How one photograph captured exactly what's wrong with America right now

“A picture is worth a thousand words” is an old cliche, but that doesn’t mean it’s not very true.

As protests continue across the US following the killing of George Floyd at the hands of police, people think a picture from Cincinnati has come to resemble some of the glaring problems in American society.

Nick Swartsell, the news editor for City Beat, captured the image as he covered the protests in Cincinnati, Ohio.

It depicts a group of people walking to protest, while in the foreground a group of people dine outside at a restaurant. Although it’s just one moment in time and there’s no way of knowing what happened next, the group dining at the restaurant appears blissfully unaware of the protesters. Most of the diners are white.

On social media, people reacted very strongly to the image, with some saying it summed up the “two Americas” and many of the problems that pervade American society.

Though after the image went viral, the photographer said it has come to represent something he didn’t intend.

He wrote in follow up tweets that was simply supposed to capture a news event that moved through a regular, everyday scene. He also implored people not to use the image to shame each other, writing:

I believe personally that America is facing grave structural injustices around race and class.

An image of one moment where folks were enjoying a meal on a Friday afternoon while a protest moves past isn’t foremost on that list. Please stop using this photo to shame.

Despite Swartsell insisting that the diners did stand up to support the protest, the picture and the exact moment it captures have taken on new meaning.

Like it or not, this one image has quickly become a symbol of the frustrations many are feeling during this turbulent week in American history.

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