Weekend Reads: From Native Youth to The Fire on the 57 Bus in Oakland

By Carla Murphy Jan 30, 2015

It’s fair to say, it’s not often that institutions self-reflect and run a kind of "racism audit"–and then release some of that assessment to the general public. But that’s what The New Republic, the elite, liberal ideas shop once described as "the in-flight magazine of Air Force One," has done with journalist Jeet Heer’s, "The New Republic’s Legacy on Race." History nerds will love that Heer’s lit review, beginning in 1914, cites original thinkers from the time. But it’s the modern-day prejudices and bigotry promoted under Marty Peretz’s 30-year editorial leadership that come in for special focus (think, "Bell Curve," black cultural pathologies, etc). Says Heer:

Whatever the problems had been with the early twentieth-century The New Republic, it published a spectrum of black voices, so readers (both black and white) had a sense of how black America thought about things. It published the conservative Washington, the centrist White, the militant Du Bois, and voices more radical than Du Bois himself, such as Du Bois’s Marxist critic Abram L. Harris. Under Peretz, with very few exceptions, the magazine printed only the more conservative end of black political discourse….

Moving on from Heer’s appraisal, recall, "The Fire on the 57 Bus in Oakland," in this weekend’s New York Times Magazine. On a November afternoon in 2013, one boy in a small group of teens set fire to the skirt of sleeping 18-year-old high school senior, Sasha Fleischman. What follows is a thoughtful look at that fateful day and the lives of the two teens involved: Sasha, a white youth* who identifies as agender (neither male nor female) and perpetrator, 16-year-old Richard Thomas, who is African-American. The piece asks whether children ought to be punished as adults and introduces the concept of restorative justice in both sentencing juvenile offenders and satisfying victims and their families.

In a five-part series in Al Jazeera America, journalist Tristan Ahtone looks at Native American gangs, a relatively new phenomenon dating back to the 1980s. Part one begins by asking why young people in Indian Country, subject to some of the nation’s highest rates of victimization by violent crime, are joining gangs in the first place. 

And because I’m a big fan of her music and I love the warmth between women in this interview, listen to Maria Hinojosa’s chat with Afro-Spanish singer Buika on LatinoUSA

*Post has been updated since publication to correctly identify Fleischman.