Museum of America in the Pandemic Year, 2020

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Jun 7: Nine out of 13 members of the Minneapolis City Council announce during a  rally that they intend to dismantle the city’s police department, diverting funds to a new public safety system. In a statement, the council members says that “decades of police reform efforts have proved that the Minneapolis Police Department cannot be reformed, and will never be accountable for its actions.” Former Republican Secretary of State Colin Powell on says he will support former Vice President Joe Biden in the November presidential election, saying President Trump is a chronic liar who has “drifted away” from the Constitution. Demonstrators pull down the statue of 17th-century slaver Edward Colston in England and throw it into a nearby harbor.

Jun 8: House Democrats  unveil their police reform proposal as protests continue nationwide over police brutality against African Americans. The bill, the Justice in Policing Act, seeks to ban no-knock warrants in drug investigations, as well as chokeholds, which can be fatal. The U.S. economy goes into recession for the first time since 2009.

From the cutting room floor...

While pondering the question of what America can do differently, taking into account the anger against police brutality and the larger systems of racial injustice that are their subject, it might also be worthwhile to take a moment and consider what America doesn’t need to do.

It seems important that white Americans who want change protest authentically. Instead, so often, it’s rooted in shallow “virtue signaling”—when privileged people attach themselves to countercultural movements in order to signal to the outside world how virtuous or radical they are. It might seem harmless, but it only conceals and perpetuates inequity. A wealthy white social media “influencer” from Beverly Hills can drive down to Compton in her Mercedes and take a picture of herself holding a drill, pretending to board up a business to defend the community from looters. She can talk all the while about how good it will look on her Instagram page, but such actions are only salt in the wounds of those who are actually suffering.

There is, of course, nothing new to virtue signaling. In 1970, Tom Wolfe wrote a classic essay about white America’s use of the Black Panther movement as a form of virtue signaling, or, what he called the “Radical Chic.”[1] The composer, Leonard Bernstein, and his wife Felicia invited the leaders of the Panthers to a swanky party at their Upper West Side Manhattan home. They served little Roquefort cheese morsels rolled in crushed nuts. They loved the edgy radicalism of the Panthers with their Yoruba-style headdresses and black turtlenecks. The Panthers were so much cooler than the droopy, clerical, middle class, 1950s and ’60s “negroes wearing gray suits three sizes too big.”[2] For the Black Panther leaders like Donald Cox, it was a necessary visit. In return for letting the white, virtue signaling, radical chic of New York use the Panthers to make them look cooler, virtuous in all the right ways, the Panthers raised money that would take Black kids on tours of the Scarsdale suburbs so that they could see how their oppressors lived and be radicalized to tear those systems of oppression down.

On the surface, it might seem like BLM needs white social media virtue signalers, if only to keep the media buzz alive. In the end, however, it probably does more harm than good. It is a profound gesture of disrespect to those who are taking to the streets because of real suffering. More importantly, it reflects the extent to which these folks have failed to internalize what “Black Lives Matter” really means. In the end, I fear it bodes poorly for the possibility of real societal change once the marches stop this summer.



[1] Tom Wolfe, “Tom Wolfe on Radical Chic and Leonard Bernstein’s Party for the Black Panthers — New York Magazine – Nymag,” New York Magazine, April 15, 2008,

[2] Wolfe.

Read more


Tucker Carlson, “Black Lives Matter is now a political party,” Tucker Carlson Tonight, June 8, 2020.

Trevor Noah, “America Protests Police Brutality and Systemic Racism | The Daily Social Distancing Show,” The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, June 8, 2020.

“Florissant woman helps change Merriam Webster’s definition of racism,” KMOV St. Louis, June 8, 2020.

Laura Ellis, “Black Youth Confront Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer: ‘You’ve Been Using Us For Photo Ops For Years’,” June 7, 2020.

“Black Life 50 Years After the Kerner Report,” Newsy, March 1, 2018.

John Oliver, “Police,” Last Week Tonight, June 8, 2020.


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President Truman’s Committee on Civil Rights. “To Secure These Rights: The Report of President Truman’s Committee on Civil Rights.” Harry S Truman Library & Museum: National Archives, October 29, 1947.
Harris, Adam. “Racism Won’t Be Solved by Yet Another Blue-Ribbon Report.” The Atlantic, June 4, 2020.
Whitaker, Morgan. “GOP Declares War on ‘War on Poverty.’” MSNBC, January 6, 2014.
Maciag, Mike. “The Daily Crisis Cops Aren’t Trained to Handle.” Governing, May 2016.
McAdams, Michael. “Democrats Are Insane.” NRCC, June 8, 2020.
Meier, Mark. “Road Runners.” Treatment Advocacy Center, May 2019.
Additional links

* 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.