Magical Racism

We didn’t learn much about America’s reaction to its missing black population in Wish Fulfillment. White America’s worst impulses were illustrated by the Genie, and the typical bleeding-heart exasperation came from David. But whatever the nationwide response was to this example of magical racism, I didn’t dramatize it.

To compensate for that gap in my work, here’s an excerpt from Jonathan Kozol’s cover story—“Still Separate, Still Unequal”—in the September issue of Harpers.

…“It’s more like being hidden,” said a fifteen-year-old girl named Isabel I met some years ago in Harlem, in attempting to explain to me the ways in which she and her classmates understood the racial segregation of their neighborhoods and schools. “It’s as if you have been put in a garage where, if they don’t have room for something but aren’t sure if they should throw it out, they put it there where they don’t need to think about it.”

I asked her if she thought America truly did not “have room” for her or other children of her race. “Think of it this way,” said a sixteen-year-old girl sitting beside her. “If people in New York woke up one day and learned that we were gone, that we had simply died or left for somewhere else, how would they feel?”

“How do you think they’d feel?” I asked.

“I think they’d be relieved,” this very solemn girl replied.

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