Six months ago today, George Floyd was killed when a police officer knelt on his neck for for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. His death sparked a movement. Hundreds of thousands of people around the world poured into the streets in the weeks following to demand justice, to demand action, to demand systemic change. To affirm that Black Lives Matter. In late June, the Institute for Development Impact began a project to document the tangible, institutional responses to these demands in a historical archive/database. Today, members of the research team take a moment to reflect on our findings, as many wonder what, if anything, has changed over these last six months.
Chelsea Raubenheimer (Project Lead) –
“When we started this project back in June, I could not have anticipated how wide the range of response would be, in terms of types of actions and types of institutions. While donations from major institutions were well publicized, along with obvious displays of solidarity like the Black Lives Matter murals or the launch of Netflix’s Black Lives Matter collection, this movement has effected change in every corner of our society, with institutions big and small reflecting and acting upon on their own unique responsibility to dismantle systemic racism. The Scrabble Association, for example, banned offensive and discriminatory words from its official word list. The University of Florida banned a football cheer for its racist imagery. Video game companies committed to better monitoring of racist content on their platforms. The American Academy of Ophthalmology called on police departments to stop the use of rubber bullets against protestors. The Washington Redskins football team finally changed their name and logo. And city and states across the country passed police reform bills of varying degrees, banning chokeholds, reallocating budgets, and promoting police accountability. Change, on all levels, has swept across the country and the world, as more and more people wake up to the role we all play to ensure racial equity. The extent of the impact of this year’s demonstrations is of course yet to be understood in full, but one thing is certain— progress will only be made through the sustained, collective action of each and every one of us.”
Jackson Makl (Research Assistant) –
“Joining the Data 4 Social Change (D4SC) initiative has been one of the most eye-opening experiences that I have been so fortunate to have been a part of. In this country, we have had civil rights demonstrations, as they relate to black lives, since our beginning, but Black Lives Matter has changed the course of racial justice. The most interesting part of the data that we have collected has been the evolution of institutional action we have seen in the last 6 months. At the beginning of our collection process, many institutions began their involvement by expressing solidarity or contributing resources. What is so curious about our data, is that as time continued, and more protesters took to the streets, the very same institutions who simply donated resources or expressed solidarity, were realizing that there is still more to be done. Many continued their efforts to ensure social change by later committing to organizational change or other more substantive and involved forms of action. We can see this by looking at institutions with multiple data points.
When we look back on the movements sparked by other black lives lost, senselessly, to police brutality, many organizations were quick to contribute resources or express solidarity. On the surface, this is wonderful, but what is troubling is that after the movement stopped trending in the media, this type of institutional involvement stopped and there was no substantial systematic change. What is so wonderful about D4SC is that our data tells a story, and it is an inspiring one. We are seeing more and more organizations go the extra mile and commit to larger institutional changes: In fact, as of right now, 20% of the institutions we surveyed for this study have committed to organizational change. I am eager to see what these initiatives will garner for black lives and I am optimistic about what the future holds as it relates to racial justice in our country.”
Athena Owirodu (Research Assistant) –
“With the D4SC database, I think one thing that surprised me was the amount of responses coming from institutions in higher education. It’s really encouraging to learn that not only institutions are reacting to the Black Lives Matter movement, but also that their students are holding these institutions accountable. Our society’s younger generation has witnessed so much over these last few months, so their yearning for change and progress is strong. I think the discourse that academic institutions are dealing with right now is figuring out how to proactively push for change with issues of diversity and inclusion, instead of placing certain agendas on standby until a reactive event occurs. I’m looking forward to seeing how institutions keep themselves accountable to their initiatives, as well as new avenues of opportunity open up to BIPOC populations.”
The Data for Social Change project’s interactive website will be published by the end of 2020. The platform will be a publicly accessible database where researchers, activists, and members of the general public can have a deeper look into the types of actions that institutions pursued in response to racial justice demonstrations. If you are interested in volunteering to conduct research to further develop the database, please contact Chelsea Raubenheimer directly at email@example.com.