Museum of America in the Pandemic Year, 2020

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Jun 15: The Supreme Court finds employers cannot discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The Food and Drug Administration rescinds its authorization of the emergency use of the anti-malaria drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine to fight COVID-19. Statisticians predict U.S. could see its COVID-19 death toll rise to 201,129 by early October, according to a new estimate released Monday by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington.

From the cutting room floor...

I wonder what will come of all our marching. I know that all this anger and hope could so easily lead to nothing. We need national and local leaders with reasonable reform ideas. We need to translate Floyd’s death into real policy changes. History has not been encouraging in this regard. So many people have died while the police stay the same, while unfair housing and poor access to education and healthcare continue. We tried passing laws in the 1960s with the Voting Rights Act and the Fair Housing Act, but even they eroded under constant pressure. Is it possible that those laws didn’t stick because they were coming from the top down? They were rules being imposed upon a reluctant majority white population who didn’t believe or didn’t care that Black people deserved an equal vote or equal access to housing.

But I think that we can dare to hope. I see a massive, diverse, movement that is reflective, first and foremost, of a change in thinking. I see a white population that is beginning to understand not only that, in order for all lives to matter, Black lives have to matter, but also that they need to use their privilege to protect Black folks when they see discrimination happening. A new poll by the Associated Press and the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago finds that white attitudes are (very) slowly shifting regarding fairness around the treatment of African Americans by police. Let’s not get too excited, however—the gap in the perceptions of blacks and whites over being treated “fairly” in general society remains enormous.[1] This is especially true when it comes to treatment by healthcare workers. Polled whites largely believe African Americans receive equitable care; two-thirds of black respondents disagreed. Maybe the change has to happen here, on the ground, first. Then the laws will stick because everyone will believe in them.

I come home to read some encouraging news. In a 6-3 decision that will resound through the ages, the Supreme Court ruled this morning in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia that the 1964 Civil Rights Act also applies to LGBTQ+ individuals. From now on, workplaces will not be allowed to discriminate against someone for their expressed sexual orientation. We know that this ruling does not signal the end of LGBTQ+ discrimination. Just as in the case of race-based discrimination, employers will be more calculating in their justifications for firing people. Employer reviews of homosexual and gender-non-conforming employees will list the “comfort of the customer” or the workplace “culture” rather than the orientation of the employee as their reason for termination. Nonetheless, it is a step in the right direction. A number of studies attest to the fact that these legal changes are happening as a result of rising widespread acceptance of homosexuality in America over the last thirty years.[2] Straight people changed their thinking about LGBTQ+ lives and how they matter. This, too, happened from the ground up.

In contrast, the Supreme Court did not agree to hear a case involving qualified immunity.[3] This is the concept, dating back to the days of Richard Nixon and Watergate, that government employees can be shielded from “frivolous” prosecution unless their conduct violated a “clearly established” prior court ruling prohibiting such conduct. In practice, this clause protects police officers from being held responsible for the use of excessive or deadly force. Especially after a 2009 Supreme Court decision in Pearson v. Callahan, courts have typically sided with police and made it difficult for the survivors of police brutality, or their next of kin if they did not survive, from prosecuting.[4] Just a week ago, there were several such cases pending that the court could have heard.[5] Clarifying the application of qualified immunity would have gone some way toward addressing the open wound in the country right now. I want to keep marching, but if this does not get fixed, no protest will stop the violence.




[1] Kat Stafford and Hannah Fingerhut, “AP-NORC Poll: Sweeping Change in US Views of Police Violence,” AP NEWS, June 17, 2020,

[2] National Opinion Research Center, “Americans Move Dramatically Toward Acceptance of Homosexuality,” NORC,

[3] “Supreme Court Declines to Weigh in on Legal Doctrine That Shields Law Enforcement,” CNN, June 15, 2020,

[4] Rew Chung et al., “For Cops Who Kill, Special Supreme Court Protection,” Reuters, May 8, 2020,

[5] Nina Totenberg, “Supreme Court Weighs Qualified Immunity For Police Accused Of Misconduct,”, June 8, 2020,


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“Meet people volunteering to be exposed to COVID-19 for vaccine research,” PBS NewsHour, June 15, 2020.


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Valerio, Mike. “National Museum of African American History & Culture Asks Protesters for Lafayette Square Items.” WUSA 9 CBS, June 12, 2020.
US Supreme Court. “Order List: 590 U.S., CERTIORARI, US Supreme Court,” includes U.S. 18-1287 Baxter v. Bracey [SCOTUS refuses to hear qualified immunity for police officers case], June 15, 2020.
Hinton, Denise M. “Letter from FDA to to Gary Disbrow, Deputy Assistant Secretary (HHS)” [revokes FDA authorization for hydroxychloroquine], June 15, 2020.
Independent Sector. “The Impact of COVID-19 on Mid-Sized Nonprofits.” Independent Sector, June 15, 2020.
McLaughlin, David, Lydia Mulvany, and Michael Hirtzer. “U.S. Meat Giants Face Biggest Attack in Century From Probe.”, June 15, 2020.
Bostock v. Clayton County, No. 17-1618 (Supreme Court of the United States, June 15, 2020).
Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. “IHME Models Show Second Wave of COVID-19 Beginning September 15 in US,” June 11, 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.