The Good News
January 9, 2014
I had the good fortune of having four young adults, ages 15-20, camped out in my living room for the holidays. My sons had not seen their cousins in six months, and they had a lot of catching up to do. In spite of the snapchats, instagrams, facebooking and texting going on, we managed to have several old-fashioned face-to-face conversations.
One night, our conversation focused on race, and I asked them which news stories stood out for them over the course of 2013. Without pause, Anthony mentioned Trayvon Martin. Santiago talked about a report he wrote on Marissa Alexander, an African-American woman who fired a warning shot into the air to ward off her abusive husband. Although she used the same “stand your ground” defense that acquitted George Zimmerman, Ms. Alexander received a 20-year sentence. Michela mentioned Megyn Kelly, the Fox News reporter who announced that both Santa and Jesus are white. Rafa brought up Aaron Couch, the white Texas teen who got off with a year of rehab and probation, even though he killed four people while driving drunk. His defense was that he suffered from “affluenza.”
Sharing these examples had an impact on their moods. I noticed their downcast faces and thought it best to intervene. I asked them to take out their smartphones and look up the following websites – Upworthy, Yes!, Colorlines, and Salon. Then I gave them seven minutes to find at least one good news story on race. Here’s what they came back with:
Rafael and Michela talked about 23-year old Cristian Avila, who went on a three-week fast with other activists to bring attention to issues of immigration reform. ‘It was hard,” Cristian reported, “but when I was hit with hunger pangs, I focused on the many meals my parents gave up to make sure we had a better tomorrow.”
Anthony found Joan Southgate, an 80-year old African-American grandmother who walked 250 miles of the Underground Railroad. Inspired by her journey, she was joined by 170 companions. Ms. Southgate said, “I hope people will learn what is possible in a way of changing the world and loving people.”
Santiago reported on The Gap, the clothing company that featured Waris Ahluwalia, a Sikh-American, in its recent ad campaign. The ad was vandalized in several cities and The Gap responded immediately by issuing a statement and featuring Mr. Ahluwalia even more prominently in their campaign. The community responded in turn, as one reporter wrote, “…as the year 2014 inches closer to us, I want to live in an America where a fashion model can be a handsome, bearded brown dude in a turban.”
With their faces now upturned and hopeful, we talked about why stories like these aren’t as widely known, and we shared how difficult it is to find the good news in the midst of the bad. I asked them to consider the sources of their news as well as their responsibility to share news like the stories they uncovered. They each made commitments to subscribe to positive news sources and use their networks to share these stories. “It might not change the world,” said Anthony, “but it’s something.”
More than something, Anthony. It’s the collection of small actions and stories that change the world. One hopeful, upturned face at a time.