Protests over the police killing of George Floyd prompted city officials and TV commentators to voice concern in recent weeks that mass demonstrations could lead to further outbreaks of the coronavirus.
“When you get congregations like we saw with the demonstrations, that’s taking a risk,” said immunologist Dr. Anthony Fauci last Wednesday on Good Morning America.
Indeed, large gatherings of protesters (many without masks) could cause infections to spike, contributing to a possible “second wave” of the outbreak. It’s a consequence worthy of our collective attention, which is why even the World Health Organization weighed in, supporting the protests while asking demonstrators to exercise caution.
However, as journalists scramble to contextualize the protests and riots against the backdrop of a global pandemic, one important point is getting lost in the frenzy: Marches against racism and inequality do not threaten the public’s health nearly as much as racism and inequality, themselves.
In the United States, both the police and the coronavirus attack black people disproportionately. Scientific studies confirm that African Americans don’t just suffer higher rates of police brutality, racial profiling, and mass incarceration compared to white people, they also suffer higher rates of mistreatment in U.S. hospitals, clinics and physician offices.