(Article by Elly Hancock, May 27 2021: Many thanks to BLM activist Natalie for sending it to us. Original article here.)
In 2020, Black Lives Matter became a mainstream political and cultural movement that spread across the globe. For many people, it came out of nowhere.
But the eruption of protests and anger —and the reckoning they inspired — were the culmination of years of grassroots activism and growing frustration amongst the Black community in the US. In fact, while BLM officially started in 2012, in many ways this is just the latest chapter in a fight for equality that has been taking place for centuries.
And BLM is fighting for much more than recognition of the basic humanity of Black people in America and the world over. BLM’s goals benefit us all, and will help shape a brighter future for everyone.
In this guide, I’ll show you why supporting Black Lives Matter is so urgent and necessary, how doing so will help many people in our society, and the easiest ways you can get involved.
1. Stats on Police Violence and Racial Discrimination in the US
To understand the importance of BLM we must first understand the plight of the Black community. Much of Black Lives Matter’s policy focuses on reforms to policing and other major institutions that are prejudiced.
Racism is not just experienced on an individual level, it is also structural and institutionalized. Understanding these two terms and their effects is imperative. Structural racism refers to the social, political, and economic systems of our society that manifest inequality in ethnic minorities. This could mean social or historic ideologies that ultimately result in worse income, employment, or healthcare for Black families.
Institutional racism refers to the institutions themselves. The way that political and social laws and policies within these institutions perpetuate the oppression of an ethnic group, whether intentional or not. This could be at your school, university, or workplace, and could take the form of something as simple as a ban on religious dress, or a certain hairstyle.
Understanding these two terms, and how structural racism drives institutional racism, is crucial as they demonstrate the ways our system is rigged against ethnic minorities. From governments to big businesses, racism is woven into the fabric of our societies. Here are some statistics that show the extent of institutional racism in America.
- Police violence is the number one cause of death for young Black men in the US. Overall, 1 out of every 1,000 Black men in the US will be killed by a police officer.
- Black men are 2.5 times more likely than white men to be killed by police.
- Black Americans are significantly more likely to be incarcerated for drug offenses, despite drug use being much more common in white populations.
- Black Americans earn 42% less than white Americans on average.
- Black Americans make up 33% of the US prison population, despite only accounting for 12% of the overall population.
- Black males aged 18-19 are 12.7 times more likely to be arrested than white males in the same age group.
- 93% of white workers don’t believe racial or ethnic discrimination occurs in their workplace. However, 42% of Americans have witnessed racism taking place at work.
- Black and Hispanic Americans make up less than 2% of executive roles in Fortune 1000 companies, despite the two groups representing 31.4% of the overall population.
- In the early months of 2021, state legislatures run by the Republican party introduced 361 bills across the US that would restrict voting rights and make it more difficult for Black and poor Americans to vote.
2. Stats on Police Violence and Institutional Racism Around the World
Though BLM focuses on American institutions and racism, the movement has grown to support the plight of Black people in countries across the world.
Racism is not just a problem in the United States. Police violence, structural, and institutional racism is an international scourge that manifests itself in corporations, laws, and populations.
Here are the stats that show institutional racism around the world:
- In Finland, 63% of Black people have experienced racial harassment in the last 5 years.
- In the European Union, only 14% of cases of racial harassment are reported by victims.
- 29% of adult prisoners in Australia are from Indigenous groups, despite only accounting for 3% of the population. Aboriginal and Torres Straits Islander people are the most incarcerated people on the planet.
- Between 2007 and 2017, a third of people shot by Canadian police were from indigenous groups — despite indigenous people only accounting for 5% of the population.
- In New Zealand, Maori and Pacific Islanders make up 25% of the population, but account for 66% of people shot by the police.
- 95% of young Black British people experience racism at school.
- In England and Wales, over 76,070 racist incidents were reported to police in 2019 and 2020. That’s an increase from 53,902 in 2015 — and doesn’t include incidents that were not reported.
- In England and Wales, Black people are 8 times more likely to be stopped by police than white people.
- Black Caribbean children are 3 times more likely to be excluded at school.
The Wider Effects of Institutional Racism
We must stress that Black people are not singled out because of a pattern of behavior amongst the community. Instead, they are singled out by the unjust systems of belief and policy within nations. In fact, the Macpherson report concluded that police in the UK were institutionally racist.
A YouGov survey found that 2 in 5 (41%) of police officers in the UK believe racial stereotypes are true. Police officers essentially operate based on these instincts, which are informed by racist beliefs.
Government laws and policies can also be racist. In America, the Black Code laws existed in some form until the 1960s. These were a set of restrictive laws that limited the freedoms of African Americans and their access to a fair wage and labor.
New laws are still drafted in America today that disproportionately affect Black people. For example, new voter ID registration requires voters to have a government-mandated ID. 25% of Black Americans, as opposed to 8% of white Americans, currently do not own a government-mandated ID.
