As had been suggested to me over and over, I was very likely the first black woman many Kunmingers had ever met. Being first meant carrying the burdens that came with it.
Despite the progress over the years in the US, Lalami shows how this system has nonetheless managed to evolve to target its traditionally persecuted groups — its citizens for whom citizenship, with all its implications, including fair and equal protection under the law, is conditional, even rescindable — in new ways.
I imagine a conversation between the two I’d just missed before the photo was taken, possibly right before one takes a sip, and the other takes a bite. The conversation might have been similar to one I’d had with my own mother, where I, as a teenager, asked questions expecting that—maybe this time—I would feel satisfied with her answers.