A local resident stands in front of a makeshift memorial honoring George Floyd, at the spot where he was taken into custody, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S., June 1, 2020.  REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Race, Police & the Pandemic

June 2, 2020

As streets across America erupt into clashes over racism during the coronavirus pandemic, Jelani Cobb of The New Yorker examines a connection between George Floyd’s death and the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 deaths among African Americans: “the thing that ties them together is empirical evidence of a phenomenon that had been dismissed otherwise.” 

Cobb describes how the relationship between black Americans and the police has become a “barometer” for race relations in the country, drawing on his years of covering explosive tensions that he says are “overwhelmingly” in response to an issue of police use of force. “…Once you looked at the way that policing functioned, it was almost an indicator of the way lots of other institutions were functioning in those communities.” And yet, he says that this time — as the nation battles a highly infectious outbreak — the outrage is spreading in a way that seems different.

For more from Jelani Cobb and FRONTLINE, watch 2016’s “Policing the Police”: now streaming on YouTube, on the PBS Video App and online.

The FRONTLINE Dispatch is made possible by the Abrams Foundation Journalism Initiative.