The Black Lives Matter movement is the force behind a racial reckoning in the United States, becoming the largest movement by numbers in our country’s history. 2020 has been a year of transparency for many. America has been forced to acknowledge its extensive history of racism, especially through the eyes of law enforcement.
An outcry for racial equality erupted this year after a succession of unjust deaths all shared the commonality of Black victims. On February 23, Ahmaud Arbery was shot down by two white men while he was jogging in a Georgia suburb. On March 13, 26-year-old Breonna Taylor was shot eight times after police entered her Louisville, KY apartment with a no-knock warrant. On May 25, the world viewed in horror as George Floyd died after a police officer kneeled on his neck and other officers stood and watched in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The video of Floyd went viral on social media platforms—there was no ignoring the painful sound of him crying “I can’t breathe” for almost nine minutes. It was a visual representation of the reality of racism in the U.S. As Floyd’s story spread, so did the fire in the hearts of activists. This tragic but monumental moment reignited the call to bring justice to the many Black people who have been wrongfully killed and to prevent future deaths at the hands of law enforcement.
Thousands of protestors took to the streets of Minneapolis calling for justice for Floyd—a modern-day civil rights movement had sparked. In a matter of weeks, national protests gained momentum. The brutal images of police brutality and racism in the United States spread across the world, causing the movement to gain international support in places like the United Kingdom.
What came out of the protests? Officer Derek Chauvin, who killed George Floyd, was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. The three other officers, who were bystanders at the scene and witnessed Chauvin’s use of excessive force, were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.
Change did not stop there. Monuments of confederate soldiers are being taken down, and schools with confederate namesakes are being renamed. Defunding the police is now a national conversation—major cities like Los Angeles have decreased their police department budgets by millions of dollars to instead invest in high-risk communities. Breonna’s Law was passed in Louisville, making no-knock warrants illegal unless there is an “imminent threat of harm or death.” But has justice really been served? The officers who killed Taylor have still not been arrested. So, yes, the marching, the chanting and statements of support have all amounted to something, but there is still much to be done.
At the University of Miami, changes are being made in response to the movement in order to improve the environment on campus for minority students. Landon Coles, president of UM’s United Black Students organization, has been vocal about the initiatives he and his peers have pushed forward in order to see change on campus. “As a result of the efforts of Black scholars and leaders both past and present, we have successfully initiated action surrounding proactive social justice and greater equity for Black people at UM,” Coles said. “We have created collaborations with departments from athletics to the LGBTQ+ center and successfully created new infrastructure for diversity, such as the special advisor on racial justice to the president.” But Coles said the movement is far from over. “The goal is simply to maintain forward momentum. Stagnation, being reactive and losing vigilance are our challenges that we must overcome.” Recently, Coles and Student Government Presdient Abigail Adeleke spearheaded a petition for action at UM. Both Coles and Adeleke outlined a strategy to better the lives of minority students on campus and publicly sent the proposal to President Frenk.
As part of President Julio Frenk’s plan to “support racial equality, inclusion and justice across the institution and in the greater South Florida community,” he appointed Dr. Donald Spivey of the College of Arts and Sciences as the University’s first special advisor to the president on racial justice. This was the first step in an outlined strategy to support Black students, as well as further diversify campus.
This type of positive representation can be seen in people like Professor Winston Warrior, executive director of strategic communications and marketing for the University of Miami School of Education and Human Development. Warrior has been a role model to many Black students on campus. “It is my job to be me, to be present, to always support the students and organizations, to be in spaces where people are not used to seeing someone Black. I have to represent,” said Warrior.
TIMELINE OF UNJUST DEATHS IN 2020
- February 23 | Ahmaud Arbery is shot and dies while jogging in Brunswick, GA.
- March 13 | Police storm Breonna Taylor’s apartment in Louisville, KY. Taylor is struck at least eight times and dies on scene.
- May 25 | George Floyd is killed by police officer, Derek Chauvin, in Minneapolis, MN.
- May 26 | Hundreds of people take to the streets in Minneapolis, MN in protest of police brutality and the murder of Floyd.
- May 29 | Officer Derek Chauvin is charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter for the death of Floyd.
- June 11 | “Breonna’s Law” is passed in Louisville. No-knock warrants can no longer be served unless there is “imminent threat of harm or death.”
- June 12 | Rayshard Brooks is shot and killed by a police officer in Atlanta, GA.
- June 14 | 18-year old Na’kia Crawford is gunned down in Akron, Ohio.
- June 15 | 19-year-old Black Lives Matter activist, Oluwatoyin Salau, and 75-year-old AARP volunteer, Victoria Sims die under mysterious circumstances.
- August 24 | Jacob Blake is shot and seriously injured in Kenosha, Wisconsin by police.
- August 24 | The Black Lives Matter Movement continues in the United States and abroad.
words_leslie dominique. design_rachel bergeron.
This article was published in Distraction’s fall 2020 print issue.