facebook linkedin twitter

2020 Hutchins Forum Hosts Discussion on America’s Racial Reckoning

August 6, 2020 by Gracie Kreth
Henry Louis Gates

Harvard’s Hutchins Center for African and African American Research and PBS NewsHour co-hosted a discussion Wednesday afternoon about the coronavirus pandemic and the racial reckoning occurring in America and the impact these two simultaneous events will have on the upcoming election. 

Speaking from the Old Whaling Church at Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., Harvard Professor and event host Henry Louis Gates, Jr., opened the live stream discussion by stressing the importance of the upcoming elections in a year he called an agonizing inflection point in the country’s history.

“The upcoming election and the way we understand the pandemic in relation to the election will shape our health and wellbeing both as a nation and as individuals,” Gates said. 

Journalist and moderator Charlayne Hunter-Gault then introduced the panelists; New York Times Opinion Columnists Charles Blow and David Brooks; Donna Bazile, political consultant and former interim chair of the Democratic National Committee; Georgia House Representative Vernon Jones; Political Analyst Shermichael Singleton; Lawrence D. Bobo, W.E.B. Du Bois professor, Harvard University and Neera Tanden from the Center for American Progress. Hunter-Gault began by asking the panelists how they interpreted these parallel pandemics, and most spoke of racial inequality and injustices being largely responsible for how the coronavirus is disproportionately impacting people of color. 

“I hope this virus … creates a sense of shared fate and gives us a sense that we have to act collectively to solve these problems,” said Tanden. “When we fail to do so, that hurts people who are vulnerable, and in our society that group, because of White privilege, is people of color, who do not have access to the health care system, who do not have health care resources that Whites do.”

While Tanden and Bazile said they were heartened by the continued multigenerational and multiracial Black Lives Matter protests happening across the country, Brooks noted racial equity as key to a national recovery.

“Somehow in a fragmented society, race and racial equity has emerged as the keystone issue and if you don’t fix the inequality of wealth and income and all the other inequalities, somehow you can’t put America back together again,” Brooks said.

Singleton went a step further looking for a long term strategy to fix both issues, stressing the importance of more Black doctors and scientists and education around personal health and eating habits. That way, he said, the individuals may have stronger immune systems the next time the country faces a national health crisis.

The conversation turned to President Trump’s handling of the pandemic and Jones, the panel’s lone Trump supporter, defended the president’s preparation for the pandemic and handling of the crisis. Disappointed with Democratic leadership for several decades, Jones said he saw a “breakdown in the family, how we treat each other with respect, politicians not delivering on what people have been asking for years and years.

“The Democratic Party was the first to get the black vote but then left them behind after every single election,” Jones said.

But the rest of the panel disagreed. Blow compared Obama’s handling of the Ebola outbreak with President Trump’s of COVID-19.

“There’s 160,000 people dead, 60,000 in the hospital, 1,000 people dying every day,” Blow said. “This is real life, people did not have to die and now they are dead. A lot of that is because of the failures of this administration.”

Though supporting the Democratic Party, Bazile tried taking partisanship out of the debate, citing racial injustices that have been happening for centuries.

“This is not about partisanship,” Bazile said. “It’s the loss of faith in our institutions, loss of faith in the leadership of our country, and it’s people feeling that they have to step up and take their own self worth in order to get things done.”

Bobo added closing remarks agreeing with most panelists’ criticisms of the current administration’s coronavirus response. He criticized the president’s failure to institute a nationwide mask mandate, implement a substantial testing and tracing policy and said opening schools as cases rise is “borderline criminal.”

“We have to have a change if we want to fight this pandemic,” Bobo said.

Hunter-Gault closed the panel with the words of the late John Lewis, “Now is your turn to let freedom ring.”

In The News

October 25, 2021
by Victoria Turner
FCC Receives Another $1.3B in Funding Requests for Schools, Libraries, Consortia

WASHINGTON — The Federal Communications Commission continues efforts to close the homework gap, announcing another $1.3 billion in funding requests... Read More

WASHINGTON — The Federal Communications Commission continues efforts to close the homework gap, announcing another $1.3 billion in funding requests were received during the second application window of the Emergency Connectivity Fund program today. This second funding round is poised to support another 2.4 million connected... Read More

October 25, 2021
by Reece Nations
DOD Spending, Contract Obligations by State Rose in 2020

WASHINGTON — The Department of Defense’s Office of Local Defense Community Cooperation released its report on defense spending by state,... Read More

WASHINGTON — The Department of Defense’s Office of Local Defense Community Cooperation released its report on defense spending by state, revealing the department’s contract obligations and payroll spending across all 50 states and Washington, D.C. The DOD report was published to highlight DOD’s domestic spending figures... Read More

October 25, 2021
by Dan McCue
White House Issues Detailed Requirements for Foreign Travelers Entering US

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration on Monday released granular new details on the international travel policy set to go into... Read More

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration on Monday released granular new details on the international travel policy set to go into effect on Nov. 8. In a conference call with reporters senior White House officials reiterated the administration’s original announcement: Namely that all non-citizen, non-immigrant air travelers... Read More

UN: Greenhouse Gas Levels Hit a New Record, Cuts Fall Short

GENEVA (AP) — Greenhouse gas concentrations hit a new record high last year and increased at a faster rate than... Read More

GENEVA (AP) — Greenhouse gas concentrations hit a new record high last year and increased at a faster rate than the annual average for the last decade despite a temporary reduction during pandemic lockdowns, the World Meteorological Organization said in a report published Monday. The news... Read More

Opponents of Critical Race Theory Seek to Flip School Boards

GUILFORD, Conn. (AP) — A racial reckoning began years ago for the Guilford school system, first with an episode in... Read More

GUILFORD, Conn. (AP) — A racial reckoning began years ago for the Guilford school system, first with an episode in which a student wore blackface makeup to a home football game and then a fraught debate over the elimination of its mascot, the Indians. After the... Read More

Biden 'Positive' on Budget Deal; Manchin OK With Wealth Tax

WASHINGTON (AP) — Pivotal Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin appears to be on board with White House proposals for new taxes... Read More

WASHINGTON (AP) — Pivotal Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin appears to be on board with White House proposals for new taxes on billionaires and certain corporations to help pay for President Joe Biden's scaled-back social services and climate change package. Biden said Monday he felt "very positive"... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top