My name is Jackie Pipinich and I am a baking arts major. English has always been one of my strongest subjects; I love how the platform makes it easier to express myself. The events preceding the Black Lives Matter movement were, to say the least, emotional and impactful. I feel as though this essay was a small way for me to show some solidarity in the events unfolding around us.
On May 25th, 2020, one George Floyd was killed by Officer Derek Chauvin via suffocation. This incident has caused a large shift in Social Justice movements, resulting in acts of protest, artistic expression and the removal of historical landmarks representing confederate values. Overall, there has emerged a greater push to end racist ideologies and hold those who show them accountable. Floyd was a final tipping point that encouraged the American people to look into the various acts of normalized institutional racism present in our society. The death of George Floyd has had an overall massive impact on American Social Justice movements.
After the reports of Floyd’s death, protests, marches, and gatherings grew almost overnight. Some reports estimate roughly fifteen to twenty-million people have been involved in some sort of protest since that day. To compare, protests in 2018 and early 2019 focused specifically on Black Lives Matter had no notable protests or events, save for a few smaller, local gatherings. In terms of digital movements, the #BlackLivesMatter tag was used an average of 17,000 times from July of 2013 to May of 2018 and #GeorgeFloyd had topped Twitter’s trending chart with over 96,000 mentions. In contrast, the usage of the same tag rose to roughly 47.8 million uses between May 26th and June 7th of 2019. The effect of Floyd’s death had caused an increase of activism over nearly 50 million mentions digitally and about twenty million physically.
A separate effect of Floyd’s death lies in the inspiration for people to begin dismantling structures glorifying confederate figureheads in American history. Since the incident, statues have been removed- either by mob justice or actions taken by local governments. Some examples include: Jefferson Davis (Richmond, VA), John C. Calhoun (Charleston, SC), a confederate monument (Portsmouth, VA), etc. There are roughly 130 similar examples that have occurred across America since Floyd. These statues have often been accepted by historical societies and museums in order to preserve the historical significance without the glorification that comes with the display. The idea of removing an official statue of anyone was hardly mentioned before Floyd kindled the inspiration for people to incite mob justice against statues representing America’s more racist phases.
A final development that evolved from Floyd was an increase in public art and expression involving the BLM movement. A notable example of this would be the actions of Mayor Muriel Bowser, who commissioned a piece to be painted in light of the new protests. The bright yellow letters reading the phrase “black lives matter” spanned the entire street and were painted on 16th street leading up to the White House. A similar mural was later painted in front of Jack Yates High School; the school that Floyd himself attended. This example spanned two blocks, bearing the same message in the school’s team colors. These are hardly the only examples; many being smaller murals -and in some cases, graffiti- done by locals for their community. Often done by those attending protests, these murals often depict bright colors, the face of Floyd or other notable black figureheads, and a plethora of accompanying messages and quotes. The increase in both official, commissioned artwork and acts of individual artistic protest have risen drastically and proudly display Floyd as the inspiration behind their pieces.
To conclude, the murder of George Floyd was one of the final events that pushed America into a storm of political activism. Country wide protests, artistic expressions and removal of confederate glorification have all played a part in the shift of political ideologies now held by most Americans. The occurrence did much to shed light on the issues facing America’s colored population and the people reacted accordingly in many different ways. Statues of notable African American innovators and figureheads now stand where confederate leaders did. The phrase “black lives matter” is now widely recognized; and anyone who walks up 16th street of Pennsylvania Avenue will walk along the same infamous phrase. The death of George Floyd has provided a massive change in political ideologies and social justice that is still being seen today.