COVID-19 has intensified racial injustice, isolation and frustration, helping fuel the Black Lives Matter movement, says a UWindsor sociology professor.
Reza Nakhaie has written an article for The Conversation entitled, “Black Lives Matter Movement Finds New Urgency and Allies Because of COVID-19.” He co-authored the piece with his daughter, F.S. Nakhaie, a doctoral candidate in English literature at Western University. They say the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis Police officer galvanized public consciousness in a way no other similar incident has because of the current pandemic.
“Certainly, police brutality directed toward Black people in the U.S. is not new,” they write. Neither are economic and political disadvantages.
“The difference this time around is the contemporaneous outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has contributed to making these protests more enduring and widespread. COVID-19 has exacerbated the problems of racial injustice, isolation, frustration and stagnation and caused higher unemployment, which provides the time to air these grievances. When coupled with mixed messages from elites, the spark lit a fire that continues to burn.”
Dr. Nakhaie points to the contradictory messaging from U.S. president Donald Trump during the pandemic, which had the unintended consequence of encouraging people to disregard societal rules.
Unemployment due to the pandemic hit racialized populations especially hard, increasing dissatisfaction and the inclination to speak out. Unemployment also gives citizens the time to organize and participate in protests.
Additionally, the wearing of masks has allowed people to protest in anonymity.
“Intensifying inequalities elevated dissatisfaction while grievances in the U.S. and elsewhere and the video of George Floyd’s death, reminiscent of a public lynching, provided the spark,” the researchers said. “However, what may have helped make the movement larger, enduring, and international in scope were the lockdowns and the mass unemployment that came with them.”