The coronavirus pandemic wasn’t the only topic troubling the nation in 2020.
Headlines about social unrest rivaled social distancing, as mass quarantines — and the resulting spotlight on social media — turned Americans’ attention to videos and other news capturing racism, police brutality, and other social disparities.
UNLV experts helped lend context to news reports on subjects including the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on the health of minority populations, social media campaigns calling for support of civil rights advocates and Black-owned businesses, America’s history of slavery and segregation, federal legislation attempting to bar immigrants from the country, and more.
Here are just a few UNLV experts in that realm who made the news in 2020:
Black Lives Matter Movement
The death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis prompted several weeks of Black Lives Matter protests around the world, during which demonstrators called for an end to systemic racism and police brutality. UNLV faculty broke down multiple facets of the movement, as well as the history of the Civil Rights Movement, calls to defund the police, and ways to actively practice anti-racism.
Tyler D. Parry, professor of African American and African Diaspora Studies
- Black Lives Matter Movement: San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Post (twice) (three times), KLAS-TV: 8 News Now (twice), The Tillsonburg News, Mashable, Times Herald-Record, KSNV-TV: News 3, Yahoo! News, KTNV-TV: ABC 13 (twice), Playboy, The Christian Science Monitor (twice), Complex, Fox News, CrossTalk
- Slavery and the Civil Rights Movement: Yahoo News, AP, The Washington Post (twice), KNPR, KLAS-TV: 8 News Now (twice), Parents Magazine, The African American Folklorist, Teen Vogue, Vegas PBS, Indianapolis Star, Desert Companion, Marshall Project
Frank Rudy Cooper, director of the Program on Race, Gender & Policing at UNLV
- The Nevada Independent (twice), Casino.org (twice), KNPR, Las Vegas Review-Journal, The Washington Post, CounterPunch, The Guardian, The Washington Post
Tamara D. Herold, associate director of UNLV’s Center for Crime and Justice Policy
Claytee D. White, director of UNLV’s Oral History Research Center
Kenneth J. Varner, professor of literacy education
Javon Johnson, director, African American and African Diaspora Studies
William Sousa, director of the Center for Crime and Justice Policy
Addie Rolnick, professor of law
Robert Futrell, sociology professor and extremist group expert
- NBC News, Wired, Nevada Current, Downtown News Magazine, Wyoming Public Media, Correio Braziliense, Greenville News
Question: What do you get when you combine protests, police brutality, a history of racism in health care, and the COVID-19 pandemic? Answer: Conditions that, experts say, disproportionately impact the physical health and mental well-being of people of color. UNLV professors across multiple disciplines helped journalists parse the various nuances.
- Melva Thompson-Robinson, a School of Public Health professor and executive director of UNLV’s Center for Health Disparities Research, and African American and African Diaspora Studies professor Tyler D. Parry explained how race plays a part in medicine on KTNV-TV: ABC 13.
Thompson-Robinson also was featured in:
- USA Today: Factors that led 27 states to declare racism a public health issue
- Clinical Research News: Diversity in vaccine trials
- Managed Healthcare Executive, Las Vegas Sun, The Sacramento Observer, and The Washington Informer: COVID-19’s toll on the African American community
- Racial Equity & Hunger National Learning Network Podcast: How racism in health care worsened hunger during the pandemic
- WebMD: Gaining access for minorities to health screenings
- Angela Amar, dean of the School of Nursing, sat down with PHLV Radio for a discussion about racism and nursing.
- UNLV Medicine professor Dr. Rajany Dy told KLAS-TV: 8 News Now that coronavirus patients in Southern Nevada intensive care units are predominantly Hispanic.
- UNLV Immigration Clinic fellow Paloma Guerrero talked to KNPR about COVID-19’s impact on members of the Latinx community who are essential workers.
- Public health professor Francisco Sy described his personal experiences with racialization of the coronavirus, and resulting increases in anti-Chinese and anti-Asian sentiment, with the Las Vegas Sun.
When protests took center stage this summer, so did social media traffic, television commercials, and other media that encouraged consumers to put their money where their mouth is and spend their dollars at Black-owned businesses. Other media reports highlighted how the U.S.’s history of race relations and sex discrimination impacted business operations elsewhere. Faculty experts across multiple disciplines weighed in.
- UNLV political scientist and former Congressional Black Caucus Foundation small business research fellow Tiffiany Howard explained to The Nevada Independent, KCBS Radio, Authority Magazine, MadameNoire, Forbes, and Axios how Black entrepreneurship can help bridge the racial wealth gap. She also discussed whether summer support for Black businesses would survive through the holiday season with The Hill.
- Fashion historian Deirdre Clemente talked to Business Insider and Yahoo! News about the racist history of dress codes.
- KSNV-TV: News 3 interviewed law professor Stewart Chang about a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling barring workplace discrimination against LGBTQ individuals.
