How COVID-19 Transformed The Black Lives Matter Movement


Because of the COVID-19 Pandemic, people around the world were forced to notice the systemic racism taking place in America, giving them the desire to stand up against it. Creative Commons image: coolloud on Flickr.

Systemic racism and police brutality towards the African American community has been going on for more than a century. Because of the many high profile killings of Black Americans up to date, the issue has reached a boiling point, and for the past year, many Americans have taken a stand against it. According to several students at Menlo, there’s been a recent increase in white Americans who are willing to learn more about police brutality and take action against it. 

The Black Lives Matter movement started in July 2013 after the acquittal of the police officer who killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Menlo History Department Chair Carmen Borbón believes that protesting for Trayvon Martin, along with other African Americans killed as a result of police brutality, was largely a lost cause prior to 2020. “I feel like every single time a black person is killed, there are protests, but only within the Black community,” Borbón said.

But on Monday, May 25, 2020, Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin murdered unarmed Black man George Floyd, transforming the Black Lives Matter movement. As protests for police reform erupted internationally, it became apparent that white Americans sought change. According to Borbon, this movement should be partially attributed to the pandemic. “I hate to say this but I feel like sometimes, when people watch the news, they’re like, ‘Ooh wow, that’s terrible,’ and then they just kind of move on with their lives […], but I think since everybody was quarantining, they had the time and ability to go and do something about it,” Borbón said.

Menlo sophomore Colby Wilson believes that COVID-19 has caused people to spend more time watching the news. “So I feel like, because of COVID, everyone is online, so people are reading and watching all this news, and because major news outlets are publishing BLM news, I feel like the message is starting to reach everyone,” Wilson said.

Despite believing that COVID-19 has benefited the movement for equality, Wilson also believes that it prevented herself and others from protesting. “I didn’t go to eight or ten protests because of COVID, and instead I think I only went to two or maybe three,” she said.

America is facing a huge social reform movement, but is the country ready for this kind of change? Ultimately, Norris believes police brutality and social injustice towards the Black community is a problem that should finally be resolved. “Systemic Racism is a pandemic that has been going on for hundreds of years,” Norris said.