An AP analysis explores the narrative that white aggression against people of color, a legacy of slavery, continues to permeate race relations in the US.

Donald Trump was president, stoking racial divisions during the summer of 2020 as protesters demanded justice for George Floyd and others killed by police. And as AP race and ethnicity writer Aaron Morrison covered the protests that grew out of the killings, he also saw Trump on TV trying to undermine the racial reckoning at every turn.

Sensing that the tension might spark a racial clash, Morrison reexamined his years of race reporting. His conclusion: A race war was already underway. 

Fast forward to Jan. 6, when a mob of mostly white rioters, upset that Trump wasn't reelected, violently breached the U.S. Capitol.

“A war rages on in America,” Morrison wrote, “and it didn’t begin with Donald Trump or the assault on the Capitol. It started with slavery and never ended, through lynchings and voter suppression.” He continued: “Today’s battles in the race war are waged by legions of white people in the thrall of stereotypes, lies and conspiracy theories.”

Morrison’s analysis connected the dots of what he described as a war of white aggression — from the Ku Klux Klan bombing that killed four girls at a Black Alabama church, to the shootings of nine Black parishioners by an avowed white supremacist at a South Carolina church, to the mass shooting at an El Paso, Texas, Walmart where the gunman was accused of targeting Mexicans. And most recently, the Capitol siege.

Chicago-based race and ethnicity video journalist Noreen Nasir crafted a powerful video to accompany Morrison’s text, including Capitol riot scenes and images of the South Carolina church gunman leaving after the killings. Charlotte, North Carolina, photographer Chris Carlson’s portraits of Malcolm Graham, whose sister was among the South Carolina church victims, added further depth to the package. Top Stories Hub photo editor Alyssa Goodman crafted a bold visual presentation.

The package, published on a Friday, sparked discussion online and within the AP, and garnered some 100,000 pageviews on AP News — prominent play that continued throughout the weekend.

For a timely, compelling package that looks at the state of race relations with historical context and thoughtful analysis, the team of Morrison, Nasir, Carlson and Goodman earns this week’s Best of the States award.

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