Sanitizing racialized grief: Presidential campaign eulogy during “the time of two pandemics”

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As the 2020 election campaign unfolded within a sanitary rhetorical ecology of COVID-19, so too did Joe Biden’s grief practices. This essay examines two of Biden’s campaign moments where he recognized 100,000 and 200,000 U.S. deaths from COVID-19. While Biden’s aggregate marking of those lost during the pandemic was a necessary rhetorical endeavor in the face of Donald Trump’s systematic COVID-19 denial, his speech homogenized ethnic, cultural, and racialized experiences of grief. Doing so sanitized the larger context of health inequities that persist in the United States and elided the ways that COVID-19 grief was compounded by the extant public health crisis of anti-Black police brutality. This essay encourages critics of campaign eulogy to attend to the emotional-viral-load of racialized grief during moments of national crisis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)465-471
Number of pages7
JournalQuarterly Journal of Speech
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author(s) reported there is no funding associated with the work featured in this article.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 National Communication Association.


  • COVID-19
  • Eulogy
  • grief
  • presidential campaign
  • public health


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