Abstract: In what has already been dubbed the “American Spring” of 2020, the world is currently witness to a crisis that is shaking the very foundations of the United States. The death of George Floyd, as a culmination of a smoldering national conflict over incidents of police violence and social as well as legal injustice against people of color, once again demonstrates how race and racism function as a catalyst of societal crises, mobilizing people as well as narratives at both ends of the conflict. In this essay I explore the role of racism in crisis narratives and scenarios, as well as their significance for, and entanglements with, the cultural memory of the United States in the 20th and 21st century. My analysis will focus on one particular example, Ava DuVernay’s mini-series ‚When They See Us‘ (2019), the fictionalized story of the five teenagers who were wrongfully imprisoned for the rape of a white woman in 1989, and discuss its significance for the current racial crisis. My essay closes with some remarks on the role of contemporary African American literature as a medium in which racism as a catalyst for crises is explored and new, hopeful narratives are created.