Structural and institutional racism can result in worse housing and healthcare for Black people, too. Between 1934 and 1962, there was $120 billion worth of housing loans granted in the US. Just 2% of these loans went to non-white families.
The result is poorer neighborhoods for ethnic minorities with worse health benefits and social institutions. Black Americans are exposed to 1.5 times more sooty pollution than white Americans. They also face a worse standard of healthcare, according to research from Jamila Taylor.
This is the same in other countries. In the UK, 46% of Black households live in poverty, compared to 1 in 5 white families. That means the Black community is exposed to worse job security (with greater job losses), pay cuts, and a lower value of work.
Essentially, whether in America or abroad, institutional and structural racism unfairly disadvantage Black people. This type of discrimination is subtle on the surface, but it affects the life of every ethnic minority.
We must do what we can to give everyone an equal footing, and that can be achieved by supporting Black Lives Matter.
3. Microaggressions, Individual Racism, and Damaging Outcomes
Racism is not only structural and institutionalized, it is also experienced directly from one individual to another.
Structural racism and institutional racism eventually lead to examples of individual racism.
Individuals are informed by the structures in which they grow up — resulting in intolerance and inequality.
Microaggressions are individual racist acts that are supplemented by structural racism. These are subtle verbal, behavioral, or environmental racist actions that may be intentional or unintentional.
There are three types:
- Microassaults are intentional examples of discriminatory behavior that are not intended to be offensive, such as a racist joke.
- Microinsults are unintentionally discriminatory but are seeded in ignorance or naivety. This could be a reference to a racial stereotype that the person believes to be true.
- Finally, microinvalidations describe a situation where someone undermines the experience of another ethnic group. It could be the claim that racism is “not that bad” in a certain area or country.
Microaggressions and everyday racism could take the form of something as simple as a Black person not being served quickly enough at a bar because of their race, either consciously or subconsciously. The point is racism can be subtle, but that doesn’t make it any less damaging.
Damaging Outcomes Mean We Must Support BLM
According to a Gallup survey, a massive proportion of the Black community say they are exposed to microaggressions regularly.
32% of Black adults believe people have acted like they were “better than you.” Another 25% acted as if they thought “you are not smart.” 1 in 5 note that they have been treated with less courtesy and respect than others.
The effects of racism on the individual are damaging, whether that is individual, structural, or institutionalized racism.
People who experience microaggressions are more likely to experience higher levels of depression and trauma. In general, Black people are more likely to self-harm, have suicidal thoughts, and have anxiety or depression, because of racism.
Mortality and morbidity rates are even higher for those that endure the stress of chronic racism, the kind of racism that is perpetuated through structures and institutions that feel immovable, like the police force.
On a social, economic, and individual level —however subtle — the effects of racism are widespread and massively damaging. The only way to see tangible reductions in the damage that racism can cause is through an organized, concerted effort, and that’s a huge reason why you need to support BLM.
3. BLM is Grassroots
The Black Lives Matter movement was born from a hashtag in 2013, following the acquittal of George Zimmerman.
Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old unarmed Black teenager, was gunned down by 28-year-old officer George Zimmerman after a physical altercation on February 26th, 2012. Following the death of Martin and the subsequent trial of Zimmerman, the officer claimed self-defense, for which he was released without charge.
Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi — three Black women — began using #BlackLivesMatter to voice their resistance to the trial results. The tag would soon gain widespread use.
The movement grew nationally in 2014, after the shootings of Michael Brown in Missouri and Eric Garner in New York City.
BLM members were ever-present at the Ferguson protests, leading a string of intense and vocal demonstrations in response to the unjust killing of Michael Brown by police officers. The protests sparked a national debate about police brutality and race, and thrust BLM into the public eye.
Over the next 2 years, BLM went on to expand its project with a network of more than 30 local chapters around America. Now, BLM is a worldwide organization, but we must acknowledge that BLM has garnered grassroots support and participation all over the USA. A movement for the people, by the people.
Black Lives Matter is a decentralized, independently-funded organization. That means there is no hierarchical structure; BLM does not have leaders, all of its members have an equal voice. BLM practices what it preaches.
With no financial support from major institutions or governments, BLM relies on charitable donations and support from the public. Money goes a long way to ensuring the success of the movement.
BLM is an organization with local goals of international importance. An organization with the goal to “eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities.”
BLM is not a big business or some plastic organization, it is born from the voices of real people within our communities. It is a grassroots organization that relies on your support. That’s why we must do what we can to give money, time, or spread the word of Black Lives Matter.
4. BLM is Inspiring Real Change
Over the years, BLM has grown from an unknown movement to an international force. It has inspired changes in politics, business, entertainment, and police forces— not to mention educating millions on the extent of social injustices.
We have seen big changes sparked by BLM since the George Floyd murder, but even before then, BLM was doing great things to lay the groundwork for what it is today.
