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Race and Ethnicity team explores question: ‘What is a black life worth?’

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The police killing of George Floyd was extraordinary on many levels, but as New York-based race and ethnicity writer Aaron Morrison stripped down the narrative it became clear to him that the fatal encounter had started like so many others between African Americans and law enforcement. At the core of Floyd’s arrest was a minor offense: the accusation he used a fake $20 bill at a grocery store.

Morrison started thinking about other cases that began over minor offenses and ended with a black person dying after a run-in with police or citizens: Tamir Rice carrying a toy handgun,Eric Garner allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes,Michael Brown jaywalking, Sandra Bland failing to signal a lane change.

Morrison had spent more than a week in Minneapolis covering protests and a memorial service for Floyd. He had visited the scene where Floyd took his last breaths and talked to some of Floyd’s family and to protesters with this question in mind: What is a black life worth?

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Chicago video journalist Noreen Nasir works on Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis, May 30, 2020. – AP Photo / Julio Cortez

Chicago-based race and ethnicity video journalist Noreen Nasir was in the Twin Cities with Morrison and was starting to pick up on the same theme in her own reporting. During a rally at the Minnesota Capitol in St. Paul, she videotaped a protester who was holding a sign that read: Human life (does not equal) 20 bucks. Nasir crafted a video to accompany Morrison’s text piece,focusing deeply on the views of one Minnesota resident, while New York-based photographer Bebeto Matthews made poignant images.

The story was edited by top stories editor Mary Sedor, who advised the reporters to include statistics showing that African American men and women are injured or killed in confrontations with police at a rate vastly disproportionate to their numbers in the population.

The package led the AP News site and was featured on the Facebook News Feed during the first-week launch of that new service. The text,photos and video – widely used by AP members – scored more than 40,000 downloads.

For outstanding work that cast Floyd’s killing in light of larger systemic issues of race,Morrison, Nasir and Matthews win AP’s Best of the Week award.

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