By: M. Carramaschi
On the 13th of March of 2020, Breonna Taylor was shot and murdered by two police officers who broke into her home on a false lead of an investigation. Her death along with the death of countless other black people due to police brutality - such as George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, Daniel Prude and many other black men, women and children- instigated a series of protests around the USA and the rest of the world and revived the Black Lives Matter movement. One year after Taylor’s murder, it is encouraging to stop and analyze what has been achieved over the last year in the fight against systemic racism, and understand the true power and importance held in the BLM protests.
Shortly after the commencement of the protests, a series of changes were made around the United States. In Minneapolis, lawmakers vowed to disband the city’s police department in order to completely rebuild it. This was later seen happening in other states such as New York, where Bill de Blasio, its mayor, also has shifted funding from NYPD to youth and social services, brought transparency over police discipline and brought community voices into the senior level of NYPD. in states such as Dallas, Washington and Nevada, state governments have banned chokeholds, and a federal bill has been passed forcing police officers to use body and dashboard cameras.
The confederate flag has been a hot topic in the US lately. It symbolizes the confederate states in the American civil war, who were against the abolition of slavery. Nowadays it is a racist symbol often used by terrorist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, but sometimes is still seen in American homes. Due to the events in the past year, various changes have occurred involving the confederate flag. In Mississippi, the confederate emblem has been removed from it flag. Also, In New York, the sale and display of confederate flags was banned. Overall, there has been a large awareness created on the meaning of the flag and on the gravity of it still being used in, arguably, one of the most looked-up-to nations in the world.
One of the most controversial changes occurring due to the BLM movement is the taking down of statues. Around the US, statues of the Confederate General Stonewall Jackson were removed and at least 33 statues of Christopher Columbus have been taken down. It is imperative to those who criticize the taking down of the statues, to understand that by taking them down, the intent is not to remove these figures from history, but to teach about them in a manner that doesn’t idolize them or glorify their actions. For example, whilst it is undeniable that Columbus was of extreme importance to American History, he was also responsible for the genocide and enslavement of thousands of Native Americans.
The rebranding of many brands has also been a common occurrence over the last year. For example, the food brands Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben (that both have black people as the face of the brand) have rebranded due to the fact that the terms “aunt” and “uncle” were terms often used by white people to refer to black people during the Jim Crow era to avoid using honorific titles such as Mr. and Mrs. We can also use Johnsons & Johnsons as another example, since they have suspended the production of products commonly used for skin lightening.
Whilst there is no denying that there has been an immense amount of progress made over the last year, this fight is nowhere near over. from teaching about racism in schools, to tackling mass incarceration in the USA, there is still a lot to change. Individually, there are various things we can do, such as educating family members, reevaluating our morals, supporting black businesses and educating ourselves.
We must not treat BLM as simply a trend, and should make the movement a priority in our lives so that we no longer need a black woman to die in the hands of authority to remind ourselves of the magnitude of this issue. And most importantly, we must never forget that no lives matter until black lives matter.