Race, Culture & Ethnicity

During my senior year of high school, I started dreading calculus. Every time my teacher slapped our tests face-down on our desks, I would peel up the corner of the page just enough to see the score, circled in red. The numbers were dropping quickly: 79, 64, 56.

My classmates and I were not coy about our grades. After class, we would hover outside the door and compare them. But when my friends asked me what I got on tests, I said, childishly, "I'm not telling."

It's a ritual that plays out every year or so, whenever a Very Important Black Film is about to drop. Black fraternities, sororities, churches and civic organizations, aunties and teachers and coaches, plan trips by the busload to the cineplex. Maybe it's Malcolm X or 42 or 12 Years A Slave. Maybe someone holds special screenings followed by panels of cast members, academics or public intellectuals.

During a fellowship to Harvard, writer Tayari Jones spent months and months studying the intersection of race and criminal justice. She learned a lot about the American criminal justice system. She knew all the grim statistics. But she was still searching for the inspiration for a novel she'd hope to write: one that involved an individual's encounter with the system, and the subsequent ripples that touch that person's community.

Then, while she was in Atlanta visiting her mother, she found what she needed during a routine trip to the shopping mall.

Screen capture of Prison Legal News newsletter
Prison Legal News

The publisher of a newsletter about the criminal justice system filed a lawsuit this week against the Illinois Department of Corrections alleging that multiple state prisons barred inmates from receiving all or part of several publications.

We have some news to share with you. Yesterday, Boston University, which owns WBUR, dismissed Tom Ashbrook from his role as host of On Point. BU reached this decision after an independent review verified claims that Tom had created an abusive work environment.

We talked to NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik about the dismissal of the longtime host.

On a cold evening in Manhattan's Chinatown, Mei Lum sits at the front counter of her family's century-old store. She's closed the porcelain shop for the night, and is tapping away on her laptop, tying up loose ends for the multi-day Lunar New Year celebrations she's organizing for both her family and the store.

Lum, 27, can already picture the scenes that will unfold. Just as they have every year for decades, family and friends will gather in Wing on Wo & Co. tonight for an elaborate dinner.

Rachel Otwell / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

The #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, as well as the 2016 election, have sparked renewed passion for electing women to office in Illinois.

Is it really true that a good (black) man is hard to find? This week, we're taking on some long-lasting stereotypes about black-on-black love.

Natalie asks:

After several weeks of investigation, Tom Ashbrook has been dismissed as host of On Point.

To celebrate Valentine's Day, you can buy a sappy card. Or a silly one.

Or, you can buy one that takes on Islamophobia with messages like "This burka is built for two" and "First Muslim Registry ... Then Wedding Registry."

These are some of the valentine creations of Tanzila Ahmed, a Los-Angeles-based writer, artist, activist and co-host of the podcast #GoodMuslimBadMuslim.

The messages make people laugh — and squirm. And that was absolutely her intention, Ahmed says.

Oakland is a city that's rapidly gentrifying, shedding much of its African-American population along the way. The California city, which was 47 percent black in 1980, is now divided roughly into a quarter each of black, white, Asian and Hispanic residents.

The sense of the city's changing identity has ended up helping Adrian Henderson's business. He's co-owner of Kingston 11 Cuisine, a Caribbean restaurant in a neighborhood that's changed so much lately that it goes by the dual name of Koreatown Northgate.

Today is Ash Wednesday.

For many of us, the smudge on people's foreheads signifies the first day of Lent.

Photographer Greg Miller has been documenting this ritual on the streets of New York City for the past 20 years.

His upcoming book, Unto Dust, features 40 portraits from his decades of work.

Here is what he told us about the project.

Why did you decide to do this project?

Terry Farmer

For decades, women have been battling to break through the “glass ceilings” in their chosen fields. To the Front is an NPR Illinois series where we talk with female and nonbinary people about the way their identity intersects with their art and work. 

Editor's note: This post refers frequently to the use of a racial slur.

Professor Emeritus Lawrence Rosen opened his course last week with a question. The anthropologist, who has spent four decades teaching at Princeton University, was introducing a class called Cultural Freedoms: Hate Speech, Blasphemy, and Pornography — and his question was meant to shock.

Before Valentine's Day, love is in the air. But sometimes, love hurts. It's a harsh reality that many Mexicans deal with by listening to rancheras, traditional songs from Mexico's countryside that you can put on when you need a good cry. One young woman found a connection to her ancestors through the sounds of guitars and tears.

