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How the coronavirus crisis offers a glimpse of what poor, black communities 'feel every day'


Notice: Transcripts are machine and human generated and lightly edited for accuracy. They may contain errors.

Judy Woodruff: As curfews in many states are about to begin again tonight, we are at a place where we don't need to go searching past events and expert opinions in order to understand the protests around the killing of George Floyd. We can analyze it first-person.

Tonight, journalist and author Dawn Turner shares her Humble Opinion on why we all need to make a connection between the pandemic and the protests.

Dawn Turner: When I was a columnist for The Chicago Tribune, I often wrote about race and poor African-American communities.

Many times, well-meaning white readers would ask me: What can I do?

I want you to know that this pandemic has afforded you a vantage point like none other. This is your opportunity to know what people who live in poor communities face and feel every day, long before COVID.

I want you to remember what it feels like to stand in long lines to enter stores, because, in poor black communities, some merchants, fearing theft from a few bad apples, have long restricted the number of people they allow in at one time.

And those Plexiglas dividers that protect store workers now? Well, their bulletproof cousins have been mounted in stores in black communities for ages.

I want you to remember the knot of anxiety you feel wondering whether there will be enough eggs or meat or even toilet paper on store shelves. Poor people living in food deserts face scarcity all the time.

I want you to remember the unease of walking past boarded-up businesses and jogging down barren streets, because that's what poor black people who live in blighted communities experience every day. I want you to remember what it feels like to have to hole up in your house because the world beyond your door is dangerous and filled with people who could cost you your life.

I want you to remember what it feels like to lose your job, and not only to be stripped of vital income and all that entails, but of purpose, and those social connections that motivate and inspire us. I want you to remember how it feels to have to stand in line to ask for a handout and how you worry that people will ask you, how did you get yourself in this situation?

If you take away nothing else from this pandemic, I want you to remember how powerless and hopeless and disaffected this moment has rendered you. I want you to realize that, for poor black people, this is not a moment. If this pandemic offers even a smidgen of empathy, then maybe you understand why people might rise up and rage.

Judy Woodruff: Journalist and author Dawn Turner.

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