There was so much news in 2018. It nearly seemed like a month’s worth of stories by previous years’ standards broke in a single day.
News from the White House, Supreme Court, and Department of Justice led coverage throughout print and cable news, monopolizing casual conversation.
With so much happening, many big stories slipped past the consciousness of the public or failed to survive coverage of the next big story.
As we head into 2019 hoping for even a brief reprieve from the dizzying series of events we just lived through, let’s recall some of the top multicultural news stories of 2018.
From historic successes to heartrending tragedies, 2018 was another groundbreaking year for diverse communities in the U.S.
As with the first year of the Trump administration, immigration continued to be a theme in 2018.
The year got off to a portentous start when reports surfaced in January that President Trump used crude and derogatory language to describe the countries of origin of Haitian, African, and Central-American immigrants. The remarks came during discussions with legislators about the temporary protected status given to immigrants fleeing natural disasters and dangerous situations in their home countries.
While the administration has moved to eliminate deportation protection from these immigrants, the issue remains unresolved. Recently, the same language and similar remarks were cited by a judge, who ordered a temporary injunction to delay deportations.
Immigration news was unrelenting in 2018, with multiple migrant caravans trekking from Central America, a troop deployment to the border just before the midterm elections, and continued calls from hardliners to erect a wall.
The fate of Dreamers remains in the air, and many other policies — who could request asylum, where they should do it, where they should stay while their cases were reviewed — changed quickly only to be challenged in court, overturned, or revised.
By far, the most contentious immigration issue of 2018 was the child separation policy. The policy called for a zero-tolerance approach, prosecution of all unauthorized border crossings, and the separate detainment of parents and their children. The news was flooded with images of terrified children and anguished parents. During its height from April to June, more than 2,000 children were separated from their families.
Public outrage was intense. Trump ended the policy by executive order in June, but the hard work of reuniting children with their families continued into the fall.
In October, long-smoldering tensions exploded into a series hate-motivated attacks within days of each other.
On Oct. 24, two African Americans were killed at a grocery store in Jeffersontown, Ky. Prior to the shooting, the assailant attempted to enter a predominantly African-American church, but had been thwarted by locked doors. This attack was quickly overshadowed by pipe bombs sent to journalists, activists, and Democratic politicians on Oct. 26. Then the next day, 11 people were killed by a gunman during services at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in one of the deadliest anti-Semitic attacks in U.S. history.
Even beyond this terrifying burst of events in October, hate crimes appear to be on the rise.
In Nov. 2018, the FBI released its annual accounting of crimes motivated by bias based on race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation. Overall in 2017, there was a 17 percent increase in reports of hate crimes with a frightening 37 percent increase in anti-Semitic crimes.
Revised Maria death toll
Even though hurricanes Maria and Irma struck Puerto Rico in 2017, they made news again in 2018, when a study by George Washington University estimated the death toll from the hurricanes and their aftereffects at nearly 3,000 people.
The increase from the previous official toll of 64 accounted for deaths as a consequence of the devastating power outages and other infrastructure failures that plagued the island in the following months, exacerbating health issues and putting the vulnerable at risk.
The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that 130,000 Puerto Ricans have moved to the mainland since the hurricanes.
That figure represents a four percent loss of population for the island in the past year, but beyond that, as those affected by the hurricanes relocate, it ensures that the aftermath will reshape demographics on the mainland, as well.
Though midterm elections normally garner attention mostly from political junkies and pundits, 2018 was an exception.
With so much coverage and so many close races, concerns of unfair voting laws and potential voter suppression arose across the country.
In Georgia, a lawsuit filed in federal court after the election alleges that new laws and voter roll purges disproportionately affected Georgians of color.
In North Carolina, allegations of election fraud in Bladen and Robeson counties are being investigated.
Accounts of absentee ballots being illegally harvested have surfaced and the numbers do not seem to add up. An incommensurate number of unreturned absentee ballots particularly in Robeson County were issued to African American and Native American voters. The election results remain uncertified.
Diversity in the midterm elections
Not all the political news of 2018 was dire from a multicultural perspective.
In one of the most closely watched midterm election cycles in recent memory, many diverse candidates competed and won groundbreaking seats.
Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib became the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, while Sharice Davids and Deb Haaland became the first two Native American women to win seats in the House. Davids also is lesbian, while Colorado elected Jared Polis as the nation’s first openly gay governor in wins for LGBT candidates.
A host of other women were elected to office in 2018, including the first two black congresswomen from the New England states of Massachusetts and Connecticut and Texas’s first two Latina congresswomen.
With all the victories for women and people of color, the 116th Congress will be the most diverse in our nation’s history.
Diversity succeeds at the box office
In entertainment news, 2018 may be remembered as the year for diverse films.
Black Panther set a host of box office records — including best opening weekend for a film directed by a person of color and fifth best of all time — doing so with a largely black cast. The Afrofuturist super hero movie became a cultural phenomenon drawing in droves of comic book fans and movie lovers to watch the story of a technologically advanced African kingdom. With an empowering “black is beautiful” aesthetic and a feminist bent, Black Panther was deeply meaningful to the African-American community as a cultural achievement even beyond its commercial success and potential awards season haul.
Meanwhile, Crazy Rich Asians became one of the top rom-coms of the year, proving that an Asian-American cast can drive a box-office smash with funny and sexy portrayals. As awards season opens, the film already has made its mark with multiple Golden Globe nominations.
As 2018 gives way to the new year, the nation is bracing for the next wave of breaking news.
The year is closing with the second government shutdown over immigration, an omen that 2019 will bring many more contentious issues to the diverse communities in U.S., but just as our different voices and perspectives enrich our nation, may 2019 bring its own share of firsts and surprise successes to all communities.
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Nicole Howard is an associate product manager at Cision, as well as an editor and freelance writer. When not working or reading, she enjoys word puzzles and the outdoors.