Letter 62: A Reading List on Race, in Australia and America

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The Australia Letter is a weekly newsletter, reflecting the experience (and quirks) of our Australia bureau chief, a Yank who’s convinced he has the best job in journalism. Sign up to get it by email and forward it to friends if you get the urge.

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The dynamics of race and equality are always complicated, but for both the United States and Australia, the past, present and future continue to be shaped by how these issues are discussed and handled across society.

What does self-determination look like for those who are not part of the white majority? What does a country owe to those it’s discriminated against — and what are the best ways to move forward toward true equality and unity?

These are just a few of the questions that will likely come up in a pair of conversations I’ll be moderating Sunday in Melbourne and on Monday in Sydney. Both will feature Nikole Hannah-Jones, an award-winning New York Times reporter who has covered race and segregation for most of her career.

She’s coming all the way from Brooklyn — and she’ll be joined by the actress Shareena Clanton at the National Gallery of Victoria on Sunday at 7 p.m. (Get tickets here with the discount code NGVNYtimes.)

On Monday, we’ll be with Prof. Megan Davis, the Aboriginal scholar and activist, at the University of New South Wales, starting at 6:30 p.m. Free tickets should still be available.

The goal of these discussions — and all the events that our Australia bureau has been involved with — is to extend The New York Times journalism experience beyond the page or screen; and to broaden and personalize our coverage of important topics that matter to Australia and the world.

A lot of work goes into these efforts, for our small bureau and our partners, so this week I figured I’d open up the process and share a few of the articles and essays that we’re reading and sharing as we prepare.

What’s below is by no means a comprehensive reading list; it’s quite abbreviated, in fact, and errs toward the current, the varied and toward word counts that can be consumed in a single sitting. Read as much or as little as you can, and bring your questions to the events if you’re coming.

The End of the Postracial Myth
By Nikole Hannah-Jones

“What’s missing from the American conversation on race is the fact that people don’t have to hate black people or Muslims or Latinos to be uncomfortable with them, to be suspicious of them, to fear their ascension as an upheaval of the natural order of things. A smart demagogue plays to those fears under the guise of economic anxieties. Things not as good as you hoped? These folks are the reason.”

The Long Road to Uluru
By Megan Davis

“If the Uluru Statement from the Heart was an example of the transformative potential of liberal democratic governance through civic engagement beyond the ballot box, the aftermath of Uluru revealed the limitations of Australian retail politics.”

A Special Screening of ‘Black Panther’ for Indigenous and African Youth
By Shareena Clanton

“We must stand in solidarity with our fellow Indigenous and African community members whilst cultivating an environment of leadership and inspiration so that we can all take pride in ‘Black Panther.’ There is no greater time than now and every child deserves a superhero they can connect with and look up to.”

The Many Faces of Racism
By Tim Soutphommasane

“Psychologists also point to another aspect of racial prejudice and motivations. People can take part in racist speech and behaviour, not because they subscribe to certain beliefs, but because it helps to form bonds within a group — it can help to create a stronger sense of ‘us’ by creating a stronger sense of ‘them.’ Racism can involve as much a group’s needs for identity as it does actual hatred directed at others.”

The Politics of Identity
By Stan Grant

“As Australia is working us out, we too are working out ourselves, finding a new language and greater flexibility to express who we are. Our struggle is too conveniently positioned as peculiar to this country. But the politics of identity are an international phenomenon — confusing and contradictory — heightened by the rush of post cold-war globalisation, the advance of new technology and the changing currents of geopolitics.”

Now here are some additional stories from this week, about Australia and the world.

As always, you can share your thoughts in our NYT Australia Facebook group, or by emailing us at nytaustralia@nytimes.com. And forward this newsletter to friends too!

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I usually link straight to our headlines here, but I’ve gotten a few emails from people whose eyes speed right over the links, so I’m returning to my old conversational tone.

I’ll be honest, we’re a little light on coverage lately due to vacations and travel for bigger stories, but remember when I promised more culture coverage?

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… And We Recommend

Tacey Rychter, our audience editor, has become a fan of Comedy Central’s series “These New South Whales.”

Here’s her description of what to expect:

A collaboration by a group of Australian former child actors (think faces from “Round The Twist” and “H20: Just Add Water”), “These New South Whales” parodies Australia’s insider-y and blokey music industry, post-punk scene and inner-west life in an addictive, mockumentary-style web series.

For anyone who’s seen a gig at The Lansdowne, dealt with crap-talking A&R rep, or had anything to do with the Australian music industry, it’s fun to see that world reflected back and sent up. Yes it’s hyperlocal and insular – but if you’re in that niche audience, you’ll love it.

Damien Cave is the Australia bureau chief for The New York Times. He’s covered more than a dozen countries for The Times, including Mexico, Cuba, Iraq, Lebanon. And Florida. Follow him on Twitter: @damiencave.

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