Instead, there was a yawning disconnect between the lip service paid to these “vulnerable populations” and the passionate support for policies that hurt them. Going into the pandemic, the liberal media had already spent the Trump presidency talking about how America was a systemically racist country. And when the George Floyd protests kicked off, these condemnations reached a fever pitch.
Black Lives Matter signs appeared all over neighborhoods in Los Angeles. In order to justify millions of Americans marching and yelling en masse in the middle of a pandemic, dozens of public health and disease experts signed a letter that said, “White supremacy is a lethal public health issue that predates and contributes to COVID-19.” Articles highlighting how Blacks and Latinos had a higher death rate from COVID-19 addressed many long-term inequalities like lack of access to health care, or social factors like living in crowded environments, taking public transportation, and having jobs in which they were exposed to the public more often.
These factors are absolutely true, but you wouldn’t know it from the public health response in liberal cities. Retweeting the open letter about white supremacy from the couch while protesting school reopenings aimed at getting vulnerable students back into physical classrooms was just more high-minded lip service. As Batya Ungar-Sargon writes in her forthcoming book, Bad News, “[Liberal elites] needed a way to be perpetually on what they saw as the right side of history without having to disrupt what was right for them and their children. A moral panic around race was the perfect solution: It took the guilt that they should have felt about their economic good fortune and political power—which they could have shared with the less fortunate had they cared to—and displaced it onto their whiteness, an immutable characteristic that they could do absolutely nothing to change.”