2020 United States racial injustice reckoning

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Original short description: "national cultural response to racism"

Template:Use American English Template:Use mdy dates

The May 2020 killing of George Floyd and subsequent protests precipitated a national American reckoning on topics of racial injustice.[1] Multiple media began to refer to it as a national reckoning on racial issues in early June. By the beginning of July, The Washington Post was running a regularly-updated section collecting new stories of the day related to "America's Racial Reckoning" and on July 3 said "the Black Lives Matter protests following the police killings...focused the world’s attention on racial inequities, structural racism and implicit bias."

Public opinion

In June 2020, the high-profile killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery precipitated a national reckoning about race in the United States. This reckoning confronted a legacy of systemic inequality and injustice in the societal treatment of Black Americans who, relative to the general population, have experienced disproportionately negative outcomes in education, health care, housing, imprisonment, voting rights, and wages as the result of overt discrimination and unconscious bias.Template:R While Black Americans acutely understood these racial inequities as part of their daily lives, many white Americans were insulated.Template:R In the years prior, there had been protests and skirmishes over killings of Black Americans by law enforcement, the 2015 Charleston church shooting, and the 2017 Charlottesville rally, which briefly received headlines but did not lead to systemic change.Template:R The videos of Floyd's death and police violence at protests, however, were revelatory to white Americans, who, as a result, would support the Floyd protests in greater numbers than they had prior protests of killings of Black American by law enforcement.Template:R

American public opinion of racism and discrimination quickly shifted in the wake of these protests. Polling of white Americans showed an increased belief in having received advantages due to their race and increased belief that Black Americans received disproportionate force in policing.Template:R Public opinion in support of the Black Lives Matter movement greatly accelerated.Template:R This increased response for racial justice might have been aided by antipathy towards President Donald Trump's support for police, greater understanding of disparate pandemic effects by race,Template:R and a weakened sense of security following the pandemic's social isolation and economic fallout.Template:R


A week into the protests The Washington Post said, "the past days have suggested that something is changing. The protests reached into every corner of the United States and touched nearly every strand of society."[1] Joe Biden told Politico that he had experienced an awakening and thought other white Americans had as well, saying, "Ordinary folks who don’t think of themselves as having a prejudiced bone in their body, don’t think of themselves as racists, have kind of had the mask pulled off.”[2] Politico said the Floyd killing, captured on video, had "prompted a reckoning with racism...for a wide swath of white America."[2] Associate Professor of Politics at The New School for Social Research Deva Woodly wrote, "We are living in a world-historical moment."[3] NPR said, "a change of attitude seems to have swept through the national culture like a sudden wind."Template:R CNN's Brianna Keilar said, "You are watching America's reckoning" as she outlined the "profound change" the country had experienced, including that in mid-June 15 of the 20 bestselling books were about race.[4]

In late June the Christian Science Monitor's editorial board wrote, "It may still be too soon to say the U.S. has reached a true inflection point in its treatment of its citizens of African descent. But it has certainly reached a reflection point."[5] Reuters reported that black candidates in June's primaries had benefitted from "a national reckoning on racism."[6] Google reported searches on "Black-owned businesses near me" hit an all-time high in June.[7] By early July The Washington Post was running a regularly updated section titled "America's Racial Reckoning: What you need to know."[8] On July 3 the Post said, "the Black Lives Matter protests following the police killings of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks focused the world’s attention on racial inequities, structural racism and implicit bias."[9]


By mid-June, after weeks of protests during the global COVID-19 pandemic and recession, American national culture and attitude towards racial injustice began to shift. Protesters defaced and destroyed controversial statues and memorials, especially those of Confederate figures from the American Civil War, and officials are not expected to restore them. Popular cultural institutions took stances against Confederate iconography, including NASCAR's ban on the display of the Confederate battle flag, the Senate Armed Services Committee's approval of process to rename military facilities named for Confederate generals. These actions extended internationally, with global protests destroying their own local symbols of racial injustice. These actions followed the precedent of felling statues in postcolonial Africa and post-Soviet states.Template:R

Beyond monuments and Confederate symbols, a backlash against racial inequalities continued across corporate leadership, media organizations, and other cultural institutions. Researchers went on strike to demand protections for Black lives. Merriam-Webster modified its definition of racism.Template:R Journalists at major American newspapers contested their own coverage of the events.Template:R[10] Multiple products, music groups, and buildings changed or pledged to review their names.Template:R Industries that experienced "racial reckonings" included the US wine industry.[11]

White America's awakening brought comparisons to the Weinstein effect, in which the Me Too movement revealed unspoken inequities and put pressure on public figures for legacies of sexual assault and harassment.Template:R Similarly, under its racial injustice reckoning, the American public pressured American industries to confront legacies of racism.Template:R The resulting symbolic divestments targeted white cultural hegemony.Template:R NPR wrote that renamed landmarks and similar gestures would not provide economic opportunities or civil rights, but signaled cultural disapproval towards symbols associated with racial injustice.Template:R The New Yorker likened the George Floyd protests in cities throughout the United States to an "American Spring" on par with the Arab Spring and other international revolutionary waves.Template:R

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Balz, Dan; Miller, Greg (6 June 2020). "America convulses amid a week of protests, but can it change?" (in en). https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2020/politics/protests-reckoning/. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Thompson, Alex. "White America is reckoning with racism. It could reshape 2020." (in en). https://www.politico.com/news/2020/06/09/white-voters-2020-biden-304804. 
  3. Woodly, Deva. "An American Reckoning" (in en-US). https://publicseminar.org/essays/an-american-reckoning/. 
  4. Brianna Keilar: You are watching America's reckoning - CNN Video, https://www.cnn.com/videos/us/2020/06/11/cultural-shifts-george-floyd-death-keilar-crn-vpx.cnn, retrieved 2020-07-02 
  5. "Seeds of honesty in a US reckoning on race". Christian Science Monitor. 2020-06-23. ISSN 0882-7729. https://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/the-monitors-view/2020/0623/Seeds-of-honesty-in-a-US-reckoning-on-race. 
  6. "Amid U.S. reckoning on race, Black candidates harness voters' fervor for change" (in en). Reuters. 2020-06-25. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-election-diversity-analysis-idUSKBN23W1HC. 
  7. "Black-Owned Businesses See Sales Surge Amid Racism Reckoning | Voice of America - English" (in en). https://www.voanews.com/usa/race-america/black-owned-businesses-see-sales-surge-amid-racism-reckoning. 
  8. "Opinion | Lincoln’s D.C. statue is having a cultural reckoning of its own" (in en). https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/letters-to-the-editor/lincolns-dc-statue-is-having-a-cultural-reckoning-of-its-own/2020/07/02/6b32d5f8-ba29-11ea-97c1-6cf116ffe26c_story.html. 
  9. McIntyre, Dave (3 July 2020). "The Court of Master Sommeliers has been called out for racism. Now, it is pledging change.". https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/food/the-court-of-master-sommeliers-has-been-called-out-for-racism-now-it-is-pledging-change/2020/07/02/8666674c-bc57-11ea-bdaf-a129f921026f_story.html. 
  10. "Black Journalists Weigh In On A Newsroom Reckoning" (in en). https://www.npr.org/2020/07/02/886845421/black-journalists-weigh-in-on-a-newsroom-reckoning. 
  11. "The chaos of reopening California bars, and a racial reckoning in the wine industry: what you missed this week" (in en-US). 2020-07-02. https://www.sfchronicle.com/wine/article/The-chaos-of-reopening-California-bars-and-a-15379887.php. 

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Further reading



External links

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