Commentary \ Policing, pandemic and the American racial divide.

Release date: 2020-07

Over the past month the United States has experienced the greatest civil unrest since 1968. Demonstrations have occurred in more in 1700 towns and cities in all 50 states. Outrage over the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, caught on video, drew people into the streets to protest racial injustice. To understand why this single incident provoked such a response Thomas Mockaitis, Professor of History, DePaul University, examines the confluence of three factors: systemic racism, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the nature of American policing.

As the 1619 Project demonstrates, racism has been woven into the fabric of American society from its foundation. African-Americans endured nearly a century and half of slavery followed by another century of legal apartheid, known as “Jim Crow.” Even after the civil rights legislation of the 1960’s, African Americans faced discrimination in all areas of political, economic and social life.  A few key indicators reveal the nature and extent of this inequality. Median household income for African-Americans in 2018 was just over 60% of that for White Americans. According to 2015 Center for Disease Control statistics, African Americans had an average life expectancy three years lower than White Americans. They also suffer from disparities in health and education.