Teju Cole on Blackface and Valeria Luiselli on the Border Crisis

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When depictions of Virginia politicians in blackface surfaced this month, the New Yorker contributor Teju Cole was unsurprised. “A white man of a certain age in the U.S.,” he reflects, “is found to have done something racist in his past; well, yes.” As a photographer and photo critic, he is acutely aware that a photograph captures the thinnest sliver of time, half a second or much less. So any photograph of a man in blackface—or in any other offensive image—always indicates that “there’s a lot more where that came from.” And Valeria Luiselli, a writer born in Mexico, struggles to depict the experiences of children arriving alone at the southern border, in circumstances unimaginably different from her own border crossings as the daughter of a diplomat.

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