Teju Cole on Blackface and Valeria Luiselli on the Border Crisis

Teju Cole on Blackface and Valeria Luiselli on the Border Crisis

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.