A longer version of this story originally aired on NPR's Latino USA.

Both the challenges and opportunities of U.S. Christianity are evident at Fairmeadows Baptist Church in Duncanville, Texas, just south of Dallas.

On some Sundays, services at the church draw as few as a dozen worshippers, most of them white.

For the past year, however, the church has also been home to a largely Hispanic tenant congregation that calls itself Erez Baptist, and in that incarnation the church is thriving. The average Sunday attendance is around 80, and the congregation has a youth music group and already sponsors a missionary in Brazil.

As superhero origin stories go, this one is pretty low-key. No radioactivity. No other planets. Just a Swede, his love of pastry, and a noble quest for accuracy. It's a bun, it's some cream, it's ... Semla Man!

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.


Political turmoil in the communities of Colorado City, Ariz., and Hildale, Utah, have resulted in the resignations of nearly a dozen city and utility board employees.

The communities are the longtime home of a polygamous sect, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which has been the target of state and federal investigations and lawsuits. FLDS leader Warren Jeffs is serving a life sentence for sexual assault of children.

Daisy Contreras / NPR Illinois

Survivors of domestic violence who want to change their name might get additional protections under a new Illinois proposal.  

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.


The Albuquerque Journal issued an apology Thursday for running a nationally syndicated cartoon that has been assailed as a racist attack on Latino immigrants by critics.

"In hindsight, instead of generating debate, this cartoon only inflamed emotions. This was not the intent, and for that, the Journal apologizes," Editor Karen Moses wrote in the paper.

If you're Native American, there's a good chance that you've thought a lot about blood quantum — a highly controversial measurement of the amount of "Indian blood" you have. It can affect your identity, your relationships and whether or not you — or your children — may become a citizen of your tribe.

Blood quantum was initially a system that the federal government placed onto tribes in an effort to limit their citizenship. Many Native nations, including the Navajo Nation and the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, still use it as part of their citizenship requirements.

President Trump praised God and country Thursday, calling the U.S. "a nation of believers" and saying faith is central to "American life and to liberty."

The president spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast, an annual gathering of faith and political leaders, in Washington, D.C. Sticking largely to his script, Trump said he came to "praise God, for how truly blessed we are to be American."

Trump said the nation's founders "invoked our creator four times in the Declaration of Independence" and that "our currency declares 'In God We Trust.' "

The connection between Middle Eastern and Mexican food goes all the way back to the Moors, and is well-known in culinary circles. Al pastor tacos are just a pork version of the shawarma spits that Lebanese immigrants brought with them to Mexico City in the 1930s. In nearby Puebla, a wrap called tacos árabes — Arabic tacos — uses a flatbread that's halfway between pita and lavash. Kibbe (fried meatballs made from bulghur wheat) is popular in the Yucatán, thanks to Syrians who settled in the Peninsula over the past century.

In the time of smartphones, checking a horoscope might seem as quaint as making a call. But technology has a new generation looking to the sky charts.

Mercury retrograde trends on Twitter. YouTubers analyze the stars. And hip publications keep astrologers on contract.

When the Eagles clinched their first-ever Super Bowl victory on Sunday — that will always feel wild to say — my friends and I joined the joyful, inebriated throngs in a spontaneous pilgrimage to Philadelphia's City Hall. And at Thursday's championship parade, you'd likely hear many of the same full-throated chants that we heard right after the win. The Eagles fight song, obviously.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says he will offer a national apology to victims of institutional child sexual abuse before the end of the year.

It comes after a five-year investigation by a government commission found that 7 percent of Catholic priests allegedly sexually abused children between 1950 and 2010.

"It's a question that people have asked me, and that I sometimes wonder about myself," my friend says. "Are you only with him because he's Native?"

She's sitting outside at a picnic table. I can smell the desert and the cigarette smoke through the phone.

"And I guess the answer is that it's not not because he's Native. You know?"

I do know.

She and I were raised by different tribes on reservations 3,000 miles apart. As children, though, we internalized the same directive: Find yourself a Native man. Good blood for your babies.

Four months after having her second baby, Jessica Porten started feeling really irritable. Little things would annoy her, like her glider chair.

"It had started to squeak," she says. "And so when I'm sitting there rocking the baby and it's squeaking, I would just get so angry at that stupid chair."