Black Lives Matter was gathering momentum for several years before the murder of George Floyd. Here is a timeline of significant events that laid the foundations for the movement today.
- 2014 | BLM amassed widespread recognition after peaceful protests and riots about the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown. The BLM ride, organized by co-founder Patrisse Cullors, brought together more than 600 people who marched down to the site of Mike Brown’s murder.
- 2015 | Protests against the killings of Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, and Meagan Hockaday coupled groundbreaking protests about the deaths of 21 trans people that year in the USA, 13 of whom were Black. This demonstrates BLM’s support for even the most sidelined in our community. In another incident, an officer is forced to resign under pressure from BLM.
- 2016 | Over 100 BLM protests took place in early July 2016, following the deaths of Deborah Danner, Alton Sterling, and Philando Castile. BLM garners support from huge sports stars, with Lebron James exclaiming that “enough is enough” at an awards ceremony. Colin Kaepernick, an NFL player, took a knee in support of BLM during the American national anthem.
- 2017 | A BLM exhibition celebrates Black artists through 30 pieces of excellent Black art. The event points towards the way BLM has changed perceptions by celebrating Black history. In the same year, BLM continued to offer resistance to the acquittals of guilty officers.
- 2018 | #BlackLivesMatter has been tweeted nearly 30 million times since 2013.
- 2019 | BLM gained support from 60 high-profile stars in the music and entertainment industry, who came together to advocate for rapper 21 Savage’s release from prison. BLM is now a mainstream and well-known movement.
Talking about the growth of BLM over this period, co-founder Patrisse Cullors said:
“[BLM] has popularised civil disobedience and the need to put our bodies on the line… With things like the Women’s March, and Me Too, and March for our Lives, all of these movements, their foundations are in Black Lives Matter.”
From 2013-2019, Black Lives Matter became the biggest Black-rights movement since the civil rights movement of the 1960s. It’s this support that has facilitated the big changes we are now seeing today.
In 2020, the killing of George Floyd by police officer Derek Chauvin sparked some of the most widespread support for Black rights seen in more than 100 years.
Diverse, international protests propelled Black Lives Matter into becoming an organization whose message is heard in all corners of the world. Protests were filled with people of all ethnic backgrounds and nationalities, which is symbolic of how the movement has resonated with so many people.
Following the death of George Floyd, general support for BLM across all ethnic groups increased massively:
In the past, Chauvin may have been acquitted for his despicable actions, or at the very least forced to resign. Under intense pressure, the officer in question was charged with second-and third-degree murder, along with manslaughter. Derek Chauvin has since undergone trial and has been found guilty of all charges brought against him.
His accomplices were also charged with aiding and abetting all counts of murder, another major breakthrough in the governance of police brutality.
The event has sparked a wave of reforms across laws and institutions throughout America:
Police Reforms & Laws
- Police funding is cut in forces throughout the US. The LAPD relocated $133 million into services aimed at helping disenfranchised Black and Latino communities. Other cities, including New York, Baltimore, Portland, Philadelphia, Seattle, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. also defund their police.
- Chokehold maneuvers, which are used by US police, are banned in 31 more cities throughout the nation. In total, 62 out of America’s 100 biggest cities have now banned chokeholds.
- The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020 brings in numerous changes to federal police officers. The law prohibits racial and religious profiling and mandates training on these issues, along with other changes such as forcing the use of cameras upon federal officers and setting up task forces to identify and report police brutality.
- The George Floyd Law Enforcement Trust and Integrity Act is a subsection of the justice in policing act, which fosters better relations between police forces and communities to reduce police brutality.
- The Ending Qualified Immunity Act is a proposed law to end qualified immunity in the US. Qualified immunity protects officers and governments from being personally responsible for illegal or problematic acts performed in the line of duty.
- The Executive Order on Safe Policing for Safe Communities (executive order 13929) requires that state, local, and university law enforcement agencies are certified by independent credentialing companies. This aims to hold police accountable and build trust in communities.
- The Breonna Law in Louisville bans ‘no knock’ search warrants. The same type of police search that resulted in Breonna Taylor’s death.
- New York City repeals law 50-a, effectively removing obstruction to the public scrutiny of any officer’s disciplinary record.
- “Duty-to-intervene” policies are strengthened in Detroit, Buffalo, Dallas, and Charlotte. This encourages colleagues to “step in” if another officer is acting incorrectly.
- A database was created to track and document police violence at Black Lives Matter protests, which has led to numerous charges against officers.
- Racist relics are removed across the world, including monuments and even street names. In America, statues of slavers, colonizers, and Confederate leaders are removed. Among these are the famous statues of Confederate General Stonewall Jackson in Virginia, and Confederate President Jefferson Davis in Kentucky.
- The Confederate flag is banned at US military bases and facilities around the world. Any bases named after Confederate officers have had their names changed. Mississippi changes its state flag so that it does not include elements of the Confederate flag, while NASCAR bans its use as well.
