Museum of America in the Pandemic Year, 2020

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Jul 5: The U.S sees record cases of COVID for the 27th day in a row. People topple a statue of abolitionist Frederick Douglass in Rochester, New York on the anniversary of his July 5, 1852 speech, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July.” Public health experts reject President Trump’s claim in his July 4th speech that 99 percent of coronavirus cases were “totally harmless.” Trump also continues his argument that the nation’s rising number of infections is a reflection of stepped up testing, not an increase in the spread of the virus. Developers cancel the long-delayed Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

From the Cutting Room Floor...

White evangelical church pastors, maybe more than other white-collar professionals, have had to learn how to respond to Black Lives Matter marches, police brutality, and the behavior of the president. Surely, many decided to avoid, obfuscate, and blame the protestors. But for those who have actually wanted to engage, even while fearing their ability to do it well, there’s been another opportunity: Black pastor assistance.

White pastors are inundating African American pastors with requests to help shape communications between them and their white congregations. Unfortunately, this interest has a tendency to wane. As Greg Jao, the director of external relations at college ministry InterVarsity points out, the George Floyd moment is all too typical. White evangelical interest in race and racism happens every few years, usually in response to police brutality. There are sermons. There are even revivals. After a few white congregations gesture at something they call “racial reconciliation,” nothing more happens. White congregations get amnesia and Sunday remains, as Dr. King said years ago, the most segregated day in America.[1]

It seems like sermon consultation is just one kind of white-demanded “performance of blackness” that is happening around us. Secular, liberal white folk aggressively demand Black artists doing blackness so that whites can feel virtuous—different versions of what Tom Wolfe mocked as radical chic in the 1970s. Playwright Aurin Squire surely speaks for many when he says that African American artists don’t want to have to simply create a Black self to be consumed by whites who want to be seen as “woke.” “We don’t want to be pandered to, infantilized, castrated, and turned into helpless victims. …don’t want to speak on your diversity panel, listen to white liberals on instagram crying about their privilege, or placate corporate America with a black square on a social media profile.”[2] As James Baldwin once discovered, white media, white theater, white critics, white educational systems all thirst for a very narrow version of Blackness like that in Richard Wright’s Native Son.

My Black colleagues in academia and journalism all complain of their extraordinary service requirements, often consisting of sitting on committees where “diversity” is a mandate. I don’t want to be just another white woman asking a Black colleague to make me look woke. At the same time, I want to include and listen to Black and Brown voices. I certainly don’t want to speak for them. I could choose not to write about these moments at all and leave these realities to Black authors and scholars to ponder, but if racism (meaning disproportional imbalances of power and economic security tied to one’s culturally assigned race) persists—and of course it does—then staying silent by those who hold most of that power only feeds the problem.

Perhaps the answer those of us who recognize the immorality of the imbalance should tread humbly to address it—do the research, write the stories we are able to see from our limited vantage points, apologize for our mistakes, make clear that we are trying to be a part of the solution, and leave the generalizations to the politicians and the pundits.


[1] Emma Green, “The Unofficial Racism Consultants to the White Evangelical World,” The Atlantic, July 5, 2020,

[2] Aurin Squire, “The Return Of A Native Son,” Talking Points Memo, July 2, 2020,

[3] Larry Buchanan, Quoctrung Bui, and Jugal K. Patel, “Black Lives Matter May Be the Largest Movement in U.S. History,” The New York Times, July 3, 2020, sec. U.S.,

Read more

“James Baldwin Discusses Racism,” The Dick Cavett Show (May 16, 1969),

Ellis Haslip, “James Baldwin & Nikki Giovani — A Conversation,” Soul (1971),

Martin Luther King, Jr., “The Most Segregated Hour in America” Meet the Press (April 17, 1960),

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Green, Emma. “The Unofficial Racism Consultants to the White Evangelical World.” The Atlantic, July 5, 2020.

Squire, Aurin. “The Return Of A Native Son.” Talking Points Memo, July 2, 2020.

Jackson, David, and Joey Garrison. “Kanye West Says He’s Running for President. Some Deadlines Have Passed.” USA Today, July 5, 2020.
Seitz, Amanda. “Facebook Groups Pivot to Attacks on Black Lives Matter.” AP News, July 5, 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.