National Geographic : 2018 Apr
the rising anxiety of White america 99 Outfitters have opened distribution centers and plants offering jobs that helped attract the massive Latino migration. Longazel says white residents “miss the opportunity to see that the old-timers and the newcomers came to Hazleton for the same thing: They wanted jobs and a better life for their families. They actually have things in common.” There are groups working to build cultural bridges. It’s not surprising that many of them, such as the Hazleton Integration Project, focus on young people. Rocco Petrone is the principal of Hazleton Area High School, and he says he knows better than to toss around bromides, such as, “Kids today simply don’t see race.” A recent survey found that young adults over- whelmingly believe that race relations in the U.S. grew worse last year. Young people have inherited a diverse world. They attend school together, lis- ten to each other’s music, and date across the col- or line. What will it take to actually shift attitudes as young white people march into adulthood? Kids have found a way to do something that is more rare among adults. They talk to each other. Yes, they roll their eyes and show annoyance, but they engage and they listen. They cheer for each other on the court and the football field, and they take for granted that a blond homecoming queen named Savannah Butala from the advanced math and science program was crowned alongside a star student named Rafael Santos, who came to Hazle- ton from the Dominican Republic in 2011. Few communities have seen the kind of rapid change that Hazleton has. It has produced a lot of discomfort and disorientation, and perhaps a good deal of disgust. Longtime residents are an- gry about crime, overcrowded schools, and the city budget crisis. They are frustrated that those who are bilingual get paid more or have an easier time moving up the management ladder. Dough- erty understands that but says if you look closely, you also see that the changes in Hazleton have produced a lot of discoveries and adjustments. He sees it in his own neighborhood, where peo- ple are finally starting to talk to each other, and with co-workers willing to share a beer after work or go to a barbershop together. He sees it at the Sanctuary, where he performs; people there are a bit less tribal, a bit more willing to root for some- one who doesn’t share their heritage. On a weekday morning at the A&L Lounge, Sac- co, who is 64, tends bar from a sunken galley that resembles an orchestra pit. The regulars always sit at the bar, close to the televisions and close enough to each other to catch up on town gossip. They drink highballs or beer on tap. They wear work boots and plaid. The tables in the back are where Latino men sit in a circle for a cold one af- ter finishing their overnight shifts in local plants. They have high-maintenance haircuts and fancy tennis shoes. They drink Heineken and Corona, pay in $20 bills, and always leave a tip for Sacco. They also give him tips on how to speak Span- ish. He used to find that irksome, but he has warmed to it. “I should have taken those Span- ish classes seriously back in high school, but you know, who knew this was coming?” he said. Immigrants have been flocking to Hazleton for decades. Putting down roots. Working hard. Rais- ing families. Striving. Climbing. Spending money in local businesses. But the word “immigrant” takes on a different tone now. Older Hazleton res- idents who are themselves the children of immi- grants often say the word with a sneer. Sacco loved growing up in Hazleton and keeps a collection of memorabilia that shows the town as it was in the era he considers its heyday, when Broad Street had supper clubs and theaters with neon lights. He’s angry about the changes in his hometown. Really angry. And yet, does he resent the men who come to his bar and spend money? After all, they repre- sent the change that chafes so much. “Hard to be angry at them,” he said. “ They are just work- ing hard, and I respect that. I guess you have to respect that.” j The Race Card Project In 2010 Michele Norris began inviting people to distill their thoughts on race to just six words. Today more than 200,000 statements have been submitted from every U.S. state and 90 countries, often accompanied by essays with sentiments and hard truths rarely expressed out loud. To join the discussion, visit theracecardproject.com.