Pamela A. Zeiser By: Pamela A. Zeiser
Associate Professor of Political Science
View profile and Diary

01 Jun 2020 : Pandemics and Protests

Perhaps by virtue of being an academic, I find it easier to analyze than process emotions. Analysis sets me at something of a distance from what I’m feeling, which is generally more comfortable. Neither analysis of nor feeling my emotions is helping much right now, as the US is overtaken by racial protests and riots, with COVID-19 nearly an afterthought.

The COVID-19 pandemic is scary. I worry for my health and that of my family and friends. I worry about going back into the classroom, and if my university will institute furloughs or pay cuts. I read the writings of global health folk I respect, who know far more than I do, and I understand we are in this for the long haul, that it will not “be over” and that it is NOT as simple as going from “closed” to “open,” as too many politicians and media outlets imply. (Influenza is not “over” for the tens of thousands who die each year, though we pretend it is.) But I try to set all that aside, and stay positive, by analyzing . . . how I taught about the pandemic, how social media is being used, etc.

Now, the US is experiencing yet more protests and riots. I say “yet more” because we seem to forget the context – that the history of police discrimination against African-Americans goes back decades, if not longer.  I was born in Southern California, and my mom always talked about my older sister as being a “Watts baby,” because she was born during the Watts Riots in Los Angeles. Riots sparked by police brutality, though it was years before I understood that. I was in graduate school in Southern California during the Rodney King riots. History, now. And context for George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and too many others.

There I go, analyzing again – the historical context of racial protests in the US. Because reality and the emotions of it are paralyzing right now. I am not a person of color, so I will never fully understand. Yet I do fully agree there’s a huge need for change and that discrimination is its own pandemic. Even more so for communities of color, who are experiencing higher rates of COVID-19 as a result of ongoing systemic discrimination. And (at least) 50-plus years of protests and riots haven’t changed that. What will? I wish I knew.

© 2020, All rights reserved. Views expressed are those of individual contributors. Privacy Policy