In 2016, Jelani Cobb published a sweeping report in The New Yorker about a new movement that had emerged in the wake of Michael Brown’s killing by a police officer, in Ferguson, Missouri, and the massacre at Emanuel A.M.E. Church, in Charleston, South Carolina, among other events. Black Lives Matter had become a powerful rallying cry for a new generation of civil-rights activists, and, for some in the movement, the affirmation was “as much a reminder directed at black people as it is a revelation aimed at whites,” Cobb wrote. In 2020, the phrase and movement took on new life as millions of people from all different backgrounds mobilized across the globe to protest the killing of George Floyd.
This week, we’re bringing you a selection of pieces about the evolution of Black Lives Matter and the racial-justice movement in America. In “The Trayvon Generation,” Elizabeth Alexander explores how persistent patterns of brutality and discrimination have influenced young Black Americans. In “The Empty Facts of the Breonna Taylor Decision,” the writer ZZ Packer observes, “If the very gears of the criminal-justice system turn and grind in indifference to who Breonna Taylor was while alive—and kept turning even after her death—then we must change those gears, fix that machinery.” In “How Do We Change America?,” Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor argues that efforts at reform must go beyond a focus on the police. Finally, in “My Mother’s Dreams for Her Son, and All Black Children,” Hilton Als recounts his childhood in Brooklyn and the racial injustices he witnessed there. Taken together, these pieces reveal the extraordinary impact this movement has had on our political landscape over the past year.
A new kind of movement found its moment. What will its future be?
There’s a lot that is just god-awful wrong here, but let’s consider what Kentucky’s attorney general didn’t say.
She longed for black people in America not to be forever refugees—confined by borders that they did not create and by a penal system that killed them before they died.
[Originally published on December 20, 2020 via The New Yorker]