Racial prejudice

How 19th-century gold rushes led to a distrust of China

For a brief moment three summers ago it seemed that the clear Idaho air wafting through the Sun Valley Literary Festival had become tainted with the smoke and soot of Nuremberg. Here was Thomas Friedman, bloviator-in-chief to America’s chattering classes, standing before a rally of thousands, delivering a powerful philippic about the ascent of the Asiatic East. As he warmed to his theme, he decided for some messianic reason to demand that his audience chant the phrase that he suggested now dominated the American economic landscape. Come on, he urged like a latter-day Elmer Gantry, yell out with me the words: ‘Everything. Is. Made. In. CHINA!’ And, as one, the

‘Britain’s Dreyfus Affair’: a very nasty village scandal

It has been described as Britain’s Dreyfus Affair — the wrongful imprisonment in 1903 of a half-Indian solicitor George Edalji in the Midlands and the refusal of the authorities to pay him compensation, even though he was later pardoned. In a case tainted by racism, class prejudice and plain stupidity, Edalji was accused of mutilating horses, sheep and cattle, and then forging letters to implicate others, thus creating mayhem in the village of Great Wyrley where he lived, in a mining district in Staffordshire. His cause was taken up by a home-grown Zola in the form of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who was happy to replicate the investigatory skills of

Dark secrets: The Vanishing Half, by Brit Bennett, reviewed

Passé Blanc is the Creole expression — widely used in the US — for black people ‘passing for white’ to seek social and economic privileges otherwise denied them. Brit Bennett has a panoptic approach to racial passing in this intergenerational family saga, which takes us on a 20-year journey into the lives of twin sisters Desiree and Stella Vignes. We meet them in the 1950s as children living in Mallard, a small town in the Deep South known for its light-skinned negroes. For Desiree, the local obsession with skin colour makes little sense, since being light-skinned didn’t save her father from being lynched by white men. In their teens, the