Black Lives Matter 2020 — Why This Time’s Different and More Powerful Than Ever
It’s only been a bit over a week since the tragedy of George Floyd.
Feels a lot longer, doesn’t it?
It’s because a lot’s already happened.
Petitions are being signed, social media’s flooded with powerful images, and city streets are filled with passionate voices calling for reform.
After only a few days, all 50 states were reported to be protesting, making it the most involved civil rights movement in the nation’s history.
But it’s not enough. Not even close.
This year’s movement isn’t only about justice.
It’s about taking decisive action to change the system of structural racism that the country’s stood on for so long.
We’ve seen powerful pushes for change in the last 10 years but those movements fizzled out, mainly due to less active protesting and actionable change.
This one’s different.
Recent events have unveiled the abuse of power from those meant to protect us and reminded us of all the black lives lost, creating a bigger push for justice.
Beyond that, it’s reminded us how far we are from equality.
The cops of George Floyd’s murder have been charged but people quickly turned their attention to the next problem.
Breonna Taylor has yet to receive justice along with Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Philando Castile, Anthony Hill, Oscar Grant, amongst many others.
This all leads to a haunting question —
How many weren’t caught on video?
While this makes us feel uneasy, the discomfort’s opened eyes and motivated action far above the likes of any movement before.
Here’s why things are different this time.
The video of George Floyd’s murder spread like wildfire.
In a matter of hours, a series of emotions captivated the internet who were already shaken from recent injustices.
In February 2020, Ahmaud Arbery was shot dead while jogging.
In March 2020, Breonna Taylor was shot 8 times when police officers raided her home.
The public was already at a breaking point.
The video documentation of George Floyd’s brutal murder by police officers made this the last straw.
It led to outrage towards the amount of blood already spilt, the unacceptable actions of the police, and a callback to other events such as Colin Kaepernick taking a knee in 2016, an action that sparked worldwide discussion about racial injustice, police brutality and systematic oppression in the United States.
Things were not changing.
People knew that much.
This sentiment echoed through social media and within a couple days, it was clear that people had enough.
On May 28, 2020, Twitter reported to have more than 8 million tweets tagged with #BlackLivesMatter.
By comparison, on Dec. 4, 2014, nearly 5 months after Eric Garner was killed by the hands of a police officer, the #BlackLivesMatter tweets peaked at 146,000.
Instagram blew up with millions sharing disturbing images, graphics, media, and information from several accounts related to “Black Lives Matter” and police brutality but more importantly, what people could do to make a change.
The rhetoric shifted from “what’s going on?” to “what can we do?”, mobilizing millions to take concrete action.
Since then, there’s been a staggering number of signatures on petitions calling for justice, the defunding of police, and heavy donations to organizations such as the NCAAP and Black Visions Collective, to eliminate race based discrimination and create transformative long-term change on an intersectional level.
Moreover, there’s been higher vigilance on the police.
Social media feeds have turned into security camera grids, showing how peaceful protesters dispersed after tear gas was thrown at them to clear for the president’s photoshoot.
The people saw what happened in Philadelphia when police officers pelted demonstrators trapped on the side of a highway with canisters of tear gas.
They saw what happened in New York when two police vehicles accelerated into a crowd.
Every day, millions share new footage that disturbs us but reminds us why this movement can’t just pass like the ones before.
Solidarity marches have taken place in countries like the UK, France, Japan, Sweden, Denmark, Netherlands, New Zealand, and many others.
They’ve taken a knee, chanted “I can’t breath” and carried signs that read “police violence is not an accident”.
These problems are present on a global level and the tragedy in the US was the catalyst for countries to reach out and show their support.
World leaders from countries such as Canada, England, Iran, Afghanistan, and others spoke on the tragedy, with many of them calling it “appalling”, and “showing the true face of America”.
These same leaders are being forced to ask themselves what actions they’re taking to create a safe and equal society for their people.
It’s no longer something that can be swept under the rug and the people are holding them accountable.
Removal of Statues
The voices have extended into a call to remove statues of slave traders, imperialists, and US Confederate leaders.
In the last few years, people have passionately spoken out to change “Columbus Day” to “Indigenous Peoples’ Day” and now that’s dramatically shifted to removing Columbus from the streets completely.
People are just fed up at this point.
Frustrations turned to anger, condemning any forms of glorification towards those who benefitted from the suffering of brown and black-skinned people.
These figures have been celebrated for too long and their crimes will no longer stand tall in the city streets.
Individuals have taken time to understand what these statues represent and with the state of the world, it felt time to break down the stones to carve a new form of thinking for the future.
The world’s been on pause since the pandemic started.
While there were less distractions and a chance to be home, statistics show increased levels of stress, anxiety, and depression amongst the public since the start of quarantine.
To stay connected, people used social media more than usual but browsing through these platforms eventually illustrated the injustices towards Ahmaud Arber, Breonna Taylor, and eventually — George Floyd.
It was already a stressful time with everything going on. To see this unfold on their screens while being quarantined only manifested feelings of powerlessness.
It was enough.
It was time to take control of something and fight a system that’s caused so many to lose their lives.
The pandemic would give more time to share content, ignite conversations amongst social circles, and take decisive action as a people on the road to change.
People are Listening
Many people at the top have been listening, responding, and supporting this movement.
In the last few days alone, people celebrated as New York lawmakers voted to repeal 50-a, now making police disciplinary records public.
On top of this, the Minneapolis City Council declared they intend to defund and dismantle the city’s police department.
This has launched conversation on how a community-led public safety system in Minnesota would look and the effect it would have on the rest of the country’s police force — and possibly — the world’s.
All this has happened in less than 2 weeks.
The responses and small victories along the way gave the public an incentive to keep moving forward, knowing that their voices are being heard.
Numerous companies have provided statements, sharing their sentiments and creating a step-by-step plan that will empower black employees on every level.
Some companies have been exemplary allies, being part of this social change for many years now and taking a diligent effort in explaining their plan of action.
The ubiquitous nature of the movement has made the words “Black Lives Matter” ingrained in the minds of people, making them at least stop and think about what’s been going on and why it’s crucial to take action.
And the people are responding positively.
The public opinion for Black Lives Matter has shifted in the last two weeks, being up by a 28-point margin, showing that a majority of American voters support the movement.
On a bigger scale, these actions have shifted the mentality of 2020 as a whole.
From what was simply thought of as being a terrible year is now being seen as one full of potential in creating radical change for problems that’ve been rooted in society for centuries.
We keep fighting. But we have to realize that this fight is difficult and is heavy on the mind each day.
Activist burnout is the biggest opponent to any movement. Thinking about everything going on outside only leads to stress and exhaustion.
You’re no good at creating change if you don’t take a second to breath.
Each voice is important for this movement but just make sure you remember the sound of your voice as things continue to move.
After all, 2020’s been challenging with many unprecedented events unlike anything we’ve ever seen.
But the people are moving with conviction and there’s been no signs of slowing down.
Soon, the future will be built on new principles set by the ones who’ve fought for change — The ones who can turn to the next generation and let them know that they can pursue their dreams without worrying about the color of their skin.
The oil’s accumulated for centuries now.
It only took a spark to set the world ablaze with a burning drive to create change.
We’ll keep the fire burning.