Published January 12, 2021
The nation searches for order and accountability following a violent attack on Congress. Meanwhile, extremist propaganda continues to plague social media platforms and COVID-19 vaccination efforts must overcome mistrust. The future may seem clouded, but recent articles and broadcast appearances by Rutgers experts can help put events in perspective.
In an interview with Harper’s Bazaar, Valerie Fitzhugh of New Jersey Medical School shares her experience in the vaccine trials and acknowledges distrust toward the healthcare system among Black people. “We can’t pretend that centuries of mistreatment don’t exist and that it isn’t still happen[ing] today in our society,” says Fitzhugh. But regarding the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines, she says, “There were no corners cut. The science was done the way the science is supposed to be done.”
A CNN report on alarming calls for violence ahead of Inauguration Day examines the role of social media and quotes Joel Finkelstein, a fellow at Rutgers’ Miller Center for Community Protection and Resilience. Harmful conspiracy theories are no longer sequestered in dark corners of the web, says Finkelstein, and have instead gone mainstream, luring Americans who might otherwise steer clear of extremism. “These are our neighbors and friends,” asserts Finkelstein about those who fall for misinformation thriving on Facebook and Twitter. “The threats to democracy aren’t coming just from 8chan [or] QAnon.”
A tradition of “coming together after elections [is] important to the American system of government,” says a Washington Post op-ed by Rutgers history professor Louis Masur. For that reason, President Trump’s announcement that he will not attend the upcoming presidential inauguration is unfortunate. Masur also gives examples of past ceremonial kerfuffles, showing that they are nothing new and asserting that “a successful transfer of power…is more important than the symbolism of a president being in attendance as his successor takes the oath of office.”
The Washington Post | Trump skipping the inauguration is bad. But history shows we can move beyond it.
If crowds made up of people of color had recently attacked the U.S. Capitol, what kind of response would they have faced? A Star-Ledger op-ed by School of Arts and Sciences philosophy professor Derrick Darby contrasts the January 6 riot with earlier, nonviolent demonstrations against the killings of George Floyd and other Black citizens. Darby says that “a nation true to its solemn promises would not treat peaceful protestors—demanding redress for the senseless killing of Black and brown lives, civil rights violations, and failures to deliver justice—with more brutal force and violence than those who conspire to destroy democracy.”
“Now is the time to tell a new story about the South,” says School of Arts and Sciences Africana Studies professor Brittney Cooper in an op-ed for TIME. A new ethos is needed, one that rejects “stereotypes of backward white people and submissive Black people who refuse to participate in calls for change,” says Cooper. Although “old forms of American racism [still] take up so much mental and cultural real estate…we must resist the narrative that retrograde 19th and mid-20th century racial politics are winning. They are not.”
Jacqueline Mattis, Rutgers University-Newark dean of faculty, writes for The Conversation about the mindset needed to overcome challenges. “As a research scientist whose work focuses on positive psychology,” says Mattis, “I am deeply aware that if ever there were a time for a conversation about hope, it is now.” Toward that end, she shares five helpful strategies for improving one’s outlook: setting goals, harnessing uncertainty, focusing on positives, seeking community, and staying grounded in reality.
The Conversation | 5 strategies for cultivating hope this year