- Private and public institutions are forced to address and evaluate their own role in racism, including their role in perpetuating racist ideologies. This is a global event.
- Schools adopt racial equality practices, notably in Milwaukee, Indianapolis, San Diego, and Philadelphia. This means they are desegregated, with racial gaps among students closed. There are also reforms in the way schools teach, discipline, hire and train students and staff.
- Schools phase out the presence of police officers on-campus, notably in Seattle, Oakland, Denver, Minneapolis, and Milwaukee. They achieve this by ending contracts with local police forces, and by placing mental health staff and support workers on campus instead of officers.
- Schools change their syllabus to include more diverse subjects, people, and histories. Some schools also place anti-racist teachings onto their curriculum, specifically in Denver and Spokane.
Sports & Entertainment
- Different sports and sports leagues across the world demonstrate constant solidarity with BLM. In European football, players take the knee before every match. In the NFL, league chiefs apologize for condemning players like Colin Kaepernick for speaking out against racism and police brutality.
- The Washington NFL franchise changes its name from the “Washington Redskins” to the “Washington Football Team.” The move comes because of the racist connotations of the term “redskins.”
- Paramount cancels its TV show Cops over claims it glorifies the policing of ethnic minorities.
- The famous TV show Sesame Street holds an event that teaches kids about racism, privilege, and protest.
- Across the world, people champion Black arts and invest in Black businesses. It’s a global celebration and appreciation of Black culture.
- Disney changes the name (and theme) of its “Splash Mountain” ride because of its ties to a racist film. Instead, the ride becomes themed around The Princess and the Frog, a recent Disney film that stars a Black princess.
- Shows including 30 Rock, The Office, and Scrubs, pull any episodes featuring blackface from streaming sites like Netflix.
- Jenny Slate and Kristen Bell withdraw from their biracial roles on the American TV show “Big Mouth,” giving their roles to Black actors.
- In the Oscars, 9 out of 23 Oscar nominations were for ethnic minorities, with Black actor Daniel Kaluya winning an Oscar. No Black actors were nominated in 2016.
In late November 2020, a high number of Black voters helped to vote in Joe Biden, who promises reforms in light of the recent Black Lives Matter protests.
Following the sentencing of Derek Chauvin, the man who murdered George Floyd, Biden said that it was “a moment of significant change.” He continued, “It’s not enough. We can’t stop here. We’re going to deliver real change and reform.”
BLM began 2021 with a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize by Norweigan MP Petter Eide, who cited the organization as “the strongest global force against racial injustice.”
It’s clear that Black Lives Matter is accelerating reforms across oppressive institutions and social systems. The organization’s progress is constant and is now wielding tangible results.
This is another reason why you need to support BLM. It is not an unproven movement, it’s a proper vehicle for change. By supporting BLM you will help maintain the wave of progress that we are now seeing all over the planet.
5. BLM is Inspiring Global Change
As we have mentioned, BLM is now having a significant effect in countries around the world.
Whether that is through BLM-organized demonstrations, new movements, or protesters that are using BLM as an inspiration to tackle their own issues of inequality, the effects of BLM are far-reaching and varied.
In Nigeria, BLM has inspired a string of intense protests against the Nigerian police force and government. Specifically, against the tyrannical and often criticized “Special Anti-Robbery Squad” (SARS).
SARS is a police unit in Nigeria that has been embroiled in controversy throughout the years. They have been publicly chastised for extorting citizens, kidnapping people, carrying out extrajudicial killings, and making illegal arrests.
The protests drew inspiration from Black Lives Matter, particularly through the use of the hashtag (#EndSARS), which was soon trending in Nigeria.
The EndSARS movement gained public support from around the world, with marches in Toronto, Paris, London, and New York. Celebrities like Beyoncé, Rihanna, and Kanye West voiced their support for the EndSARS cause — along with BLM activists, including co-founder Opal Tometi.
The movement now drives a greater debate about governance, social reform, and brutal policing in Nigeria. Eventually, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad was disbanded on Oct. 12, 2020, though not before 51 civilian, 11 police, and 7 soldier deaths during protests.
Okon Nya, editor of popular Nigerian website Busy Buddies, commented on the EndSARS movement:
“If some of us didn’t see how Black Lives Matter protesters in America forced some local governments to defund their police departments, we wouldn’t have believed it is possible for any action to be taken against the police.”
“What can be achieved in the United States can also be achieved here in Nigeria.”
Like many other countries, BLM protests in France focused on social issues and questionable incidents specific to the nation.
“Justice for Adama” protests took place at the Place de la République in Paris, with 15,000 protesters gathered on the famous square. While earlier protests in France had focused on the death of George Floyd, the emphasis was now on the death of Adama Traore, a young Black man who died in the custody of French police in 2016.
