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The diversity of the recent Black Lives Matter protests is a good sign for racial equity

Protests have been erupting across the US since George Floyd's death by the police in Minneapolis, May 25

By Damian PetersPublished 3 years ago 3 min read

Protests have been erupting across the US since George Floyd's death by the police in Minneapolis, May 25. While demonstrations continue with no ending, many have pointed out that they are the " broadest in U.S. history." It is difficult to ignore that these protests were different.

This heightened contention has one characteristic: the diversity of its participants. My research team and me have collected data from protesters in Los Angeles, New York City, Washington, DC, since June 1. The diversity of the movement's four days of action and across all cities is remarkable. We see that 54% of the protest participants are white. These numbers are especially noteworthy because they are more diverse in racial and ethnicity than large-scale protests against President Donald Trump's policies. I documented these events in my book American Resistance.

These protests are actually more diverse than the March for Racial Justice of fall 2017 and previous protests in the Black Lives Matter movement or the Civil Rights Movement. When Doug McAdam looks back on his career as a socioologist studying social movements, he says, " We've never seen such diverse protests before in terms of turnout, perseverance and the ethnic and race diversity of those involved."


It is a good sign that there has been an increase in diversity in the streets. This is partly due to progressive groups mobilizing their constituents for the solidarity protests. I studied the resistance groups who channeled outrage from the streets into activism in 2018's mid-term elections as part of American Resistance.

These Resistance groups sent messages of solidarity to their networks in recent weeks. They also encouraged progressive activists to participate in the protests by providing access to the site that coordinated actions to celebrate the emancipation in the USA of slaves on June 19th .

These progressive groups are not necessarily focused on racial justice in America but they have helped to increase the street turnout by offering information and opportunities to their networks to be White allies, and to join the fight for racial equality as individuals or through organizations.


Public opinion data from the period after George Floyd's murder in May shows a shift in support for racial equality. Pew Research found that two thirds of Americans support the movement, which includes majorities of Black, White and Latinx Americans. These results are especially strong for Democrats. The data we collected on the streets during the protests shows that there is a partisan divide as to who is participating. The overwhelming majority (80%) of those present identified themselves as Left-leaning.

Due to the partisan division in views on protest participation, there are few opportunities for the street outrage to be channeled into political gains at national level using legislative or executive order. The upcoming November election will offer the best chance for social change within the existing political system.


According to street activists, they eagerly await the 2020 election. Our data show unanimous support for Joe Biden. We have evidence that voting for a Presidential candidate more inclined to support policies related racial equality will increase representation in government. This is due to the election of more progressive candidates from color.

Despite all the reminders of inequalities in 2020, the movement for racial equality is clearly gaining momentum. Progressive groups, candidates, and protesters demanding justice and fairness are all powerful forces for social change and have the potential to make significant progress in 2020. Although these protests show that significant progress has already been made, as a country, we still have a long way to go on our journey to racial equality.


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