Published June 19, 2020
On Friday, June 19, the country commemorates Juneteenth, a holiday that celebrates the Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Abraham Lincoln to abolish slavery. While Lincoln signed the proclamation on September 22, 1862, it wasn’t until June 19, 1865 that Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger came to Galveston, Texas, to inform enslaved Black people that slavery had been abolished. And while historically Juneteenth has been a day for black people to celebrate freedom, over time, many viewed it as a day to mobilize and gain the liberties they are denied. Here’s your weekly guide to Rutgers experts in the news.
Rutgers University president-designate Jonathan Holloway contributes to a USA Today story featuring prominent black leaders on what Juneteenth 2020 means to them amid protests against police brutality, writing “…black lives have always mattered but have been taken for granted. The fact that people have had to make this declaration—a call for a very basic recognition of another person’s humanity—is proof that we, as a society, have failed to acknowledge the full breadth of who we are and what we can be.”
A USA Today article on Juneteenth discusses all the ways black Americans still encounter racism and inequalities that influence their daily lives. The story cites a study co-led by Frank Edwards, assistant professor at Rutgers University–Newark’s School of Criminal Justice, that found about 100 in 100,000 black males will be killed by police during their lives.
An article in The Trace about how firearms shape every encounter between officers and civilians, especially when those interactions involve black people, quotes Frank Edwards, an assistant professor at Rutgers University–Newark’s School of Criminal Justice. “Guns are the extreme logical end of what the whole training and whole repertoire of policing is about,” Edwards says. “I can’t imagine police acting the way they do without a firearm.”
The Trace | Police, Power, and the Specter of Guns
The maker of the breakfast standby Cream of Wheat is the latest major food brand to announce a review of its controversial mascot. Naa Oyo A. Kwate, an associate professor of Africana studies and human ecology at Rutgers University–New Brunswick, tells CNN that depictions of blacks in products have historically sent the message that black people are servants. “You can still draw on that legacy of what slavery meant,” she says, “and what black people’s natural position is supposed to be—your own personal slave in a box.”
Ross Baker, a distinguished professor of political science at Rutgers University–New Brunswick, advocates reparations for African Americans in an op-ed for USA Today. “A targeted investment in a group of our fellow citizens who are descendants of those who endured a monumental injustice can certainly be justified,” he writes. “And it would be a shot in the arm to the economy by boosting the purchasing power of tens of millions of Black Americans.”
A Washington Post story focuses on “Boogaloo Bois” and other heavily armed right-wing ideologies taking advantage of social unrest to call for violence against police and other authorities. The boogaloo movement, whose name comes from the 1984 break-dancing movie sequel, coalesced on fringe social media forums such as 4chan but quickly migrated to more mainstream ones and has now emerged as a real-world threat in recent weeks. Boogaloo Bois carry out acts of violence and show up at rallies opposing government coronavirus restrictions as well as Floyd demonstrations dressed in trademark Hawaiian shirts and carrying military-style rifles. The story quotes Paul Goldenberg, a senior fellow at the Miller Center for Community Protection and Resilience, and John Farmer Jr., former New Jersey attorney general and director of the Eagleton Institute of Politics. While the movement’s extremism and aggressive recruitment “are nothing new,” says Goldenberg, “the methodology is new—that you can reach tens of millions of people with a click of a finger.”
As large-scale trials of coronavirus vaccine candidates are slated to begin this summer and fall using conventional testing, thousands of people have volunteered to put their lives on the line as human guinea pigs in potential human challenge trials to accelerate the process of finding a cure. Yet infecting healthy people with a potentially lethal virus with no treatment to save them from severe illness or death raises some difficult ethical, scientific, and philosophical issues. “They certainly can’t be dismissed as people who misunderstood what this is about,” says Rutgers bioethics specialist Nir Eyal (IHHCPAR), who published one of the first studies to endorse challenge trials. They “actually comprehend the risk and still want to participate.” Typically, exposure to pathogens in challenge trials is usually permitted only for diseases that aren’t fatal or that have treatments available.
The Washington Post | Volunteers sign up to put their lives on the line for a coronavirus vaccine
Face masks are in widespread use now, but with so many different designs available, choosing what masks to purchase and wear can be confusing. NJ Advance Media asks School of Public Health professor Mitchel Rosen and School of Environmental and Biological Sciences professor Donald Schaffner for their expertise. They recommend double-layer masks incorporating “fabric that has a tight weave, similar to denim or cotton dinner napkins.” Surgical masks and N-95 respirators “should be reserved for health professionals,” say Rosen and Schaffner, “but those who opt to wear surgical masks should be aware that [they] are meant for one-time use.”
Carla Yanni, a professor of architecture and art history at Rutgers University–New Brunswick, says that, historically, residence halls have been designed to encourage close interaction and camaraderie among students. But she notes in an opinion piece she co-wrote for Inside Higher Ed, “Those same designs and interior décor place the people living in dormitories at higher risk of infection in the age of COVID-19. In order to bring students back to dormitories, the physical influence of those living spaces will need to be subverted.”
Insider Higher Ed | The Question of Living Spaces
In the late 1990s, the adult film industry developed a health screening system to deal with an outbreak of HIV/AIDS among its actors. That system could be a model for a coronavirus screening database, says Perry Halkitis, dean of Rutgers’ School of Public Health. He tells The New York Times, “We need to take any tools we have, even ones from the adult film industry, and apply what worked to limit the spread of the coronavirus.”
The New York Times | Lessons on Coronavirus Testing from the Adult Film Industry
An attempt by President Trump’s campaign to shield itself from lawsuits by people who become infected with the coronavirus at his first political rally in months is unlikely to hold up in court, says David Noll, a professor at Rutgers Law School in Newark. “What is notable about the Trump campaign’s waiver is that they just did such a bad job—that they didn’t lawyer it more competently,” he tells The New York Times.
The New York Times | Trump’s Campaign Waiver Won’t Block Coronavirus Lawsuits: Experts