Protesters echoed the voices of BLM activists across the sea: “No justice, no peace.” Some people even climbed the statue of Marianne, a symbol of past revolutions and the French Republic.
The protests also focused on police brutality in general, which has become a prevalent issue in France. In 2019, France’s police watchdog received 1,500 complaints about the conduct of French police officers, half of which cited excessive violence.
Ultimately, the protests did force through some changes. Most notably, Minister Christophe Castaner banned the police “chokehold” maneuver, with greater reforms in the pipeline.
Across 260 towns and cities, hundreds of thousands of people marched in support of Black Lives Matter in the United Kingdom.
210,000 people attended protests throughout June and July 2020, the biggest UK protests on Black rights since the abolition of slavery.
Like France and many other countries, protests in the UK did not only voice support for the George Floyd case and racial politics in America. The protests also tackled racial politics in Britain head-on, with an emphasis on Britain’s colonial history.
Britain was one of the biggest exponents of the slave trade. British protesters sought to tear down monuments of famous slavers, the most well-known of which was the statue of Edward Coulson in Bristol.
The protests also mentioned Mark Duggan, a 29-year-old old Black man that was killed by police in 2011.
Other Cities Across the World
Anti-racism marches have gathered momentum in almost every country in the world, including Copenhagen, Barcelona, Switzerland, and Italy. In Naples (and many other cities), protesters gathered outside of US embassies, demanding justice for Floyd amongst other victims of oppression.
In Brussels, the case of Moïse “Lamine” Bangoura (who died in police custody in 2018) was brought back into public focus by 10,000 protesters. Just like British protesters, Belgians grappled with their colonial past by taking down monuments, such as the statue of King Leopold II.
The point is, BLM is not just about George Floyd or police brutality in America. Protesters elsewhere have taken it as a vehicle to inspire change in their own nations. Black Lives Matter has forced other countries to look inward, at cases like that of Collins Khosa in Johannesburg, or Solomon Teka in Israel.
This is why we must continue to support BLM. Because it can realize global change, not just change within America. We are already seeing healthy discussions and promising results around the world.
For example, among legislators in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada who tweeted at least one time within 2 weeks of Floyd’s death, 49% either mentioned George Floyd’s name or used variants of ‘Black Lives Matter’ and its hashtag.
Only 4% of these legislators tweeted about BLM within 17 months prior.
6. BLM is Intersectional and Inclusive
Previous civil rights movements have often focused on the betterment of a single marginalized group at all costs.
First and second-wave feminism — although crucial in gaining better rights for women — was only initially interested in the rights of white women. Some individual members have come under criticism for harboring hatred for other groups, like men, and the same could be said for countless other movements throughout history.
Where Black Lives Matter differs, however, is in its emphasis on inclusion.
BLM’s practices of equality are evident in its structure, which is decentralized to offer a voice to all of its members. Attending a single BLM protest, you will find people of all genders, sexualities, and ethnic backgrounds.
So too does BLM’s fight take on greater responsibility than lobbying for Black people’s rights, it is ultimately about a better deal for all.
Black Women, Black Trans, and LGBTQ+ Rights
All 3 founders of Black Lives Matter are women, 2 of whom identify as queer. With members that are part of numerous subjugated groups, BLM has always sought to give a voice to women and the LGBTQ+ community.
Chants like “Black trans lives matter” can be heard at many BLM protests, and BLM activists organized protests against the killings of 21 transgender people in 2015 — 13 of whom were Black trans.
BLM is also regarded as the inspiration for women’s rights movements like Me Too, and the Women’s March.
These marginalized sub-groups all experience the same institutional discrimination. Black LGBTQ+ and HIV-affected victims of hate crime are almost twice as likely to have experienced police brutality than other hate violence survivors.
It’s this plight that means women, trans, and LGBTQ+ people march in solidarity with BLM, which could be seen at Pride 2020 where Black-gay voices called for reform. The Black Trans Lives Matter rally in Brooklyn 2020 was another significant event.
The 2020 murders of two Black transgender women — Riah Milton and Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells — serves to highlight that, for many of those who cross two of these groups, their sex/sexuality adds another target onto their back.
For many, it is too much. In a Trevor Project survey, 44% of Black LGBTQ+ youth respondents said they considered committing suicide in the last 12 months.
By supporting BLM, you also provide support to countless other people who are discriminated against because of their sexuality, or who are made to feel different because of a combination of ethnicity, sex, and sexuality.
BLM Includes Other Ethnic Minority Groups
Other minority groups face hate crimes, racism, and police brutality. Notably, Asians and Latinos have also seen this kind of discrimination at alarming levels.
The Atlanta rampage in 2021, which resulted in the death of six Asian women, spotlights the issues this particular group faces. Between March 2020 and February 2021, “Stop AAPI Hate” found that Asian women reported 2.3 times more hate incidents than Asian men.