- Tax attorney Francine Lipman discussed how federal, state, and local tax policies uphold the racial wealth gap, preventing African Americans from accumulating the money needed to thrive, with The Podvocate. She explained to Bloomberg and the Las Vegas Sun how IRS tax code inequities and exclusion from COVID-19 stimulus payouts impacted undocumented Nevadans.
- Gender and ethnic studies professor Erika Abad and immigration law expert Paloma Guerrero spoke to KNPR’s Latinos Who Lunch podcast about the impact of Nevada’s growing Latinx population on culture, business and politics.
- Law professor Leslie C. Griffin wrote about a First Amendment rule that allows race discrimination cases against religious organizations to be dismissed for Verdict (twice), as well as about sexual orientation discrimination laws (Verdict).
- Philosophy professor Amy Reed-Sandoval and anthropology professor Ivan Sandoval-Cervantes penned an essay for Salon about Americans’ celebration of immigrant cuisine while ignoring immigrant oppression. Reed-Sandoval also wrote about undocumented migrant farmworkers for The Nevada Independent, and Daily Nous covered her launch of a series of free online philosophy courses for Spanish-speaking youth.
UNLV Libraries and the Greenspun College of Urban Affairs partnered this fall on “We Need to Talk: Conversations on Racism for a More Resilient Las Vegas,” a virtual educational series that featured university and community experts discussing race and seeking solutions for a more inclusive society. Topics include race-related media coverage, economics, health care, criminal justice, education, and how we move forward. The series was hosted by Claytee White, director of the UNLV Oral History Research Center, who was also instrumental this year in lending context to local happenings, such as the history of race relations in Southern Nevada, renewed interest in Juneteenth celebrations, historical voting behavior among local minority populations, and plans to display signage of and sell the site of the Moulin Rouge (Las Vegas’ first racially integrated casino).
- We Need to Talk: Las Vegas Sun, KTNV-TV: ABC 13, KSNV-TV: News 3
- Moulin Rouge: Las Vegas Weekly, KVVU Fox 5 Vegas (twice), Las Vegas Review-Journal, KSNV-TV: News 3, USA Online Casino, Casino.org
- Juneteenth: Las Vegas Review-Journal (video)
- History of Black Las Vegans: KTNV-TV: ABC 13 (twice) and KNPR (twice) (three times)
The UNLV William S. Boyd School of Law spent much of 2020 in the throes of legal battles to protect the rights of indigenous and immigrant populations.
- Addie Rolnick — an expert on American Indian tribal law and indigenous rights, as well as a co-facilitator of the Program on Race, Gender & Policing — talked to Slate and Cronkite News about the unique problems Native American youth face in the criminal justice system. Her comments on the pandemic’s impact on tribal nations were featured in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. She was also quoted about the connections between forced assimilation in tribal schools and the school-to-prison pipeline by the Navajo-Hopi Observer, Indian Country Today, Cronkite News, and Tucson Weekly.
- Michael Kagan, director of the UNLV Immigration Clinic, spoke to Buzzfeed News about presidential candidate Joe Biden’s view on immigration; The New York Times (twice), MSN, The American Prospect, Las Vegas Review-Journal, Law and Crime, and The Nevada Independent about the future of the DACA program; Commonweal about the hidden cruelty of U.S. immigration law; The Hill and Nevada Current about reports of a federal ICE agent’s white supremacist beliefs; and ABC News and Nevada Current about President Donald Trump’s directive to omit undocumented people from the Census count, among other publications. He also wrote essays for The Hill and The Nevada Independent.
- Several faculty experts, including the Immigration Clinic’s Paloma Guerrero and law professor David Orentlicher, sounded off on legal maneuvering surrounding Temporary Protected Status immigrants: Nevada Current, Las Vegas Review-Journal, The Nevada Independent, KLAS-TV: 8 News Now, Law and Crime
- UNLV was among 180 universities that joined litigation targeted at the Trump administration’s rule attempting to bar international students from the U.S. when schools switched to remote online instruction: The Nevada Independent
UNLV, like many other institutions around the country, responded to calls for social and racial justice. In June, university leadership acted on longstanding conversations with campus and community stakeholder groups, and removed the Hey Reb! Statue in front of the Tam Alumni Center on the main campus. Weeks later, UNLV established the Anti-Black Racism Task Force to proactively address issues of racism and hate, promote inclusion and understanding, and support students, faculty, and staff of color.
- Javon Johnson, director of African American & African Diaspora Studies at UNLV, weighed in on UNLV’s new task force: AP, Las Vegas Review-Journal, KNPR
- Hey Reb! statue removal: Diverse: Issues in Higher Education, KSNV-TV: News 3, The Washington Post, Yahoo! Sports, AP, Las Vegas Review-Journal, ESPN, Sports Illustrated, NBC News, KLAS-TV: 8 News Now (twice), CBS Sports
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