14 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.
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? Here’s how to support the Black Lives Matter movement and become anti-racist.
Former Minneapolis police officers face new charges
Floyd died after Derick Chauvin kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes, 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. Check out these 21 powerful protest photos that show global solidarity against racial injustice.
Medical groups define racism as a health risk
In recent weeks, the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Medical Association, and American College of Physicians have all called for an end to police brutality and emphasized the public health risks of racism. Racism structures opportunity and assigns value based on how a person looks, leading to conditions that unfairly advantage some and disadvantage others. Whether intentional or not, racism is pervasive at all levels in society and is a driving force of the social determinants of health that hamper equity in things such as housing, education, and employment. But we are not powerless. We can all fight racism every day in a number of small ways.
NASCAR and the Marines ban Confederate flags
Throughout its 72-year history, Confederate flags have been ubiquitous at NASCAR 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. Here are 12 unexpected places protesting George Floyd’s death and racial injustice.
Confederate monuments are being removed
Local and state leaders across the country are heeding the call of demonstrators to remove racist iconography because of the pain these symbols cause. In recent weeks, Richmond, Jacksonville, Indianapolis, and Baltimore have quickly removed Confederate statues and memorials from public spaces. 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. Don’t miss Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s take on why these protests are different than others in recent history.
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. As of publication, the best-selling books are mostly about race and racism. Nine of the top ten nonfiction books on the New York Times best-seller list are 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. All of these books are essential reading to understand race relations in America.
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, as 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. Check out these other protests that changed American history.
Military bases may be renamed
There are ten military installations in the United States named for commanders who led the Confederate campaign to preserve slavery. The bases, all in former Confederate states, were named with input from locals during the Jim Crow era. After white supremacist Dylan Roof murdered nine black Charleston church members in 2015 and Nazi sympathizers marched in Charlottesville, Virginia, some pushed to strip Confederate names from military bases, but the efforts petered out. New efforts to rename those bases have gained momentum, as well as the support of current military leaders and several former secretaries of defense.
First Black woman mayor 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. Whose Streets? chronicles the Ferguson protests sparked by the murder of Brown and is one of the 12 documentaries about race you need to see.
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.