This comes at a time when the Asian community is experiencing a heightened number of racist incidents, due to baseless animosity from citizens who are annoyed with the COVID-19 pandemic. Stop AAPI Hate received 2,800 additional reports of hate incidents directed at Asian Americans nationwide in 2020. It’s thought Asian hate crimes will only get worse.
American Latinos have good reason to join in with Black Lives Matter. They too are badly affected by police brutality. From 2016 to 2018, Latinos accounted for almost half of all deadly police shootings in California — yet they make up just 39% of the population.
That’s the second most disproportionate rate; second only to police brutality against African Americans.
“Latinos and Black communities have a common pain,” says George Galvis, executive director of Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice; “a common oppression. But we’ve got our own martyrs.”
Perez Lopez was one of them. In the year he died (2015), at least 67 Latinos were killed by police across the US. 60% of them did not carry a gun, 25% were not armed at all.
Not to mention the Native American community, who are largely forgotten by many civil rights movements. 75% of Native Americans believe there is racism towards their group in America.
With a common goal of ending ethnic-based discrimination within our people, institutions, and police forces, members of ethnic subgroups march in solidarity with BLM.
To support Black Lives Matter is to support Black trans people, Black women, and the wider LGBTQ+ community. By supporting BLM, you support every other oppressed ethnic minority or sub-group in America and across the world. That is why the common goal of BLM is so inclusive — and so crucial.
7. BLM and Other Movements are Inspiring Reckonings with the Past
The BLM movement has inspired a range of localized responses around the world.
Particularly within Europe (but also in America), BLM has forced us to reconsider the racist history upon which many countries are built.
In Europe, countries like Belgium, France, Spain, Portugal, and England have been forced to think about their colonial roots, and what that means today. In America, Confederate history and the slave trade have been a constant discussion.
The 1619 Project
The 1619 Project is a fascinating long-form journalism project from The New York Times. In particular, it is the brain-child of investigative journalist and civil rights writer, Nikole Hannah-Jones.
First published in late 2019, the project commemorates the 400-year anniversary of the slave trade in the US. 1619 was the year that the first African slaves landed on American soil.
The 1619 Project uses what we now know about slavery, along with contributions from African American writers, to reframe American history and racial politics. In this sense, it is revisionist American history through the lens of slavery.
Nikole Hannah-Jones received the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary for her introductory essay, titled, “America Wasn’t a Democracy Until Black Americans Made It One.”
The project is ongoing and tackles issues of slavery, cultural appropriation, and inequality. It includes poems, fiction, and essays such as “Why Is Everyone Always Stealing Black Music?” by Wesley Morris. 1619 also employs a panel of historians who fact-check each entry.
The 1619 Project has come under criticism from some historians, who believe 1619 places greater importance on ideology than historical accuracy. However, these claims have been rejected by The New York Times, and 1619 remains an important retelling of history through African American voices.
Confederate Symbols in the US
From 2015 to 2019, 54 Confederate monuments were removed in the United States.
After the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent BLM protests in 2020, American authorities removed a total of 168 Confederate symbols throughout the country.
These include public flags, street names, and monuments that relate to (or symbolize) the Confederacy, its values, or its members. Among those Confederate symbols that have been removed were 94 statues, which often decorated the achievements of infamous Confederate leaders.
For those who don’t know, the Confederate States of America were a group of 11 southern states that broke away from the United States in 1860–61. The Confederates hoped to govern their own laws and did not want to abolish slavery despite growing national pressure.
As such, Confederate symbolism has become a signifier of the dark side of racial politics in America. Some individuals choose to use Confederate symbols to champion white supremacist beliefs.
Flags, city seals, and even state holidays have been removed or renamed if they have any links to Confederate history. The state of Mississippi changed its flag in response to BLM, which featured elements of the Confederate flag.
The protests also sparked a reassessment of Confederate “heroes”. Statues are used to celebrate achievements. So, why are these people celebrated if they were fighting for slavery and greater oppression?
The return to Confederate history represents a toppling of old-fashioned beliefs for many Americans and in that sense it is important.
Slave Trader Statues Torn Down
Similar events took place in colonial countries, such as the United Kingdom.
In Belgium, the statue of King Leopold II was torn down, a man blamed for genocide during the Belgian control of Congo. In the UK, monuments of slavers and racists were attacked. The most famous of these was the statue of Edward Coulson. Coulson was a wealthy philanthropist who made his money as part of the Royal African Company, a slaving company that transported more than 80,000 people from Africa to the Americas between 1672 and 1689.
A source of discomfort in the city of Bristol for years, Coulson’s statue was eventually torn down during a BLM protest in June 2020. It was vandalized and dragged through the streets of Bristol, before being thrown into the river.
The difference here is that, unlike in America, this was not done by the state. It was solely the mission of protesters across the country who eventually used the Coulson statue’s plinth as a stage for their protests.
