It's hard not to become cynical during our present moment. The President is a bloated, floating orb of corruption that is regularly able to fire his investigators with impunity. There is a literal bloated, floating orb of bodily corruption known as COVID-19, that still government officials throughout this country refuse to take seriously. Also, Netflix took away Mad Men right when I was getting back into my rewatch. Okay, that last one might not be as significant as the first two, but it's conditioned me to be cynical all the same, and dammit Peggy was finally getting her groove back!
That's why it's with very cautious optimism that I say, "Holy shit, these Black Lives Matter protests are working." You see it's usually hard to judge the effects of a protest, as the outcome isn't always tangible legislation. Sometimes a protest can be deemed effective just by shifting public perception or loosening authoritative power. Oftentimes, it can seem hardly worth it all like, for example, with the Occupy Wall Street movement, which spread globally, yet economic inequality is even worse than before. But what makes the BLM protests so surprising as they have both shifted public perception and yielded legislative action.
On the public perception side, The Atlantic reports:
"By 2016, 40 percent of Americans had reported supporting the movement. Currently, two-thirds do, (compared to a mere 31 percent who oppose it). Similarly, another poll found that 76 percent of Americans (and 71 percent of white people) thought racism was a "big problem," a striking 26 percent increase since 2015. For the first time, a majority of the country also supports removing Confederate statues from public places, a 19 percent shift since 2017, when 39 percent did."
As for the legislative action, BLM is adding policy changes to their collection like they're Pokemon.
Many cities throughout the US, such as New York and Los Angeles have committed to redirecting some of their police budgets into social programs. (The extent to how much and if they follow through is in part why people are still protesting.)
All four officers involved in George Floyd's killing are now facing charges, and the FBI have reopened an investigation into the death of Breonna Taylor. Despite Mayor Jacob Frey initially being opposed to the idea, Minneapolis council members have committed to dismantling the police.
Confederate statues are being torn down in multiple states. New Jersey is updating its use of force guidelines for the first time in 20 years. Maryland lawmakers are making a bipartisan effort to pass police reform. The Memphis Police introduced a new policy where they will face consequences if they don't stop fellow officers from engaging in misconduct. Rand Paul introduced federal legislation that aims to ban the use of no-knock warrants nationwide.
This list is by no means exhaustive but is hopefully enough to give you a sense that, yeah, these protests are working. Perhaps, if you're like me, then this news can be the dose of microwave radiation your frozen heart needed. However, the work is not nearly done. For example, living in Los Angeles, I know the mayor initially promised to cut 150 million from the 2 billion dollar police budget and direct it towards communities of color. Now that number is 133 million and it is being put towards a reserve fund for citywide furloughs. The good news is that we know these protests can work, which is all the more reason to not settle for bullshit.
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Top Image: Elvert Barnes/Wiki Commons