The assassinations of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor ignited the dormant outrage the Black community has felt towards law enforcement and the justice system since the unpunished killing of Emmet Till in 1955. These murders, alongside the overwhelming number of murders of Black people that go unheard and unpunished throughout history, sparked worldwide outrage.
Across the United States, major cities in all 50 states saw protestors flood their streets by the thousands. Chants of “No Justice, No Peace” and the names of Black people senselessly killed by police were a few of the battle cries heard across the nation as the Black Lives Matter movement called for the swift conviction and imprisonment of the people involved in the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd. Protestors also called for a defunding of the police system and urged policymakers to redirect this money into community programs that would give citizens less incentive to commit crimes.
As protests ensue within our borders as well as countries outside the United States, the now 13-day protest is being called one of the largest civil rights movements. From large scale social media campaigns to monetary donations to Black community uplifting initiatives to directed programming to educate viewers on the ongoing movement, it seems as if the world has taken a united stand against the systematic racism that has prevailed in America since its conception.
Many people are left wondering, however, why now? Why is everyone finally joining in the discussion that Black people have been trying to have for almost 80 years? Where was this global outcry when Rodney King was beaten by Los Angeles Police Department? Where was solidarity with the Black community when Trayvon Martin was killed? The unity when Eric Garner screamed that he couldn’t breathe? Historically, whenever Black people have voiced their grievances over police brutality, there has been a backlash of equal magnitude. The Black Lives Movement, which was founded in 2014 during the wake of Trayvon Martin’s murder, has received negative responses from those who disagree with its ideals. Movements like Blue Lives Matter and All Lives Matter have emerged in direct resistance to the Black Lives Matter movement.
Colin Kaepernick, a former professional football player, was fired from playing for taking a knee during the National Anthem and openly speaking out against police brutality. The debate over the verbiage of Black Lives Matter became almost as heated as the very movement itself. A debate so intense that several demonstrations in the past fizzled out in terms of media coverage and the wheels of systematic racism continued to turn.
One can attribute the sudden solidarity behind Black Lives Matter to the power of social media. The video of Derek Chauvin kneeling on the neck of George Floyd was seen by millions of people. It not only exposed the implicit racial biases in the police system, but also a blatant disregard for human life. The video of the killing of Ahmaud Arbery allowed the world to bear witness to the privilege held by white people that allowed them to assassinate Black people without repercussions. Alongside the live footage of the injustices done against Black people, information on locations of protests, resources for protestors, petitions for policy reform, and places to donate to can be shared within seconds to millions of people via a single social media post.
In addition, social media also allows the rest of the world to bear witness to the injustices occurring in a country that has branded to be the Land of the Free. Protests in the past have largely been distributed via several news outlets and media sources. If one did not want to see what was going on, one simply had to change the channel. Today, one cannot open their phone without seeing a vast array of posts concerning the Black Lives Matter movement. This has proved to be largely instrumental in the turnouts of protests as well as how committed the world is at large to this one cause.
Another reason why so many people are starting to align themselves with the Black Lives Matter movement can be due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The advent of the disease brought the world to a screeching halt and many people were forced to stay in their homes to prevent its spread. In addition, it made telecommunication the primary form of connecting with others. With nothing but our screens to bridge our individual worlds, the world was forced to watch in horror as Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee in the neck of George Floyd for 8 minutes. While this has tragically become commonplace for Black people, the video presented a shock factor that spurred the world in action against the oppressive arms of the American government found in the police force.
The final reason and possibly the most daunting is how the American government reacted to the protests. President Donald Trump, amidst the protests, called protestors “thugs” and affirmed that “once the looting starts, the shooting starts.” In NYC, Governor Andrew Cuomo called for more police in the streets. Across the nation, the National Guard was deployed to several major cities to curb the uprising. Videos and photographs of police officers and military personnel tear-gassing, assaulting, arresting and shooting rubber bullets at protestors show the rest of the world that this is not one case of George Floyd, but a system hell-bent on criminalizing a certain type of people. The mythology of the police putting their lives on the line to stop crime is being dismantled as the movement is exposing who the true criminals are. It will take more than marching through the streets to enact radical, progressive change in our society, but the veil of American meritocracy is finally being lifted. The revolution is upon us.