Another year of grim headlines about detained and deported immigrants,hate crimes, and the police being called on black people for doing everyday things like gardening or going swimming. But 2018 also held glimmers of hope — if you search hard enough — with stories about racial equality and justice. Here are a few of that we published and that are worth celebrating.
The candidates in the midterm elections were among the most diverse in the history of the United States, and their candidacies will likely have an enduring impact on political representation in the country. Two states elected the first Native American women, Sharice Davids and Debra Haaland, to Congress. Another elected its first Native American lieutenant governor, Peggy Flanagan. A Navajo candidate, Willie Grayeyes, won a pivotal county race in an area long dominated by a white minority.
Ilhan Omar in Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib in Michigan became the first Muslim women elected to Congress. Ayanna Pressley in Massachusetts and Jahana Hayes in Connecticut will become their states’ first African-American woman in Congress. And Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, 29, a Latina, became the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.
Seventeen black women in Texas were elected as judges in Harris County, the nation’s third-largest county. Each of the lawyers, all Democrats ranging in age from 31 to the early 60s, won their races by double digits. The county, which was known as the “buckle of the American death belt,” has executed more people than every state in the country since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.
“We talked about coming in and being more compassionate,” Latosha Lewis Payne, 44, a longtime lawyer in Houston, said of her 16 newly elected colleagues. “Being more understanding of the poor and disadvantaged that come into the judicial system. I hope that our election will usher in courts that ensure an equal opportunity for justice for all.”
“Black Panther” smashed box-office records upon its February release. The Disney-Marvel movie featuring the superhero T’Challa of Wakanda hauled in $218 million in North America over the Presidents’ Day weekend. Many viewers came to theaters in outfits inspired by characters in the film. That same month, “Coco,” a Pixar film set in Mexico with a voice cast that’s almost entirely Latino, won two Academy Awards. In August, an all-Asian cast found success with “Crazy Rich Asians.” It was the first time since the “The Joy Luck Club,” in 1993, that a major Hollywood film set in the present showcased a predominantly Asian cast.
South Korea hosted the Winter Olympics, and with that came more Asian athletes and fans. There were also 13 athletes from eight African nations, the largest representation of athletes from African nations in any Winter Games. At the same time, the United States Olympic Committee fielded its most diverse team at a Winter Games. Of the 243 athletes, at least 10 were African-American and 10 were Asian-American. The Americans included Nathan Chen, Vincent Zhou, Mirai Nagasu, Chloe Kim, Erin Jackson and Jordan Greenway.
Other landmark moments: Naomi Osaka captured the U.S. Open title, becoming the first Japanese-born tennis player to win a Grand Slam championship. Ms. Osaka, 20, who grew up in the United States, has a Haitian father and a Japanese mother, and she is helping to challenge Japan’s longstanding sense of racial purity and cultural identity.
Alex Cora, a native of Puerto Rico, coached the Boston Red Sox to the most wins in its 118-year history and a World Series championship. Dave Roberts, who has an African-American father and a Japanese mother, led the Dodgers to their second consecutive National League pennant. It was the first time that the World Series featured two teams managed by people of color.
In the musical world, there is an effort to promote diversity in orchestras. The initiative — spearheaded by the Sphinx Organization, the New World Symphony and the League of American Orchestras —will help black and Hispanic musicians prepare for auditions, pair them with mentors and showcase their work in concerts. Orchestras are among the least racially diverse institutions in the country, with African-Americans accounting for 1.8 percent of players.
Also this year, Kendrick Lamar became the first rapper to win the Pulitzer Prize for music and the first winner in the category who is not a classical or jazz musician. Our critic called Mr. Lamar’s album “DAMN.” a work of “reactions and perceptions, a response to the sensations that come when the world is creeping in and you can’t keep it at bay any longer without lashing back.”
In June, Raphael Bostic became the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. He is the first African-American to lead any of the Fed’s 12 regional reserve banks in the central bank’s 105-year history. This year we learned that while the unemployment rate for black Americans hit its lowest point on record, joblessness for African-Americans was still about twice the rate for whites. Mr. Bostic is an expert on housing policy, and he has said that he wants to focus the Atlanta Fed on housing-related issues. Increased diversity in economics and economic policymaking has the potential to help the government overcome its blind spots and make better decisions affecting the lives of all Americans.
About 53 percent of the undergraduates at the University of California, Merced — the newest addition to the 10-campus University of California system — are Latino. No other campus more closely mirrors the demographics of the nation’s most diverse state. Nearly three-quarters of students are the first in their families to attend college. Merced is in the middle of Central Valley, largely farmland that has been one of the poorest and overlooked parts of the state. State leaders sought a campus there to serve a region that lagged far behind in educational attainment.
One of the darkest days of the year — the massacre of 11 Jewish worshipers at a synagogue in Pittsburgh on Oct. 27 — rallied Americans of all faiths and backgrounds. Two Muslim groups raised about $240,000 to help victims and their families. The Rev. Eric S.C. Manning, who leads Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., where nine parishioners were massacred during a Bible study in 2015, met with the Rabbi Jeffrey Myers. During the meeting, the two spiritual leaders “spread their arms wide and embraced at length, the rabbi patting the pastor rhythmically on the back as the pastor drew him close. Words were not necessary.”
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