As the racially disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic becomes ever more apparent, the media has scrambled to keep up. Responding to demands for greater government transparency on COVID-19 data, the Atlantic launched the COVID Tracking Project, which includes a “racial data tracker” developed in collaboration with Ibram X. Kendi’s Center for Antiracist Research at Boston University. However, while racial disparities are now being tracked and covered extensively, media outlets have struggled to provide deeper context for the disparate outcomes, and coverage has often provided more heat than light.
Many outlets have given oxygen to fringe anti-lockdown protests and helped to circulate misinformation. Right-wing outlets have overlooked the significance of race as part of a broader effort to downplay the impact of the virus. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump’s eagerness to “reopen” the nation and his racist naming of the virus show scant regard for America’s communities of color.