Can a tree be racist? A few years ago, debate on this issue reached as far as Fox News. The focus was a row of tamarisk trees along a huge golf course in Palm Springs, which screened off the neighborhood of Crossley Tract. This is a historically Black neighborhood, named after its founder Lawrence Crossley, who was one of the first Black residents to settle in the largely white tourist paradise, established on indigenous land over a century ago.
According to the residents of Crossley Tract, the trees were instrumental in a policy of segregation. Requests to remove the trees were repeatedly rejected by the city government, until the neighborhood found a white spokesperson in the person of Trae Daniel.
In five chapters, the equally bizarre and complex history of the tree dispute is peeled away like the layers of an onion. Sitting in their backyards, representatives of both sides of the argument give their viewpoints. As to the assertion that there is no institutional racism in liberal Palm Springs, flipping through a few dark chapters of local history is enough to refute that claim.