As protests around the world continue over police brutality and the deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, change is happening across the US.
This article outlines some changes taking place in public life and police departments. But it doesn’t get into the other side of everything: the conversations, self-reflection and education happening around the country around institutional racism in the US.
And though it’s still unclear what changes will actually have a lasting effect, these are some of the ways we’re starting to see a shift.
General reform: Minneapolis has banned the use of choke holds, as have Washington, DC, Chicago and Denver – among other locales.
The Aurora Police Department in Michigan banned the carotid control hold, a move that cuts off blood flow to the brain, after police used it to restrain Elijah McClain, an unarmed black man who wasn’t accused of any crime. Phoenix also banned the technique following protests. Furthermore, the mayors of Chicago, Cincinnati and Tampa, Florida, and the police chiefs of Baltimore, Phoenix and Columbia, South Carolina, have come together to create the Police Reform and Racial Justice Working Group. The mayor of San Francisco, which also banned neck restraints, unveiled her own plan for police reform with hopes of addressing structural inequities.
Charges upgraded: After public protests, prosecutors upgraded charges against Derek Chauvin and the other three officers involved were charged. Further, the FBI launched an investigation into the death of Breonna Taylor after local public pressure.
Rule changes: The New Jersey attorney general announced this month that the state will update its use-of-force rules, the first time it’s been updated in almost 20 years. The Dallas Police Department adopted a “duty to intervene” rule requiring fellow officers to intervene if someone is using excessive force.
Calls for reduced funding: The Los Angeles City Council introduced a motion to reduce the city’s police department $1.8 billion operating budget, and Mayor Eric Garcetti said he would seek to reduce the budget by up to $150 million. The Minneapolis City Council has made similar plans.
Accountability within police force: Several officers filmed using force against protesters have been released from duty and investigated.
School boards and others sever ties with police: From Minneapolis and Denver to Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, major school districts across the country are cutting all links to city police departments to institute their own safety measures and hire their own security. Meanwhile, the transit agency in Boston will no longer transport non-transit law enforcement personnel to and from protests.
Confederate monuments removed: Some city governments and universities are removing monuments to Confederate leaders, slave owners or known racists.
And in some cases, protesters toppled the statues themselves. In Richmond, Virginia, demonstrators brought down statues of Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy, and Christopher Columbus. The city of Louisville, Kentucky, took down a Confederate soldier monument, a plan in the works for almost two years. Leaders in Jacksonville, Florida, vowed to remove all monuments honoring the Confederacy.
Walmart stops selling guns and locking up black hair care products: The megachain removed firearms and ammunition from some store floors after several days of nationwide protests.
Walmart leaders also said stores would “stop locking up” black hair care products after an activist shared that while products used by white people sat open on shelves, products for black hair were locked in plastic cases. In its statement, the company said most stores didn’t lock black hair products up in the first place.
Physicians condemn racism: Prominent physician groups like the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Medical Association and American College of Physicians have declared racism a public health crisis and called for an end to police brutality against black Americans.
The groups said the trauma of racism can shorten life spans and cause chronic illnesses, and because police brutality disproportionately occurs against black people, they’re more likely to die as a result.
Juneteenth a paid holiday: Twitter, Nike, Vox Media and more have made Juneteenth – June 19 – an official paid holiday for employees. Juneteenth honors the day in 1865 on which, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued, Union soldiers landed in Galveston, Texas, and told enslaved black Americans there that they were free. Some have criticized the gesture as symbolic and said that more effective change requires more people of color in leadership positions at those companies.
Leaders resign after complaints of racist company culture: CEOs and prominent heads of business have stepped down after claims of racism and toxic company culture.
After several black writers revealed their experiences with racism at the women’s website Refinery29, the site’s editor-in-chief stepped down “to help diversify our leadership in editorial.”
After the New York Times’ Opinion section ran an inflammatory piece from Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton arguing that the Insurrection Act could be invoked to deploy the military across the country to assist local law enforcement, writers and editors across the paper called the op-ed “dangerous” to black employees. Opinion editor James Bennett later resigned after he admitted he hadn’t read the piece before it was published.
CrossFit CEO Greg Glassman resigned after comments he made about the Black Lives Matter movement, using the term “Floyd-19” and questioning why he should mourn George Floyd.
Audrey Gelman, CEO of the women’s social club and coworking community The Wing, resigned, too, following months of complaints about racial inequities within the company. Employees criticized her leaving, saying that removing her wasn’t enough to fix the systemic inequalities in The Wing’s leadership.
Entertainment and sports
HBO removes ‘Gone with the Wind’: The streaming platform (which shares a parent company – WarnerMedia – with CNN) temporarily took down the Oscar-winning film for racist depictions of slavery and the Confederate South during the Civil War. The service condemned the prejudice portrayed in the film as “wrong then … and wrong today.” The film will return later with “historical context” that denounces the depictions in the film.
NASCAR bans Confederate flag: NASCAR banned the flag from flying at events after Bubba Wallace, the only full-time black NASCAR driver, condemned it. “The presence of the Confederate flag at NASCAR events runs contrary to our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all fans, our competitors and our industry,” NASCAR said ahead of a race this week. That roiled many fans and one little-known driver: Ray Ciccarelli said he’d quit the sport over the decision, which he called “political BS.” The Confederate flag has long been considered a symbol of the hate and racism foundational to the Confederacy, which seceded from the US in 1860 so it could continue to profit from slavery.
NFL owns up: Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league “was wrong” for not listening to players’ criticisms of racism in and out of the NFL and vowed that moving forward, the NFL would “encourage peaceful protest.” Goodell didn’t mention former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who hasn’t been signed since 2017 – a decision many think is due to his kneeling protest against police brutality during the National Anthem.
The NFL also vowed to donate $250 million over the next 10 years to “end systemic racism” by working with unnamed organizations and “leveraging the NFL Network.”
Sports heavyweights call for an end to qualified immunity: Players across the NBA, NFL and MLB, including Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Steve Kerr and Gregg Popovich, sent a letter to Congress asking to end qualified immunity, a legal doctrine that protects police officers accused of violating a civilian’s rights.
The Players Coalition, a social justice and racial equality advocacy group founded by NFL players Anquan Boldin and Malcom Jenkins, said in its letter that the group is demanding accountability for police brutality.