24 Positive Changes We’ve Already Seen Since the Anti-Racism Protests Began
Undeniable proof that standing up for what’s right can make a difference. And this is just the beginning.
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Fighting the good fight
The death of George Floyd at the hands of police was just the latest in a series of tragic deaths involving unarmed Black people and police officers or those who assumed a quasi-law-enforcement role. The resulting protests around the country demanding justice have led to some significant changes in law enforcement and public attitudes. These are small steps in the right direction, but the fight to root out systemic racism and enact just treatment under the law is far from over. However, as these positive developments suggest, the tide may finally be turning. Looking to do your part? Learn what anti-racism is and what it means to be anti-racist.
Robert E. Lee High School becomes John R. Lewis High School
Four months before George Floyd’s murder, Virginia State Representative Tamara Derenak Kaufax introduced legislation to remove the Confederate general’s name from a school in Springfield, Virginia. Following the death of civil rights icon and longtime Georgia congressman John Lewis, the Fairfax County school board voted unanimously to rename the school after him, citing his extraordinary life and advocacy for racial justice. The name change will go into effect later this year. Learn more about Lewis in Good Trouble, the recently released documentary that chronicles his life’s work and is one of 12 documentaries about race everyone needs to see.
Mississippi redesigns its state flag
There seemed to be little hope that the protests against racism and White supremacy that were sweeping the nation would ever make their way to Mississippi. But the Magnolia State will finally put the controversy surrounding its flag to rest, redesigning it and removing the Confederate battle flag. Mississippi is the last Southern state to do so. The 126-year-old banner has survived many removal attempts, but this bill cleared the House in a 91–23 vote and passed the Senate in a 37–14 vote. The 87-year-old widow of Medgar Evers, a murdered civil rights icon, called the vote “all but unbelievable to me.” Learn the meaning behind all 50 state flags.
Asheville decides to make reparations
Reparations for slavery have been a point of contention ever since freed slaves were promised but never received their “40 acres and a mule.” On July 14, the Asheville City Council in North Carolina not only apologized for its city’s historic role in slavery and discrimination but also voted unanimously to provide reparations to Black residents and their descendants. Councilman Keith Young led the push for the resolution and said removing statues is not enough because “Black people in this country are dealing with issues that are systemic in nature.” Instead of direct payments, the resolution will make investments in areas where Black residents face disparities, such as housing, career opportunities, health care, education, and generational wealth. In case you were wondering, here’s why desegregation didn’t put an end to racism in America.
The Washington Redskins ditch their name
Following years of protests by Indigenous activists, the Washington Redskins football team announced it would retire both the team name and logo of an Indigenous chief. Owner Dan Snyder previously said the team would “never” change its name, arguing that it honored, not denigrated, Native Americans. But he relented “in light of recent events around our country and feedback from our community.” The team’s new name has not yet been chosen. Instead of relying on stereotypes, learn these 13 facts about Native Americans you probably weren’t taught in school.
Racist brand names get a makeover
Brands like Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben’s, and the Eskimo Pie have been household names for decades. In the 1980s, Quaker Oats exchanged Aunt Jemima’s head wrap and slave-mammy attire for a more modern housewife vibe but left the offensive name intact. In mid-June, parent company PepsiCo announced it was overhauling the Aunt Jemima brand, dropping both the name and imagery. Soon, the makers of Uncle Ben’s, Mrs. Butterworth’s, and Eskimo Pie followed suit. Trader Joe’s also acknowledged that its lighthearted attempt at inclusiveness with product names like Arabian Joe, Trader Jacque’s, Trader José’s, and Trader Ming’s was tone-deaf and inappropriate. These brand names are among the many everyday acts of racism that don’t get talked about enough.
Country groups sever Confederate connections
Both the Dixie Chicks and Lady Antebellum changed their names to reflect the times. The Dixie Chicks are now just “the Chicks” and Lady Antebellum will hereinafter be known as Lady A. “We want to meet this moment,” said the Chicks. They uploaded a new video, which features images of current and historical protests for women’s rights, gay rights, environmental causes, and Black Lives Matter. Lady Antebellum announced it would become Lady A, saying, “Our hearts have been stirred with conviction, our eyes opened wide to the injustices, inequality, and biases Black women and men have always faced and continue to face every day.” Unfortunately, Lady A’s name change has spawned another controversy, as a Black singer named Anita White has been using the Lady A moniker for years; a lawsuit was subsequently filed. Did you know that these 12 everyday expressions are actually racist?
