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To put it clinically, America is experiencing large-scale civil unrest following the death of George Floyd. But that description fails to capture the emotions on display in the country’s biggest cities, many of which remain under curfew.
Over the weekend, James Fallows, a longtime correspondent for this magazine, wondered whether 2020 was the worst year in modern American history, comparing it to another year of widespread strife: 1968.
Below, four writers share their perspectives on the uprisings across the country:
“To be black and conscious of anti-black racism is to stare into the mirror of your own extinction,” Ibram X. Kendi, our contributing writer and the author of How to Be an Antiracist, writes.
And, furthermore, there’s no “acceptable” form of black dissent, the historian Kellie Carter Jackson writes: “Throughout history, black people have employed violence, nonviolence, marches, and boycotts. Only one thing is clear—there is no form of black protest that white supremacy will sanction.”
Arnold Schwarzenegger, the former governor of California, argues: “The protesters we see in the streets don’t hate America. They are asking us to be better … on behalf of our fellow Americans who no longer have a voice: Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and many others.”
Clint Smith, a poet and a writer, delivers lyrical prose: “It is one thing to be concerned for my own well-being, to navigate the country as a black man and to encounter its risks. It is another thing to be raising two black children and to consider both the dangers for yourself and the dangers that lie ahead for them.”
One question, answered: Will the protests spread COVID-19?
The answer is yes, Robinson Meyer reports—experts anticipate an uptick in cases within two weeks. He explains why:
The virus seems to spread the most when people yell (such as to chant a slogan), sneeze (to expel pepper spray), or cough (after inhaling tear gas). It is transmitted most efficiently in crowds and large gatherings, and research has found that just a few contagious people can infect hundreds of susceptible people around them. The virus can spread especially easily in small, cramped places, such as police vans and jails.
Yet some experts told him that they do not oppose the protests. As one put it: “Structural racism has been a public-health crisis for much longer than the pandemic has.”
Every week, Lori Gottlieb answers questions from readers about their problems, big and small. This week she advises a reader whose daughter lives abroad:
We devoted 20-plus years to her, and do not feel that she values our efforts, or that she truly understands the impact that seeing her only once or twice a year is having on us. She is very independent and I am afraid of making this into an irreparably bad situation.