A year after George Floyd’s death, the world is evaluating if much has changed since he was caught on camera saying the now infamous words “I can’t breathe” while police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck.
Floyd’s death sparked national unrest spurred on by the BLM movement, with calls to stop police brutality and to defund law enforcement. From peaceful protests that spread to over 60 countries across the globe, the US eventually witnessed violent rioting, looting, arson, and several deaths throughout the summer of 2020.
Joe Biden made the pledge for racial justice and equality a vital point of his campaign, calling BLM protests a “wake-up call” to the US and calling for comprehensive police reforms. He also picked Kamala Harris as his running mate, who is now the first Black woman to serve as US vice president.
But apart from the cancel culture and fury that has hit iconic movies, TV shows, and monuments across the world, despite Dems occupying the White House and dominating Congress, the extent of changes wrought in the aftermath of Floyd’s death has been pretty limited:
- Guilty Verdict: On 20 April, Derek Chauvin, the police officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck for over nine minutes while arresting him, was found guilty on second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter charges in relation to the Black man’s death. This marked the first time a white officer in Minnesota was convicted of murdering an African American, and a rare example of a US policeman being charged for killing anyone while on duty. For many Americans this was huge, especially following the unpunished deaths of Black men Eric Garner and Michael Brown Jr.
© REUTERS / JANE ROSENBERGFormer Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is placed in handcuffs, watched by Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill, after a jury found him guilty on all counts in his trial for second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S. April 20, 2021 in this courtroom sketch.
- BLM Wave: George Floyd protests turned violent across the US, leading to more than a dozen deaths and scores of injuries during accidental shootings and clashes with the police, as well as widespread looting. As Donald Trump fumed at Democratic governors who refused to get more serious about the mounting unrest, protesters moved on to establish their own “police free” zones, including the ill-fated one in Seattle that was cleared by officers after numerous shootings. The mood has spread to other countries with demonstrations condemning systematic racism within police units held in London, Paris, Berlin, and other big cities across the world. The BLM wave has raised awareness on the issue but little practical steps have been taken ito address the issues per se.© REUTERS / ALISHA JUCEVICProtesters stand in solidarity to listen to speeches at the end of a march ahead of the first anniversary of the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, in Portland, Oregon, U.S. May 22, 2021
- US Police Reform: In the US, calls to “defund” and “abolish” the police altogether – especially in the US city of Minneapolis where it all started – bore no serious fruit in the end; an attempt to drag a comprehensive police reform bill to Biden’s table by Tuesday failed. Congress has remained divided on some key issues in the proposed police bills pushed by Democrats, including a provision curbing officers from qualified immunity that shields them from civil lawsuits. For many Republicans (and even some Dems), this is a non-starter.
- African Americans Who Died at Hands of Police: The issue of systematic racism might have made the headlines but there was a number of controversial Black deaths, even in the wake of George Floyd’s case. This included the shooting of Daunte Wright by veteran policewoman Kim Potter and the killing of 16-year-old Ma'Khia Bryant just half an hour before the Chauvin verdict was announced.
© REUTERS / OCTAVIO JONESDemonstrators march through downtown Minneapolis demanding justice for George Floyd and Daunte Wright while jury deliberations begin for former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin's murder trial at the Hennepin County Government Center in Minneapolis,
- Culture Canceled: What's happened in the aftermath of the BLM wave has arguably been the most visible change (or perhaps attack) brought to the cultural sphere. Many celebs have been punished for their controversial statements or behaviour in the past; actor Hartley Sawyer lost his role in The Flash series for his old tweets, deemed racist and misogynic. The epic historical drama "Gone with the Wind" was temporarily taken down by HBO Max streaming service over its portrayal of slavery, only to reappear again with a disclaimer about the “historical context” it displays. Some shows – including "Little Britain" – were pulled from streaming services all together, and episodes of those featuring blackface were simply removed by the streamers ("It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia" lost five in total). Meanwhile, monuments portraying the historical figures – including those of Abraham Lincoln or Theodore Roosevelt – across the US, Britain, Canada, and some other countries have been defaced or completely toppled during the BLM wave after being deemed offensive or referencing slavery and countries' colonialist past.© SputnikBLM protesters vandalize a monument
All in all, not much has changed.