From the Nominator
Alexandre White '10 studies the place where disease and sociology intersect most profoundly: He is a historian of epidemics. Often, a society's response to an epidemic lays bare its deepest inequalities. But sometimes that’s exactly what galvanizes change. “COVID-19, and epidemics in general, expose sharply the inequalities within society,” White told our writer in June, after the world felt changed—not only by the biological disruption of the virus but also by the social disruption resulting from a pandemic of a different kind. After the killing of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis, protests spread across the country, with many people holding signs that read, “I can’t breathe.” Some protesters wrote those words on their face masks, making a connection between racist systems even clearer. “Though the phrase ‘I can’t breathe’ became a lament and a rallying cry for change after the murder of Eric Garner at the hands of the NYPD [in 2014],” White says in our profile, “COVID-19 has added layers to its meaning.
From the Judges
It is serendipitous that Amherst has an alum right at the nexus of the two biggest and most awful stories of 2020, and this piece did a beautiful job of working them together, and highlighting this man's scholarship and research while still making clear his humanity. We loved the mosquito start and were happy to see the metaphor come back. The writer made the very most of her reporting, which had to be constrained due to the pandemic, for this story.