A lot has changed these past couple of weeks. As protesters have gathered following the killing of George Floyd at the hands of police in late May, the Black Lives Matter movement has rapidly gained public support. Seizing or at least reading the moment, politicians, companies, and organizations have announced a flurry of new policies and revised positions intended to address structural racism. Those changes are, to varying degrees, set to alter the topography of American society, including police presence in many communities and the offerings on TV and retail shelves.
Why now? The latest protests certainly have played a role in bringing about these developments, but “in actuality,” Saje Mathieu, a history professor at the University of Minnesota, told me, “the changes that we are seeing—or at the least, the promises of change that we are hearing—stem from years, if not decades, of various forms of protests by a fleet of people who have been pointing out the major fissures in American society.”
Two weeks, of course, is not enough time to dismantle power structures that have been constructed over centuries. “I am encouraged by some of the changes we have seen in recent weeks,” said Keisha Blain, a history professor at the University of Pittsburgh, “but I think we have a very long way to go.”