This snapshot from eighty years ago opens a door on the present. A nation and I mean all nations must promote a narrative on inclusiveness. The USA has been actually quite good at this, not least because they insist on the adoption of an idea of Americanism. The difficulty as always has been that every citizen feels a sense of alienation from such an ideal.
This can come about because of economic advantage or lack thereof, ethnic or racial pride and a sense of misgovernance. This has been the agenda of all domestic politics for two centuries. A long stint of economic success allowed a lot of ethnic and racial stress to be largely absorbed and at least papered over serious governmental policy failures, particularly those tied in with prohibition.
Now that is no longer possible. Instead we have blow-back and increasingly ugly misgovernance and ethnic and race baiting waking up to create a narrative of disunity. The central driver is economic malaise, but the real issues remain unaddressed. The simplest reform is to abruptly end the drug war in order to collapse the developing bankroll underpinning the problem of national unity. It is low level but a portion of the population is in revolt and they are taking up too much of our space. This needs be ended. Once ended, bounce back should be steady and effective.
The Disunited States: A French Writer Navigates 1930s United States
Two police officers on routine patrol had tried to question the man. He didn't stop. The police opened fire and wounded the black man in the head, arm, hip and leg. Shoot to kill.
Nothing is known about the man, not even his name, only his ability to be a target.
I entertained myself telling people I was going to live in Harlem. Here are some of the replies:
"They'll never let you live with them."
"You could stay at the Hotel Theresa in Central Harlem. They don't let Negroes in (sic)."
"Be sure not to carry personal belongings. The bare minimum. Otherwise, they'll clean you out."
"Be careful: they all have syphilis."
He brings it up to his mouth and puffs out his cheeks. He blows with all his might, grows pale with the effort, gulps some air and blows again. Between his gray lips, the bag swells, grows taut and round, hiding the man's chin, nose and cheeks. I recognize Europe, the Atlantic, the entire Earth daubed in bright paint on the rubber sphere now bobbing over the tray of laces. Over the North Pole, two eyes look at me with hope, and in a voice half-pleading, half-ironic says:
"Five cents. It is not expensive, the world for five cents."
…[U]nder the watchful eyes of guards armed with revolvers and the indifferent gave of Washington, I acquire the world. It deflates immediately . . .