Old cases are getting a second look
After the death of her 23-year-old son, Elijah, at the hands of Aurora Colorado police last August, Sheneen McClain tried and failed to get an investigation into his death. But the murder of George Floyd generated new interest and a renewed call for justice. The officers involved in Elijah’s death haven’t been charged, but three Aurora police officers were fired after a photo mocking the death of McClain came to light. And that’s not all. Oklahoma City police also released a video of the death of Derrick Scott, who died a year ago in police custody after a confrontation with officers. And a White police detective was recently indicted for the fatal 2019 shooting of a Black man, Cameron Lamb, who was sitting in his truck in his own backyard. Here’s what defunding the police means—and what it could look like in practice.
Confederate monuments are being removed
Confederate monuments have become flash points for protests over police brutality and racial injustice. Historians and civil rights groups have long pointed out that these statues were put in place during the Jim Crow era to emphasize White supremacy and intimidate Black people. Many have been removed in the weeks since the protests began, including a statue of Robert E. Lee in Virginia; the Lost Cause monument in Decatur, Georgia; and a statue of Confederate president Jefferson Davis in Frankfort, Kentucky. The governor of North Carolina also ordered four confederate statues removed from the state capitol in Raleigh, and, in Fredericksburg, Virginia, an 800-pound slave auction block was removed. America isn’t the only place with controversial statues. These are 10 of the most controversial statues and monuments around the world.
Medical groups classify racism as a public health crisis
Being Black is bad for your health, and pervasive racism is the cause. That is the conclusion of multiple public health studies conducted over more than three decades. Prominent physician groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, and the 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. More than 20 cities and counties and at least three states (Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin) have reached the same conclusion.
Military bases get rid of Confederate monikers
The U.S. Senate passed a bill to rename the 10 bases that bear the names of Confederate generals. Most of the bases were named between the end of World War I and the 1940s. At the time, officials said they did so in the spirit of reconciliation, not division. They viewed the Confederate generals as tragic heroes, not traitors and racists. However, activists, historians, and military leaders point out that men who committed treason should not be honored by the country they sought to destroy. President Trump threatened to veto the National Defense Reauthorization Act if it included the provision, but it passed by a veto-proof 86–14 margin.
Media moguls have a reckoning
Several high-profile editors and media executives were fired or forced to resign after staffers of color took to social media to share their experiences with workplace racism. Executives at Bon Appétit, the New York Times, Variety, Condé Nast Entertainment, Refinery29, Okayplayer, and the Philadelphia Inquirer were forced out after being accused of making racist and sexist comments or fostering working environments steeped in racial insensitivity. Complaints included everything from pay disparity to unequal treatment to abusive management; Bon Appétit editor Adam Rapoport was also accused of making Black staffers do uncompensated video work for which White employees were paid. Do you want to do more in the fight against racism? Here’s what it really means to be an ally in the movement toward equality.
Momentum grows for a Juneteenth national holiday
It’s been nearly 40 years since the United States made Martin Luther King Jr. Day a national holiday, so the country seems overdue for a new one. A growing number of corporate executives, sports officials, and politicians are joining activists to call for a national June 19th or Juneteenth holiday. Juneteenth, also called Freedom Day and Emancipation Day, marks the day in 1865 when Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, and announced that slavery had been abolished more than two years earlier. Twitter, Nike, and Vox Media are among the businesses that have already made Juneteenth an official paid employee holiday. Find out more about Juneteenth and why we celebrate it.
Disney announces plans to overhaul Splash Mountain
Disney’s uber popular Splash Mountain has long been a source of controversy. It’s based on the 1946 movie Song of the South, which is rooted in deeply racist stereotypes. While the film was locked in the Disney Vault years ago, the ride has remained at both Disneyland and Magic Kingdom. On June 25, however, Disney announced that it was giving Splash Mountain an overhaul and transforming it into a new attraction based on The Princess and the Frog, the 2009 film that features the first Black Disney princess. While Disney has said that this retheme has been in the works for a while, the timing of the announcement wasn’t a coincidence. A date for the retheme has not yet been announced, but expect to see it in the near future.
Former Minneapolis police officers face new charges
Floyd died after Derick Chauvin kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes, and the former cop was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. Following the massive, nationwide protests, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz asked Keith Ellison, the state’s attorney general, to lead the prosecution. Ellison raised Chauvin’s charge to second-degree murder, which carries a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison. The other officers involved, Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng, and Thomas K. Lane, each face two counts of aiding and abetting—one for second-degree murder and one for second-degree manslaughter. Not only do these charges reflect the gravity of what happened, but they also send a loud-and-clear message to police departments around the country.
Change is possible when people come together and advocate for what is right.
NASCAR and the Marines ban Confederate flags
Throughout NASCAR’S 72-year history, Confederate flags have been ubiquitous at its races. But two days after Bubba Wallace, the lone Black driver in NASCAR’s three national series called for a ban of all Confederate flags at racetracks, the auto-racing entity did just that. Additionally, NASCAR acknowledged that the secessionist battle flag did not provide a welcoming and inclusive environment for all fans. The U.S. Marine Corps also ordered the removal of all public displays of the Confederate flag from Marine installations.
