Black Lives Matter still matters

While it started as a simple hashtag, Black Lives Matter has quickly became a worldwide political and social movement just seven years after the terrible tragedy of Trayvon Martin’s murder. 

Last summer, large crowds took to the streets all over the nation in pursuit of justice for George Floyd, a Black man who was held down with a knee by a police officer in Minneapolis for seven minutes after calling for medical help. He was pronounced dead as a result of mechanical asphyxiation shortly afterward.

So far, the protests have made significant progress in both legislative policies and the public. For example, police officers are being held responsible for their actions. Derek Chauvin, who knelt on Floyd’s neck, will stand trial in March, facing up to forty years in jail if convicted. The three other officers present during the incident will be tried in August. 

 Hundreds of monuments to Confederate leaders and other racists have been taken down in dozens of states, including Virginia and Kentucky. Moreover, U.K. protesters tore down the statue of Edward Colston’s, a slave trader, and threw it Bristol Harbour as a testament to their support.

Many companies echoed the same sentiments, and, this time, have taken action. Big-name tech corporations like Microsoft have announced that they will no longer be selling facial recognition software to police departments for mass surveillance. In the sportswear industry, giants like Adidas and Nike have both committed to filling more of their job positions with Black or Latino employees. Nationally recognized sports leagues like the NFL and NBA have shown solidarity to BLM, and shows such as “Cops” and “Live PD” have been canceled for their racially skewed perspectives on crime.

But, most importantly, public opinion has shifted. Support for the Black Lives Matter movement surged after protests brought attention to the looming presence of systemic racial inequality in America. Although it has waned as of late, according to Pew Research Center, the majority of U.S. adults stand behind the movement. People have been having conversations similar to the #MeToo movement, putting a spotlight on civil rights, due process and police power.

In spite of all these positive changes, the massive shift raised a few concerns. Does polarization ultimately drive progress? How does the massive split in perspectives affect how a more moderate policy is created? 

Some issues have become too sensationalized and are often taken out of context. Not every issue suggests systemic racism. When it comes to these issues, logic is often overshadowed by emotion which makes it hard to present an honest view. The line between celebrating diversity and cultural appropriation has blurred. 

Overall, I have an optimistic view on BLM’s progress worldwide. To think and to act is to risk offending someone. Initial progress might always be resisted, but we have to keep moving forward.