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.
Election Night Firsts
Jahana Hayes, left, who will be Connecticut's first African-American congresswoman with Ilhan Omar of Minnesota. Ms. Omar will join Rashida Tlaib to become the first Muslim women in Congress.CreditErin Schaff for The New York Times
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.”
In Living Color
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, 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.
Striking a New Note
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.”
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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