The event was described as a “criminal act” by the British government, who added that the relevant people should be “held to account.”
Racism Report in the UK
Another discussion has taken place in the United Kingdom about a recent government-mandated report on the state of racism in the nation.
Among its 258 pages, the report highlighted greater educational achievement for Black UK citizens and concluded that there is no institutional racism in the UK. It even included a small section about the “Caribbean experience” that seems to posit the UK government as slavery apologists.
The state-sponsored review has drawn widespread criticism since its release. Many people believe the report has been published as a form of gaslighting by the UK government. Of course, the same country that profited massively from the slave trade clearly has institutions built on the foundations of racism.
People were outraged at the report, though its commission, release, and the reaction of the public points to the fact that people want an honest (and apologetic) assessment of colonial history and racial politics.
In the same way that Black Lives Matter is forcing countries to reassess their troubled past, it’s also promoting a Pan-African celebration of past, culture, and identity.
The official BLM merchandise features the colors of the Pan-African flag and heritage. This clothing is worn around the world, even among ethnic groups who are not Black.
Ghana promoted its “year of return” in 2019, as the 400th year since the first African slaves landed in the USA. Those of African heritage were invited to return to Ghana, and the country eventually saw a 45% increase in tourism compared to the previous year.
We’ve seen how African culture can be celebrated in the mainstream media, and issues of race and injustice are now tackled head-on. The Black Panther character is one such example, which was immortalized as an icon for Black heritage and identity after the death of actor Chadwick Boseman in late August 2020.
Great films tackling Black history have also been revisited. Black actors are receiving more credit now, too, with a record 9 out of 20 nominations for actors of color at the Oscars in 2021. This comes following the #OscarsSoWhite protests in 2016, and the lack of diversity among nominees in 2020.
It’s in the wake of these changes, Black history month has had a carnival atmosphere, as a celebration and a resurgence of pride in Black heritage for many members of the community.
This acceptance and evaluation of history can be seen in almost every country and ethnic group in the world. Whether that is populations taking responsibility, or groups celebrating their culture, supporting BLM has a positive effect on rectifying issues of the past.
8. BLM is Part of a Global and Peaceful Civil Unrest
Many BLM-inspired protests across the world incorporate their own stories of police brutality and ethnic discrimination, but BLM is also part of something much greater.
BLM stands for equality. BLM’s model of social upheaval and large-scale demonstration has been used to organize a response to other issues of government corruption and oppression.
Hong Kongers have stood in solidarity with BLM, many using their support for the movement as a double-edged criticism of the totalitarian Chinese state that controls Hong Kong.
By supporting an American movement that lobbies for equal rights, Hong Kong activists also stand against the Chinese government.
In Thailand, BLM protests began online and, in July 2020, young people across the nation began protesting against the hierarchical Thai government and monarchy too. Crowds of up to 50,000 people were organized by young people and the LGBTQ+ community, the same people supporting BLM in the weeks previous.
In France, BLM protests grew into greater conversations about governance and the state.
500,000 people in Belarus attended protests against their own government following a presidential election in 2020. Protests which drew parallels with BLM protests in the months before.
In Argentina, protesters flooded the streets, outraged by claims of government corruption while asking for reforms to the justice system. Protests in Israel aimed similar claims of corruption at president Benjamin Netanyahu.
2020 and 2021 have seen an unprecedented amount of protests. Many of them have been in support of BLM, but amongst young people, it seems BLM has paved the way for peaceful resistance to other issues within society as well.
It points towards a greater shared consciousness, an understanding that we can stand together to oppose governments, systems, ideologies, and corruption. This is a big reason you need to support Black Lives Matter; it is awakening coordinated social action, a revolutionary mood, and peaceful resistance to the shortcomings of society.
9. Goals go Beyond Anti-Racism
BLM’s mission ultimately goes beyond anti-racism. Yes, people are using the BLM protests to inspire change in their own countries, but the very principles of BLM stand in opposition to every type of worsening inequality.
Black Lives Matter has been called a “Marxist” movement by some, which is a little bit strong and not entirely correct. However, it does outline how BLM goes beyond race to inspire a response to governments, capitalists, and long-held ideologies.
That’s because BLM is not only about race, it is about class as well. The western class system is linked to racism, as Black families often find themselves lower down the ladder with a worse standard of labor and benefits.
The proof is in the long list of anti-government protests that have followed widespread Black Lives Matter protests. The nature of the movement has not only awakened action, but it has also inspired people with its ideals.
Black Lives Matter protests call for fairer wages, safer working conditions, and reforms to university tuition fees and student debt. That’s significant, as for many poor African Americans college is seen as the best way to rise through the class system and narrow the racial divide.
These goals resonate with anyone who faces economic hardship, whatever their ethnic background.
