Museum of America in the Pandemic Year, 2020

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May 30: Protests against police brutality following the death of George Floyd continue throughout dozens of cities across the United States. The demonstrations are largely peaceful during the day, but several turn violent at night, as police and crowds clash. In New York, a police car plows into a crowd of protesters, and one person is killed in Indianapolis when a gunman fires at a protest. Hundreds of people are arrested throughout the day. Mayors in several cities issue curfews, while the National Guard is activated in Washington, D.C., and 10 states, including Minnesota, where Floyd died. By Saturday evening, around 1,000 protesters in Washington have gathered by the White House, which is protected by Secret Service, D.C. police, and U.S. Park Police. Global coronavirus infections top 6 million.

From the cutting room floor...

Something has shifted underneath the ground of this country. I do not know how to convey the chaos that is unfolding around us. Today, as the CDC reports total predicted excess deaths since Feb 2 in the United States to be somewhere between 174,930 and 235,728, fury over the murders of Ahmaud Arbury, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd has merged into Black Lives Matter protests threading through a dozen or more major cities from coast to coast. Massive protests with hundreds, even thousands of participants meet with teargas and flashbang grenades. As I watch the videos on Twitter and the television news showing police cracking down violently against peaceful protesters, I keep thinking, what the hell is wrong with these cops? Why do they beat and mace people who are simply holding signs? Why do they hit people with their cars? Where is their composure under pressure? Why are they masked, like the secret police of history’s worst authoritarian regimes? They have been ordered to enforce curfews, and I know that they are following commands that have come from their leaders, but do they not see that America is hurting and angry? Do they not understand why people have taken to the streets to protest the exact senselessness in their violence that they are exhibiting over and over again?[1]

“This is not America in the 21st century,” I keep whispering to myself as image after image of police beating protesters plays on the screens. This must be Hungary in 1956, or Selma in 1965, or Tiananmen Square in 1989.

But of course, this is America.

We are in the middle of a pandemic. The Minneapolis police just killed a Black man remorselessly on camera. America is aching and exhausted from centuries of continued violence against minorities and four years of overt expansion of racist social practices and structures from the heights of leadership. We are openly displaying the underbelly of America that we don’t see in our hagiographic textbooks and state-approved high school curricula. This is the violence that Black America faces every day. This is the state violence that can come down on you at the drop of a hat, for no obvious reason except that the color of your skin and the texture of your hair is different than the person sitting next to you.

Is it just me, or are there not clear similarities between the management of the pandemic and the management of these protests? Instead of acknowledging the problem, we are faced with brute denial. Instead of taking responsibility, our leadership casts blame on the very people who are hurting the most. Instead of calling for new action, all the nations resources are mobilized to maintain the status quo. Just as we have a large population that will refuse to wear a mask to defend the lives of all Americans, so too do we have tens of thousands of people who are not able to see the fragility, fear, and danger that comes with being a Black person in America. All of it is rooted in a profound lack of basic human empathy.

Many leaders, like Civil Rights stalwart, Rep. John Lewis try to tamp down the rage and emphasize nonviolence and civic action. The debates from fifty years ago rise again like hot phoenixes right there in the comments to his Twitter post—how long do we wait? How patient must we be? Why do the bodies of Black and Brown protesters have to remain nonviolent while white power wields whatever weapon is at hand? 

Meanwhile, a simple virus for which there is no treatment continues, unaddressed by the so-called leader of the free world. I fear there is no Apollo Program behind the scenes working on a solution.


[1] CDC, “Excess Deaths Associated with COVID-19,” May 30, 2020, Videos taken from media sources can be viewed on the JPY website.

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@josemendex, Josemendez, 2020-5-30, “Atlanta said Fu*k everything else up but not Waffle House 😂” #foryou #viral #georgefloydprotest #blacklivesmatter #atlanta #endracism2020 #riot.

@whatchugotforme, Sarah Cooper, 2020-5-30, “How to MAGA,” TikTok,

Michigan United for Liberty (May 30, 2020),

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* Timeline summaries at the top of the page come from a variety of sources:, including The American Journal of Managed Care COVID-19 Timeline (, the Just Security Group at the NYU School of Law (, the “10 Things,” daily entries from The Week (, as well as a variety of newspapers and television programs.