Country experiencing racial awakening as more white people support Black Lives Matter movement, experts say

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — As protests erupted in Memphis and across the country following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Admaud Arberry, there was something different about these demonstrations – not the intensity but the diversity.

“I think we’re reaching a crisis point where even people who formerly could have called themselves complacent can no longer take part in those systems of injustice,” said protester Cassandra Fawn.

Some experts are calling this a racial awakening. It’s because when you take a closer look at some of the protests in the Mid-South and even across the nation, many of the people supporting the Black Lives Matter movement now are white people.

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More white people are showing their support the Black Lives Matter movement, carrying signs, screaming chants and marching in the streets

“I think part of it is the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor particularly were so atrocious like so particularly heinous it has mobilized people in a way that it has not mobilized people in the past,” said Fawn.

It’s a trend that isn’t limited to Memphis. It’s happening across the nation.

Duane T. Loynes, Sr. is an Assistant Professor Of Urban Studies and Africana Studies at Rhodes College.

“Now with George Floyd for some reason it struck a chord where now white America sees it, right?” he said.

Loynes said there are several factors that may be contributing to this racial awakening like the global COVID-19 pandemic which is giving people more free time, but they’re also frustrated, angry, and at a breaking point.

“There is a simmering, significant undercurrent of anxiety against Donald Trump so for all the problems that we have, whether its law enforcement in black communities or the mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic and so many other things, Donald Trump makes a very easy target,” he said,

Loynes said the timing is also a factor in this case.

“Back in 2013, 2014, when Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi started this Black Lives Matter consciousness, movement, Black Americans got a lot of push back – ‘All Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter, why are you saying back lives matter? So because this movement has done the work, I think it kind of prepared the general white population to say ‘you know what we can affirm to black lives matter,” said Loynes.

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And as protests start to die down almost a month later, Loynes said it’s hard to say how long white people will remain actively engaged in this movement.

“We have to wait and see, to be honest with you,” he said. “The demonstrations that we saw in the past, are they going to coalesce into a movement that will fight for institutional and systemic structural change? Right now, we haven’t seen that. We saw a lot of protests, a lot of promises, a lot of symbolic acts but we haven’t seen any substantive change.”

Loynes said another shift that has happened recently is more corporations showing support for the movement.

Many of us have seen the signs or posts on social media from companies saying Black Lives Matter, as a sign of solidarity with the movement.