Jun 19, 2020 - Politics & Policy
What Matters 2020

What Matters 2020: Structural racism

Illustrated collage of Black Lives Matter protesters, D.C. National Guard at Lincoln Memorial, man protesting at Robert E. Lee statue, newspaper background with red fist cut-out.

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Scott Strazzante/The San Francisco Chronicle, David Ryder/Getty Images, Matthew Horwood/Getty Images, Win McNamee/Getty Images, Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The toxic thread in America's fabric since slavery has rarely galvanized such attention or will for change across racial lines. Structural racism is a dominant issue in the presidential election, and Axios is committed to long-term coverage of its effects and the solutions.

Driving the news: We're making structural racism a focus of our What Matters 2020 initiative. Along with automation, capitalism, climate change, China, demographics, health care costs and misinformation, addressing this national challenge will outlive the moment and shape our lives regardless of who wins in November.

  • We're making this announcement on Juneteenth as the beginning of a broader commitment to cover structural racism beyond this moment, and well beyond the presidential election.

Structural racism is the way racial inequities are locked into society by the social, economic, and political systems that impact all of our lives.

  • This is not one story, nor one "moment" in the news cycle. It's fundamental and permeates every layer of society, but the demonstrations and actions now under way by individuals and institutions can be transformative.
  • In the weeks and months to come, we'll share more reporting, interviews, data, graphics and conversations around this critical subject across all of our platforms.

The big picture: The coronavirus' racial and socioeconomic disparities, and multiple instances of fatal police violence — especially George Floyd's videotaped killing — have driven millions of Americans of all races to demand something better.

Our thought bubble: Changing U.S. demographics, technology that makes it easier to hold bad actors accountable, and younger Americans' reactions across racial lines have created momentum to fight structural racism — but obstacles and resistance remain.

  • Axios managing editor for business news Jennifer Kingson: "Corporate America's focus is always on the bottom line, and when commitments to diversity please investors and make good headlines, they are in vogue. But it's still true that 'token diversity' rules the day ... Only when employees, investors and consumers demand fundamental changes will companies walk the talk."
  • Markets reporter Courtenay Brown:  “When an economy starts to recover, white people are first to feel the positive effects. It takes several more years for many black workers to feel the type of recovery white workers feel when the economy turns.”
  • Energy and climate change reporter Amy Harder: Energy and pollution present a "cruel double-edged sword." Lower-income households, which often include communities of color, spend more of their paychecks on energy, and fossil fuels have historically been cheaper than cleaner forms of energy. Yet "polluting fossil-fuel facilities are often placed near communities of color, exposing them to more pollution and higher rates of environmentally induced health problems."
  • Politics and demographics reporter Stef Kight: "At every point of the criminal justice system, black Americans are disproportionately impacted compared to white Americans. Black Americans are stopped at higher rates by police, arrested at higher rates, killed by police at higher rates, given longer sentences, fill disproportionate shares of death row."
  • Cities correspondent Kim Hart: "Racial disparities exist in almost every aspect of urban life. In predominantly minority neighborhoods, schools are often underfunded, public transportation tends to be inadequate, renters likely have to spend more of their income on housing, and access to job training and upward economic mobility opportunities can be hard to come by."

What's next: We'll keep you informed in these ways:

  • Smart brevity: We aim to be wise, helpful and efficient, telling you in real time what’s new and why it matters.
  • Survey research: Our weekly Coronavirus Index, in partnership with Ipsos, is tracking the disparate health, economic and social impacts of the pandemic on people of color.
  • Newsletter takeovers: Our subject experts will devote significant thought and space to how structural racism intersects with their areas of expertise.
  • Deep dives: These can help you think big about how the tentacles of this problem fit together.
  • "Axios on HBO": We're bringing you interviews with people who demand — and make — change.
  • Special events: You're invited to join us for virtual or live events as we convene conversations around the issue.
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