The Atlantic Daily: America’s Racial Contract Is Exposed Anew

The killing of a black man at the hands of the police in Minneapolis has stirred outrage.

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Protesters demonstrate against the death of George Floyd, a black man who was killed after being pinned down by police in Minneapolis. (RICHARD TSONG-TAATARII / STAR TRIBUNE VIA GETTY)

The Death of George Floyd

The killing of a black man at the hands of the police in Minneapolis has stirred outrage. Earlier this month, my colleague Adam Serwer outlined the bitter terms of America’s racial contract, “a codicil rendered in invisible ink, one stating that the rules as written do not apply to nonwhite people in the same way.” We asked him about George Floyd:

I wrote a few weeks ago that “video evidence of unjustified shootings of black people is so jarring in part because it exposes the terms of the racial contract so vividly.” George Floyd was not shot, but he was killed on video by Minneapolis police while both Floyd and bystanders pleaded for help. The officers arresting him did nothing to save him. That indifference to Floyd's life is a clause in the racial contract, in that the officers themselves did not see Floyd's life as one they were bound to serve and protect, and did not expect to be punished for failing to do so.

Adam’s piece is worth revisiting—do so here.


The Latest on the Coronavirus

Summer 2020 is shaping up to be a season of risk assessment.

In the spring, the directive was clear: Stay home, to allow doctors and scientists the time to play catch-up.

Going forward, the calculus is more complicated. While staying home is still the safest option, we’ll need to build structures that allow for relief from quarantine fatigue.

“Thinking about safety as binary isn’t going to cut it anymore,” Amanda Mull explains. “The key to responsibly reopening your life is understanding what makes you and those around you more or less safe at any given moment.”

Thankfully, researchers now know more about this virus than they did in the chilly days of early spring. Their findings are preliminary, but they can help Americans better understand the risks. Below, our reporters offer a preview of the forthcoming strange summer:

Outdoor areas are believed to carry lower risk for transmission.

“Globally, documented cases of outdoor transmission are exceedingly rare so far; the one most frequently cited involved two friends who had a lengthy, close interaction,” Amanda reports.

But pool parties are still likely a no-go.

“The coronavirus can’t remain infectious in pool water, multiple experts assured me,” Olga Khazan writes, “but people who come to pools do not stay in the water the entire time.”

The great indoors will need some major retooling.

“Offices, schools, stores, theaters, restaurants, bars, gyms, fitness centers, and museums will have no semblance of normalcy until we learn how to be safe—and feel safe—inside,” Derek Thompson writes.

For now, avoid indoor spaces where large groups of people spend extended periods of time close together.

These kinds of places could seed super-spreading events, Amanda explains. “If you live in a state that now allows people to go out to bars, return to work in open-plan offices, or attend religious services, even in reduced numbers, the best and simplest thing you can do to protect your health is to avoid those situations like, well, the plague.”


One question, answered: What happens if a major natural disaster strikes during the pandemic?

Tornadoes have already hit some parts of the country, and hurricane season is approaching. The combination of natural disasters and a pandemic could prove catastrophic: There’s the added challenge of how to safely evacuate and shelter people without furthering the spread of COVID-19. The economic repercussions of the pandemic will make it harder for people to prepare and recover. And the country’s already-strained medical and emergency-management systems would bear even bigger burdens.

Emergency managers are updating disaster plans and doing trial runs to figure out how to adapt to our new reality. But experts agree that now is a time for everyone—individual citizens, too—to take preparedness seriously. Some ways to do that: Make an evacuation plan and keep a hard copy of it; read your state’s disaster survival guides; stock up on a few weeks’ worth of supplies if you can.

What to read if … you just want practical advice:

View all of our stories related to the coronavirus outbreak here. We’re looking to talk with individuals who got sick with COVID-19 and didn’t tell their family about it. To share your experience, please write to us here.

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