise the sunken Clotilda, the last slave ship to reach the United States, as a way of reconnecting with their ancestors. Chinese railroad workers were finally recognized for the pivotal role they played in the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad.

At a time when disinformation, hate crimes, inequality and white supremacy appear to be on the rise, stories like these helped amplify voices that had not been heard. They raised awareness about efforts across the country to curb what many see as the rising tide of racial injustice. They were stories about bravery and celebrating differences.

If you have a story that gives you hope as you begin a new year and decade, email it to us at racerelated@nytimes.com.

Joy Harjo is the first Native American to become poet laureate of the United States. Shawn Miller/Library of Congress, via Associated Press

Firsts for the First Americans

It was a year of firsts for many Native Americans. Joy Harjo, a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation, became the first Native American to hold the post of poet laureate, and the Cherokee Nation sought to send its first delegate, Kimberly Teehee, to Congress.

Molly of Denali” became the first nationally distributed children’s series with a Native American lead, according to PBS. An exhibition at the Minneapolis Institute of Art highlighted art created by Native American women over more than 1,000 years. And the Navajos, one of the largest tribes in the United States, shattered long-held stereotypes of “cowboys and Indians” with their country music circuit.


In San Francisco, Indigenous people from the United States and Canada gathered to commemorate the 50 years since dozens of Native Americans occupied Alcatraz Island to defy a government they said had long trampled on their rights. “I do it for my grandchildren, for the future generation,” one participant said.

Diversity in State Politics

The current House of Representatives is the most racially diverse in history, but across the country, other local governments are becoming more diverse as well.

In Boston, voters backed progressive women and people of color to usher in a City Council more diverse than any in the city’s history. Montgomery, Ala., a cradle of civil rights, elected its first black mayor, Steven Reed. The country’s youngest black state legislator, 19-year-old Caleb Hanna, was elected in West Virginia.

And where there has been resistance to these changes, elected leaders are pushing back and finding support. After Shahid Shafi, a Muslim immigrant, won a county Republican Party leadership role in Texas, his critics tried to have him removed on the grounds that his religion disqualified him for the job. Mr. Shafi survived the challenge.

“There has just been an outpouring of support,” he said.

Charlotte Nebres, 11, signed autographs at the NYC Ballet Nutcracker Family Benefit. Nina Westervelt for The New York Times

A Black Art Renaissance

For the first time, New York City Ballet’s “Nutcracker” had a black Marie. She was played by Charlotte Nebres, 11, who said she was inspired by Misty Copeland, the first female African-American principal at American Ballet Theater.


“When I saw someone who looked like me onstage, I thought, that’s amazing,” Charlotte said. “She was representing me and all the people like me.”

Slave Play” opened on Broadway and quickly became the subject of much discussion. The play, written by Jeremy O. Harris, has been called “one of the best and most provocative new works to show up on Broadway in years.”

Elsewhere in the arts, Lonnie G. Bunch III became the first African-American to lead the Smithsonian Institution and Ashley James became the first full-time black curator at the Guggenheim. Museums took steps to acknowledge the role of slavery in the lives of some of the nation’s most revered figures and American opera companies explored questions of race, identity and the criminal justice system.

Faith and Devotion

Many immigrants share a growing fear of deportation amid the Trump administration’s crackdown. In a sign of unity and support, Catholic bishops recently elected Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, a pastor to many immigrant communities, as their leader.


A rising number of American Catholics are of Hispanic descent — about 40 percent — and Archbishop Gomez himself is a naturalized United States citizen born in Mexico.

Other signs of unity and support were made with an eye on the past. Pope Francis put Augustine Tolton, an enslaved African who escaped to freedom during the Civil War and became the first black Catholic priest in the United States, on the path to sainthood.

And two seminaries, Princeton Theological Seminary and Virginia Theological Seminary, began to confront their historical ties to slavery by pledging to create reparation funds.

Champion Moves

When the Toronto Raptors became the first team outside the United States to win an N.B.A. championship, the streets of the city were filled with turbans and hijabs and the sounds of diverse accents.

The multicultural fan base reflects a team led by Masai Ujiri, an English-born Nigerian who is one of the few African executives in North American professional sports.

He brought on players like Serge Ibaka, who once survived on leftovers from a restaurant while living on the streets in the Republic of Congo. This year he completed a fairy-tale journey, returning to that restaurant with the N.B.A. champions’ trophy.

“My story. My past. I don’t want to forget that,” he said in an interview. “I want to think about it and be reminded of it so I can be thankful and appreciative of everything.” His teammate, Jeremy Lin, became the first Asian-American to win an N.B.A. title, helping to defy stereotypes about Asian-American men.

Henry Goodgame, bottom left corner, was left stunned at the Morehouse commencement.Morehouse College, via YouTube

Morehouse College Gets a Surprise

His jaw plummets, his eyebrows jump to the brim of his graduation cap, and his eyes dart from side to side like he is searching — somewhere, anywhere — for comprehension.

That was the reaction of Henry Goodgame, a Morehouse College administrator, when the billionaire Robert F. Smith announced that he would eliminate the student debt of all Class of 2019 graduates from the private, all-male, historically black college in Atlanta.

At a time when historically black colleges and universities have faced financial troubles, Mr. Smith’s gift helped affirm their lasting value.

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