The worldwide protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, an African American man who died in police custody last month in Minnesota, have resulted in a sea change in public attitudes regarding racial and social injustice.
The two main demands by demonstrators were justice for Floyd and police reform. But the Black Lives Matter movement has proven to be the catalyst.
A Civiqs poll comparing support for Black Lives Matter between April 2017 and June 2020 found a significant increase in support. In 2017, 37% of registered voters supported BLM, while in 2020, 52% supported the movement. Opposition has also dropped from 41% in 2017 to 30% in 2020.
In a recent AP-NORC poll, 54% of Americans said they approve of the protests. Disapproval stood at 32%, while 14% said they neither approve nor disapprove.
Here are some of the notable changes in policy and practices at a variety of institutions in June, as Americans address racism in the United States.
Black Lives Matter
The Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, a group backing the #BLM movement, established a $12 million fund to help organizations that are fighting institutional racism. The foundation says it set aside $6 million in donations to help Black-led grassroots groups. An additional $6.5 million is earmarked for its network of affiliate groups. In an interview with The Associated Press, Kailee Scales, managing director of the foundation, called the development a "watershed moment for Black power-building."
Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser renamed a two-block area on 16th Street near the White House “Black Lives Matter Plaza.” The Department of Public Works painted Black Lives Matter in yellow, 11-meters-long letters on the street leading to the White House.
Definition of racism
Merriam-Webster agreed to update its three-part definition of racism after a 22-year-old Black woman requested that it include a definition of systemic oppression. The recent college graduate said she was motivated by conversations she had with people who referenced the iconic dictionary to justify their racist views.
Though many African American publications have always capitalized Black in news stories when referring to race, The Associated Press changed its longstanding style to capitalize the word when it is used to identify a community of people who identify as Black, including the African diaspora and people in Africa.
The news agency, whose style guide is followed by most news organizations, said, “Use of the capitalized Black recognizes that language has evolved, along with the common understanding that especially in the United States, the term reflects a shared identity and culture rather than a skin color alone,” the AP said.
AP said “Indigenous” should also be capitalized.
Removing Confederate memorials
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ordered the portraits of four former House speakers who served in the Confederacy removed from the U.S. Capitol. Pelosi told reporters the removal of the portraits on June 19, Juneteenth, coincided with the day in 1865 when enslaved people in Texas learned of their freedom two years after emancipation.
"There is no room in the hallowed halls of Congress or in any place of honor for memorializing men who embody the violent bigotry and grotesque racism of the Confederacy," Pelosi said.
Confederate statues have been or will be removed in Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Virginia and Washington D.C.
Many companies and universities have also announced they will be removing Confederate-related items.
Local, state, federal legislation
President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order on Police Reform, which calls for higher professional standards, training on de-escalation techniques and use of force. It also establishes co-respondent services — a system in which officers would pair with social workers when responding to nonviolent calls. The order does not address the link between racism and police brutality.
In Congress, both Republicans and Democrats support police reform legislation, but they differ on key issues such as chokeholds, no-knock warrants, qualified immunity and the establishment of a misconduct database.
Several U.S. corporations, led by Twitter and Square, made Juneteenth a paid company holiday. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said he wanted to make Juneteenth a permanent paid state holiday and started by giving state employees the day off.
NASA renamed its Washington, D.C., headquarters after Mary W. Jackson, the space agency’s first Black aerospace engineer and mathematician. NASA posted a tweet titled “NASA Honors No Longer Hidden Figure Mary W. Jackson,” a reference to the Academy Award-nominated film, “Hidden Figures,” based on an eponymous book about the contributions of three pioneering Black female mathematicians — Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn and Jackson — to the Apollo mission that landed the first U.S. astronauts on the moon.
📍 Welcome to the Mary W. Jackson NASA Headquarters building— NASA (@NASA) June 25, 2020
Today, Administrator @JimBridenstine announced that we’re naming our headquarters building in Washington, DC after our first African-American female engineer: https://t.co/znX2jXklRh
Quaker Oats — owned by PepsiCo — announced it was retiring its "Aunt Jemima" brand of pancake mixes and syrups after 131 years. Early labels featured a smiling “Mammy,” which PepsiCo acknowledged was based on a racial stereotype.
"While work has been done over the years to update the brand in a manner intended to be appropriate and respectful, we realize those changes are not enough," Quaker Foods spokeswoman Kristin Kroepfl said.
The manufacturers of Uncle Ben’s rice, Cream of Wheat porridge, Mrs. Butterworth’s syrup and the Eskimo Pie ice cream brand are considering renaming or retiring their products.
In mass media, Samira Nasr was named Harper’s Bazaar magazine's new editor in chief — the first Black editor in the magazine's 153-year history.
National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell acknowledged that the NFL had made mistakes by not listening to players who complained about racism.
"We, the National Football League, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest," said Goodell. "We, the National Football League, believe black lives matter."
Goodell said he would be reaching out to players who have "raised their voices" to discuss how they can do better in the future.
Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was harshly criticized by conservatives and Trump for kneeling during the national anthem to call attention to police mistreatment of African Americans and racial inequality.
The Washington Redskins removed founder and avowed segregationist George Preston Marshall from all official team material, as well as deleting his name from the stadium’s Ring of Fame. Marshall was the last NFL owner to allow Black players on the team.
NASCAR vowed to do better in addressing racial injustice.
“Our country is in pain, and people are justifiably angry, demanding to be heard. The black community and all people of color have suffered in our country, and it has taken far too long for us to hear their demands for change. Our sport must do better. Our country must do better," NASCAR President Steve Phelps told drivers and fans at the beginning of a race. NASCAR’s lone Black driver Bubba Wallace wore a T-shirt with the words "I Can't Breathe" in honor of George Floyd.
Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian announced he was resigning from the board of the social media site and urged that his replacement be a Black candidate. Ohanian, who is White, is married to African American tennis star Serena Williams.
"I'm writing this as a father who needs to be able to answer his Black daughter when she asks, "What did you do?" Ohanian said. He also announced a $1 million contribution to Kaepernick's Know Your Rights Camp.
Y Combinator CEO Michael Seibel replaced Ohanian on the board.