Black Lives Matter also decries capitalism and neoliberalism as racist concepts that unfairly accommodate established white-owned enterprises. Life is especially hard for Black entrepreneurs who are trying to establish themselves, and the Black Capitalism movement has developed in response to this. People are now encouraged to support and donate to Black-owned businesses.
It’s in this context that insular, dysfunctional politicians are being dropped for promises of greater equality. The dismissal of Donald Trump and the election of Joe Biden is one such example, elected largely through the vote of Black citizens.
If you are a believer in equality, then you believe in reforms to class-based bias, the eradication of self-serving politics, and greater economic opportunity for all. These are systems that affect everyone, and BLM is trying to make a difference. Another reason why you should support Black Lives Matter.
10. BLM Could Be of Greater Significance Than You Realize
Although many people know about their ethnic heritage, for others their family tree is somewhat of an enigma.
I have a friend who has no clue where he gets his Afro-textured hair and dark complexion. By all accounts, he appears to be mostly of Caucasian heritage, but his grandfather is unknown and the family believes they may have roots in the Middle East.
He, like many people who have a diverse cultural heritage, has faced discrimination in the past for the way he looks. Strange, I know, given there is no confirmation of his ethnic background. But for mixed-race people across the world, there is still the prevalence of racism and discrimination because of their appearance.
In a Pew Research survey of mixed-race Americans, 55% say they have been subject to jokes or slurs about their race. 43% of respondents received poor service because of their heritage, while a third or less faced unfair treatment by employers, threats and physical abuse, or unfair profiling by police.
A significant proportion of biracial people say they struggle with their identity, as they often feel they do not belong to one specific ethnic group. Of course, many biracial individuals stand in solidarity with Black Lives Matter.
Understanding your own cultural heritage can make BLM a cause of increased personal importance. If you are unsure about any aspect of your heritage, why not take a DNA test? You could learn something surprising.
You may be surprised to find that your heritage is more complex than you first thought, or that discrimination you have faced for your appearance is rooted in deeper meaning.
Whether you realize you have diverse ethnicities in your family tree, or you discover that a distant ancestor was involved in the slave trade. Coming to terms with your personal history can add significance, and is another reason to support BLM.
The Bottom Line: Why You Should Support BLM
While there are several important reasons to support Black Lives Matter, there are a few crucial points in this list that must be underlined.
The bottom line is that racism is wrong. Full stop. By supporting BLM, you are supporting members of the Black community in a fight against oppression, injustice, and systemic racism that rots society to its core.
It’s a fight that is morally right. One that places a responsibility upon governments, institutions, and individuals to look inwards to identify patterns of racist behavior. It’s a movement that is inspiring real change in countries across the world, and the movement achieves this through a mantra of peaceful protest.
The only way we can keep up the momentum of BLM is to continue to invest our time, energy, or money into its cause. Here are a few different ways that you can support Black Lives Matter.
7 Ways You Can Support BLM
Want to support BLM, but don’t know how? Here are 7 ways you can influence change in BLM’s fight against racism.
Donating to Black Lives Matter is a great way to affect serious change. As we have mentioned, BLM is funded by donations and relies completely on the charity of its supporters. You can also make a big impact by supporting the families of police brutality victims directly, or by paying the bail funds of protesters.
- Support Black Businesses, Artists & Influencers
You can make a huge difference to the opportunities provided to Black people by supporting their efforts. Buy products from Black-owned businesses, read, listen or watch Black artists, and consume content from Black influencers. This will act as resistance to the racial profiling demonstrated by white executives and investors, and will show how much value we all place on Black culture.
- Educate Yourself
There are links to a treasure trove of valuable resources that can be found through a simple internet search. Read articles about Black rights, read books about Black history and racial politics, take an anti-racism course online, or consume Black arts and media. These are great ways to give yourself some context about the struggle of the Black community.
- Evaluate yourself
Have you been racist in the past? Have you displayed microaggressions in the past? Or have you treated someone differently because of their ethnicity in any way? Evaluating yourself is a great way to avoid similar mistakes in the future.
- Stand Up Against Racism, Online and IRL
Gandhi once said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.’’ There’s no better way to tackle racism than to treat everyone you meet equally and to publicly challenge discrimination as it presents itself online and in real life. That means educating loved ones who hold old-fashioned beliefs and holding those to account who post racist material on social media.
- Become More Politically Active
Sign petitions, volunteer for charitable events that promote equality, and make your vote count. That means voting carefully, for a political party that values, promotes, and promises reforms to racial politics and issues of equality.
- Share, Promote, and Elevate BLM
Whether that is online or in everyday life, tell others about the Black Lives Matter movement. Tell people about its values, how it fights for so many different things in our society, and how it’s inspiring real change across the world.
Last but certainly not least, you need to protest. Protesting puts issues firmly in the public eye. It applies pressure to governments and institutions, and it promotes a revolutionary challenge to outdated ideologies. Whether online or in the streets, protesting for BLM and Black rights is the best way to support the movement.