Ever since the murder of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis Police on 26 March, the Black Lives Matter movement has gained significant traction. All throughout America, and around the world, protesters have lined the streets, demanding an end to police brutality and institutionalised racism.
In fact, this movement may even have the biggest turnout in American history — with about 15-26 million people taking part, according to an article released by the New York Times. Apart from that, online petitions and donation pages have sprung up and individuals have taken to social media to show their support. All across the globe, people have cried out in rage at the injustice that the Black people are being served.
But with all that hype, it makes you wonder how much is actually changing.
First off, it must be mentioned that the officer primarily responsible for George Floyd’s death, Derek Chauvin, has been charged with second-degree murder, and the three others present at the scene with the aid of second-degree murder. Breonna Taylor’s shooter has been fired from the Louisville Police Department. Still, this is only partly the justice that those two innocent lives deserved.
On a different note, statues of Confederate soldiers and Christopher Columbus have been taken down, toppled, and beheaded to mark the start of a new era. Companies like PepsiCo and Mars have decided to rebrand one of their products each, which were originally based on racist stereotypes. Even Unilever’s Fair & Lovely — a skin-whitening cream extremely popular in India and Bangladesh — is expected to change its name.
Meanwhile, on popular media, co-founder of Reddit Alexis Ohanian quit from the company’s board on 5 June to make way for a possible Black candidate. Not only has the movie Gone with the Wind been taken down from US streaming service for its depiction of racism, but the reality show Cops, which glorified the police, has also been cancelled.
As for real reforms, Minneapolis City Council members have approved a proposal to disband their police force and replace it with “a department of community safety and violence prevention”. New York mayor, Bill de Blasio, too, has promised to decrease the city’s police funding. In addition, chokeholds and carotid holds are being banned in many police departments across America.
All this is far from enough, however. The war isn’t over and nor will it ever be while internalised, institutionalised, and systemic racism runs rampant. Because, ironically, the police continue to display their brutality even against those who protest against police brutality. People call peaceful protesting “taking it too far”. Some white people demand that “Black Lives Matter” be changed to “All Lives Matter”.
Breonna Taylor’s shooter is yet to be arrested. And, all the while, the man in the seat of power, Donald J Trump, continues to call the movement “a symbol of hate”. When asked on CBS News why African-Americans are still being killed by law enforcement, he replied, “So are white people. More white people, by the way.” — as a result, not only downplaying the sufferings of African-American people, but also giving a partially incorrect statement because, even though white people are killed in greater numbers, they also make up a much larger percentage of the population — over 60%. While, making up only 13% of the US population, Black people account for 23.4% of the total killings. This disproportionate rate is clearly shown by figure 1, taken from a BBC article.
Furthermore, the president has called the “Black Lives Matter” mural outside Trump Tower “denigrating” to the “Luxury Avenue”, and continues to publicly show his support for Confederate flags, despite the fact that they are a symbol of white supremacy.
Yet, even as all these facts remain true, the show of public support for the movement is starting to peter out. Instagram and Facebook feeds are no longer filled with posts trying to raise awareness or asking others to donate and sign petitions. The media coverage of the protests has all but stopped, giving the false impression that they are no longer happening, even though hundreds of people are still marching for the cause.
Even the protests themselves have diminished in number. While at the start of June, hundreds of rallies took place every day — with 500 on 6 June alone — the number has now come down to a few dozen. And, as the BLM movement ceases to be a topic of everyday conversations, we risk going back to right where we started at the end of May.
Nevertheless, the fact that the BLM protesters and supporters have brought about actual change is irrefutable. If nothing else, at least the privileged now realise that the sufferings of Black communities are very much real, and that every day they go through something most of us can’t even imagine.
The New York Times states that in just two weeks, white voter support for the Black Lives Matter movement has risen by fifteen points, and Figure 2 clearly displays how public support surged from around a negative 5% to a positive 28% in the last three years. In the last two months alone — since George Floyd’s and the protests that followed — the support has grown by almost 10%.
Figure 2 source: CS Monitor
As more and more people open their eyes to the reality of the brutality Black people face not just in the US but around the globe, maybe one day we’ll be able to build a future without discrimination. George Floyd was but one of many, many lives lost, and the Black Lives Matter movement will go on until this stops.
But, in the meantime, we ourselves have a duty to stand beside our fellow humans, donate to charities, if we can, and if that’s not possible, sign petitions and educate ourselves.
We must do our very best to make sure that Black voices are not silenced.