Just over a year ago, The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the COVID-19 outbreak a global pandemic. Over this last year while tackling this pandemic, there have been many social movements in the spotlight and most have been sparked by unsettling events. Black Lives Matter, climate justice, the fight against anti-Asian hate crime, mass shootings in the U.S., violence against women in the U.K., and mental health are just some of the many issues that have been brought to light.
On top of lockdowns, facing isolation and having to trawl through myths about the COVID-19 vaccine, watching the news and certain events unfold can be and has been overwhelming, especially for feelings of hopelessness. Often the media and news outlets only report a certain perspective of such events, which then builds feelings of fear and frustration. In this article, I highlight the wins and progression the media often doesn’t showcase in order to restore faith and evoke action, we can and are making progress.
Black Lives Matter
The unjust killing of George Floyd last year rightly sparked outrage all across the globe. From riots to protests, towns and cities expressed their pain and frustration with systematic racism in many countries around the world. News and media outlets pushed out stories, often adding fuel to the fire, and many took to social media to begin debating what good could come of #BlackLivesMatter. Well, here are just some of the positive changes brought about by the Black Lives Matter movement which you may not have seen in the headlines:
- Derek Chauvin was eventually arrested for the murder of George Floyd and the trial is currently underway.
- Michigan legislation now states that law enforcement officers have to undergo training on implicit bias and violence de-escalation as well as participate in mental health screenings.
- In Missouri, Ella Jones was the first African American and the first woman to be elected mayor of Ferguson.
- Louisville, Kentucky passed the “Breonna’s Law” making “no-knock warrants” unlawful.
- After a series of complaints, Merriam-Webster is currently working on refining its definition of racism which previously did not address the systemic and institutional elements of racism.
Pre-pandemic, many schools around the world were ditching schools on Fridays in order to protest for climate justice (#FridaysForFuture) as well as raise awareness of the sense of urgency humanity needs to have when it comes to global warming. Social distancing and lockdowns soon prevented these strikes from happening. The movement then moved online and due to so many people being bound to their homes, it became quite apparent the impact humanity and industry has on the planet.
- A study found that six in 10 Americans are now either alarmed or concerned about climate change.
- More than 500 global companies have committed to set climate goals based on the best available science.
- We witnessed the biggest carbon crash ever recorded.
- Joe Biden promised to return the U.S. to the Paris agreement.
- A survey indicated that 60% of Americans became more plant-based amid the pandemic.
Anti-Asian hate crime
The pandemic has sadly seen a growing trend in discrimination against Asian communities around the world. Many are coming together to combat anti-Asian racism through the #StopAsianHate movement by making donations, volunteering, reporting hate crimes, and protesting. The state of California has now announced that they have allocated $1.4 million to fund research organizations that track and stop anti-Asian hate crimes.
Mass shootings in the U.S.
In 2020, the U.S. recorded a record number of mass shootings throughout the country. It has also been reported that almost 40,000 people die as a result of firearm injuries each and every year in the United States alone. President Joe Biden has vowed to:
- Ban the manufacture and sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
- Regulate possession of existing assault weapons under the National Firearms Act.
- Buy back the assault weapons and high-capacity magazines already in U.S. communities.
- Reduce stockpiling of weapons by restricting the number of firearms an individual may purchase per month.
Other countries around the world are also tackling gun crime through policy change. In Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a ban on 1,500 makes and models of military-grade “assault-style” weapons and in New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern banned all military-style and semi-automatic weapons.
Violence against women
Recently, an investigation by UN Women found that 97% of women in the U.K. between the ages of 18 and 24 have been sexually harassed. The report’s findings were announced around the same time that Sarah Everard’s body was found and a police officer was arrested on suspicion of committing kidnapping and murder. British women took to the streets in protest to voice their outrage about the lack of safety for women in their own communities. A U.K. government survey on tackling violence against women received almost two hundred thousand responses and many activism groups across the country are pushing the Home Secretary and Prime Minister to create a strategy to combat this violence. A strategy is set to be released later on this year.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way many people perceive mental health. Due to restrictions, loneliness and vulnerability many have witnessed and felt themselves this past year, mental health has become a greater priority and importance for many in their everyday lives. In fact, almost two-thirds of people across seven countries agree that mental has become more important now than before the COVID-19 crisis.
We can and are making progress
When watching TV and spending time on social media, it’s hard to miss these fear-mongering headlines which stir up feelings of uneasiness and concern. Absorbing all of these terrifying news stories and stats can also be very demotivating and it can often feel like you can’t make any form of difference. So what can you do to change this and reactivate your inner activist?
Digest news from positive and alternative media outlets:
Collaborate with others:
- Join movements with friends
- Attend group workshops and webinars
- Find local ways to make a difference and get to know your community
Believe in yourself and others:
- Believe that your actions can and will make a difference
- Understand how your actions and messaging are influencing those around you
- Trust that sustainable change takes time and that together, we can.
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