The Issue Is: Race relations and the impact of George Floyd's death

It’s been a tough week for America.

It began with a pair of grim milestones, as coronavirus claimed its 100,000th life in the US, and shutdown-induced unemployment claims ballooned to 40 million.

Then, as states worked to curb a second wave of the COVID19 outbreak, on Monday in Minneapolis another type of outbreak began to spread: outrage.

This, following the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man. His death, caught on tape, occurred as officers kneeled on his neck for more than 8 minutes, and set off a rash of protests across the country.

Elex Michaelson breaks down the tragic case, the reopening of the country, and more, on this week’s The Issue Is.


The conversation begins with Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-CA), Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.

First, she reacted to the arrest of Derek Chauvin, the former officer charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter in the Floyd case.

“How many times do we have to see black people killed on video, and for there not to be an arrest immediately?” Bass asked, saying the third-degree murder charge was insufficient.

Bass added that the other officers seen in the Floyd video should also be arrested and charged immediately, and that further investigation is needed, especially as reports emerge that Floyd and Chauvin may have previously worked together.

In regards to the protests, Bass noted that the protestors, who hail from all races and backgrounds, are hurting, and that “they should continue to [participate], but absolutely, without the violence.”

As many take to the streets, Elex asked Bass to explain the systemic issues at play, and what those who aren’t African American what might not understand.

“I don’t care how extreme it sounds, but I absolutely believe that if that officer had had his knee on the neck of an animal, on a dog, and killed an animal over eight minutes, there would be absolute outrage over animal cruelty,” Bass said.

However, Bass said, when it is an African American killed, the response the public adopts instead is to ask “what did that person do to deserve to be shot?”

Those systemic issues, Bass said, also exist in law enforcement and policing.

“I think the way we look at policing in this country, overall, fundamentally needs to change,” Bass said. “When people are being honest, they will tell you there are two different standards, two different worlds, in a white community, in a middle-class community, the police are there to protect and serve, that is not the mentality that we find in inner-city areas, it’s viewed as a war-zone.”

The conversation then turned to President Trump, and what Bass makes of his response to both the George Floyd killing, and the COVID-19 crisis.

“I think the President has been consistent,” Bass said. “He’s been consistent from his first day announcing his campaign, he has attacked folks of color consistently, he has said what he believes about African Americans, and frankly, I’m very glad he had nothing to say at his press conference, because there would have been nothing that came out of his mouth that would have been constructive.”

Bass continued: “His whole idea of breaking relations with the World Health Organization is simply to deflect from the fact that today we have over 100,000 dead Americans in three months, and he is responsible for that because he has lacked the leadership.”

When it comes to coronavirus, Bass also commented on the status of latest Congressional relief effort, a $3.3T house bill that has seemingly stalled in the Senate.

With 40 million unemployed, Bass believes something will get passed, and that the stalling is nothing more than political posturing. Bass said she believes a relief effort will pass by the end of June, with significant amounts of money for states and localities, as well as the communities most impacted by COVID-19.


Next, Elex was joined by John Myers, Sacramento Bureau Chief of the LA Times.

As with Congresswoman Bass, the conversation began with the killing of George Floyd, specifically, Governor Gavin Newsom’s emotional reaction during his Friday press conference.

“Newsom is probably at his best when he is talking about who he is, what has made him who he is, and what he believes in,” Myers said. “I thought it was a telling moment, he clearly wanted to come out and talk about that before he talked about public health issues.” 

Those public health issues have been most heavily focused this week on the state’s reopening efforts, especially as debates rage over how quickly to open some counties, and how much of that decision falls to state officials versus their local counterparts.

That balancing act most recently took center stage on Friday, when Governor Newsom approved LA County’s variance to reopen restaurants, barbers, and salons, despite being the epicenter of COVID-19 deaths in California.

In striking that balance, between state and local control, between public policy and politics, Myers said much of it comes down to messaging, making sure the public understands why certain decisions are being made, and so far that messaging has been difficult.

But it’s not only the ongoing reopening efforts that are posing a challenge to the Governor, but also his proposed state budget, which sought to make major cuts in order to deal with the state’s projected $54B deficit.

This week, the CA State Senate rejected many of Newsom’s proposed cuts.

“What’s ahead is a lot of pain and suffering I think,” Myers said, adding that the state’s schools could be hardest hit in the fight to make up the shortfall, especially as they currently account for some 40% of state’s general fund spending.

From state issues, the conversation pivots to national politics.

First, the 2020 race, and the contrast between President Donald Trump and Vice President Joe Biden as they offered very different messages on Friday about the killing of George Floyd.

“It, in some ways for me, is another example of what the choice voters have in November looks like, what the base supporters of each party believe, why they believe it, how they believe it,” Myers said. “All of us know politics is more personal than it has ever been, it seems like in this country, and you saw very striking differences between these two men.”

What will also be a striking difference between the two men will be their VP picks, this as the vetting of Joe Biden’s running mate has kicked into high gear, with names such as Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Florida Rep. Val Demings, and Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth garnering headlines alongside former Presidential candidates Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren, and Kamala Harris.

In the aftermath of the George Floyd killing though, Klobuchar, a former Minnesota prosecutor, appears to see her stock falling, while Harris, may be on the rise.

“I certainly will be interested to hear what Senator Harris says about what has happened, what she thinks about what it means for the road ahead,” Myers said. “I am really, really curious to see whether an incident like this reignites the conversation that Kamala Harris wanted to have during her Presidential campaign, and whether that impacts what former Vice President Biden is going to do.”


The Issue Is: with Elex Michaelson is California's only statewide political show. For showtimes and more information, go to