North Carolina’s Second Chance Act becomes law
The nationwide protests led to the passage of North Carolina’s long-stalled Second Chance Act, which will have a positive impact on many people ensnared in the state’s criminal justice system. Records will be automatically expunged for those found not guilty or had the charge dismissed. In 2017, North Carolina raised the age of juvenile jurisdiction for nonviolent crimes from 16 to 18 but did not make it retroactive. Now, 16- and 17-year-olds who had been previously convicted as adults are eligible for expungement. After seven years with no new convictions, defendants can also expunge nonviolent misdemeanor convictions from their records.
New York repeals the police shield law
The New York State Legislature repealed section 50-a of the law that allowed law enforcement to shield police misconduct records from the public. Passed in 1976, it stated that “personnel records used to evaluate performance toward continued employment or promotion” were confidential and couldn’t be disclosed without the officer’s permission or court order. On June 12, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the repeal into law. Now, disciplinary records will be publicly disclosed. This is just one step in the long road to police accountability and addressing police violence in communities of color.
Black Lives Matter becomes street art
Muriel Bowser, D.C.’s mayor, started the symbolic street art that has spread across the country. On June 5, Bowser commissioned eight artists to paint “Black Lives Matter” in bright yellow, 50-foot-high letters on the street leading to the White House. Other cities, including Brooklyn, Charlotte, Seattle, Flint, Austin, San Francisco, and Cincinnati, quickly followed suit. “There are people who are craving to be heard and to be seen and to have their humanity recognized,” Bowser said. “And we had the opportunity to send that message loud and clear on a very important street in our city. That message is…that Black lives matter, Black humanity matters, and we as a city raise that up.”
Books about racism top the best-seller lists
Since Floyd’s death on May 25, sales of books on race and racism have risen dramatically. In late June, the best-selling books were mostly about race and racism, and nine of the top ten nonfiction books on the New York Times best-seller list were about race and the systemic racism in law enforcement and the U.S. criminal justice system. Amazon has sold out of many of these books. This is a clear indication that Americans want to become more informed about matters of race.
Breonna’s Law bans no-knock warrants
Following the March 13 police-shooting death of 26-year-old EMT Breonna Taylor in her apartment, Kentucky’s Louisville Metro Police Department tightened restrictions on the use of “no-knock” warrants and are now requiring police to wear body cameras in more situations. Taylor was shot eight times after police entered her apartment in error. On June 12, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer announced a ban on no-knock search warrants, called Breonna’s Law. Other municipalities may soon follow suit. Many protests continue, and stars like Beyoncé Knowles have demanded the termination and arrest of the officers involved in the death of Taylor.
Officials are making swift changes in police procedures
Under increasing pressure from demonstrators outraged over the mistreatment and killing of Black people by police, officials across the country have responded by implementing policies that address some of the most egregious policies and procedures. San Diego banned chokeholds. Minneapolis police can no longer use mace or flashbangs on protesters or respiratory restraints during arrests. The Dallas Police Department implemented “duty to intervene” laws, whereby a police officer must intervene if he or she sees a situation like Floyd’s.
The first Black woman mayor is elected in Ferguson
Nearly six years after a White police officer shot and killed unarmed Black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, the recent protests had the ancillary benefit of boosting Ella Jones in her race to become the first Black person and woman mayor in the town’s history. She won with 53 percent of the vote. Jones has served on the Ferguson city council since 2015 when she was elected as its first Black member. Find out about more female firsts from trailblazing women who made history.
Advocates push to end the militarization of police departments
Since the late 1990s, the federal 1033 Program has allowed local law enforcement agencies to acquire military hardware. When police departments deployed those weapons against American protesters, it prompted renewed efforts by senators to curb transfers of Department of Defense equipment to American law enforcement agencies. They argue that this contributes to the military mindset among police. “It is clear that many police departments are being outfitted as if they are going to war, and it is not working in terms of maintaining the peace,” said Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii. “Just because the Department of Defense has excess weaponry doesn’t mean it will be put to good use.”
The Oscars implement rules for more diversity
In recent years, the Oscars have come under withering criticism for its lack of diversity. On June 12, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences announced new eligibility requirements to ensure equitable opportunities across the board. This initiative, called the Academy Aperture 2025, comes in response to criticism of the lack of nominated minority actors and includes a plan to require Oscar nominees to meet certain diversity and inclusion standards. “We will modify, and continue to examine, our rules and procedures to ensure that all voices are heard and celebrated,” said Dawn Hudson, executive director at the Academy.
For more on this important issue, see our guide to the Fight Against Racism.