• Lewis James

A Study on Reactions to BLM


Art by Taylor Wang (IG: @yingshi.art)


Oligarch-funded think tanks must be working overtime to fabricate anti-Black liberation sentiment right about now.

June 13, 2020

As I begin to write this article on the ninth day of protests over the death of George Floyd, it has become undeniable that these demonstrations hold a fervor that their predecessors did not. For those already conscious of the depth to which racism infects the United States, the all-too-regular murders of innocent black men over the past decade sparked repeated outrage and a compulsion to act in some way. The Floyd protests, however, have touched the hearts of even those without preexisting racial awareness, becoming the first demonstrations in my lifetime to educate massive numbers about race and bring to action even those previously neutral.

Personally, I believe this step towards justice comes as a result of the coronavirus. Before, countless workers willing to march in support of their beliefs were barred from doing so because they could not take a day off from work without risking losing their job. Now, due to the high rate of unemployment, the threat of losing one’s job is irrelevant for many. The people are at greater liberty to express their beliefs. As an aside, these protests illustrate how when American workers are given slightly more freedom, they can use it to combat the constructs that economic elites use to divide them, like racism.


Oligarch-funded think tanks must be working overtime to fabricate anti-Black liberation sentiment right about now.


Also undeniable is the extent to which the Floyd protests have forced people to pick sides. This is evident via the most intimate method through which we interact with large numbers of other people—social media. My SnapChat provided two notable examples:


The first screenshot, taken at 9:14, shows how inaction during this time is enough to terminate friendships. Indifference is no longer an option. This person only calls for action through social media posts, which is arguably kind of wack, but they demand a side to be picked nonetheless. The 11:00 screenshot shows how posting anything not protest-related feels inappropriate. In this hyper-polarized atmosphere, either one cares deeply about aiding the protests, or they are against them.

Finally, people feel compelled to think about into thinking about race. As a white man, I am well aware that before these protests, a white person could comfortably live without ever grappling with race. Personally, I was only truly educated on the topic January of this year (many thanks to Judy Osbourne, Dena Scott, and John Terry), with my reaction being strong and immediate political investment. Now, with racial discourse intensifying across the country, I predict many others may share the same response.


The first interview I conducted aligned well with my prediction.


To the left is Person A, a young white woman, and below are a few questions I asked her.

Lewis: Because of the Floyd protests, are you now more invested in American politics than you were before? Are you paying more attention than you used to?

A: I definitely am more invested. I’m also paying more attention to news outside of just Instagram. And I’m paying more attention to the political opinions of Black friends specifically.

One thing I’ve started to do is have conversations with my family about race. They’ve been pretty receptive. My parents are Democrats, so I assume it’s easier to talk to them than it would be for some of my friends with Republican parents.

In terms of how much I’ve paid attention to American politics, before the protests, on a scale of one to ten I was at a four, and now I’m at an eight or a nine. And that four came from a lot of LGBT-related stuff.

Lewis: And do you think you’ll continue that eight to nine?

A: Definitely. I’ve realized that just agreeing with the movement and not really acting on those beliefs isn’t going to do anything.


Next, I spoke to Person B, a young Black woman, about her perspective. Due to B’s race, she had already grappled with the issue of American racism, and she cites Trump’s election as the beginning of her more intense interest in government and activism.


Lewis: How unjust did you feel America was before these protests?


B: Thinking back, I would say Trump is when I definitively became aware of politics and how corrupt this country is. And I think that’s mostly due to my race, because a lot of what he said attacked minorities and made me feel targeted.

Lewis: If your interest in politics had been pretty strong for years, would you say these protests increased that political investment?

B: I went to the protests on the first day—before we really knew they would get to this scale—so I would say my political investment is the same now as before.

If anything, I’m more into sharing now. This is separate from politics in a way; it’s just introducing more and varied Black experiences.

In addition to myself, a lot of Black people I’ve been speaking to feel like there’s finally a spotlight on things we’ve been talking about for years. So now, we just have to get as much as possible out into the media for it to be heard.

Talking to B made me realize that my prediction may be too narrow in that those who have previously faced pressure to think critically about race—many of whom are racial minorities—wont arrive at newfound enlightenment because of these protests. B further noted that while I may be partially right about COVID-19 allowing these protests to gain momentum because fewer people are afraid of losing their jobs, she also thinks that the general frustration level of a lot of people is higher because of the pandemic, leading to more turnout in protests.



Next, I spoke to C, a young black man whose Q&A is below.

Lewis: How have your feelings towards the issue of racism changed since the protest?


C: Given all the murders of innocent black men in recent years, the protests this week didn’t change my mind or make me realize anything new in terms of my beliefs. But they did make me realize that there is a new urgency.

Due to being an affluent black family, we’ve never really struggled, but we’ve always had to be aware of how we act. I just kind of accepted that I need to dress and act in a certain way. I had always recognized that that’s the way life is, even if it’s unjust, but with these protests and the massive response to them, I’ve realized that it’s something we can change.

Lewis: So you would say the protests gave you hope, sort of?

C: Yes. Definitely. Everything that’s going on is rallying the people. I had never really been to a protest until a week ago, so I would say a lot of people are being rallied to do something instead of nothing.

Also, even though it’s a trend, a lot of companies are taking a stand and putting their foot down on the Black Lives Matter side of the movement. I definitely have more hope because everyone is willing to do something about what’s going on.

Lewis: Are you paying more attention to politics and government because of the protests?

C: Most definitely. I recently turned 18, and I was planning on registering to vote eventually but wasn’t in a hurry to do it. In the wake of what’s been going on, I just submitted the forms to register. In the past, I didn’t spend much time on the news, but now I’ve been paying attention, researching the primaries, registering, etc.

We’re going up to a lake house soon, and we actually just changed our plans so we could get back slightly sooner and cast our votes. Everything is definitely making me more involved.

Talking to C made me realize yet again that my initial prediction was too narrow. It did not capture minorities who saw such injustices as so permanent that they could not feel motivated to act against them. Beyond just white people’s epiphanies, then, the return of hope to already-enlightened people is one factor increasing people’s political investment.

I could likely learn more lessons from every person I talk to about these protests, but I’ll leave them for another article and turn to some harder data I collected.

I did some polling on three Instagram accounts, all owned by white people but with uncertain respondent demographics.



The first poll was done on an account with few followers:

The first question had a 29% response rate. 93% of respondents claimed to have helped with the Floyd protests. The second question also had a 29% response rate. 60% of respondents claimed to have helped with protests preceding the Floyd protests.

The second poll was done on an account with many followers, with the same questions asked as the first:


The first question had a 24% response rate. 94% of respondents claimed to have helped with the Floyd protests. The second question had a 22% response rate. 72% of respondents claimed to have helped with protests preceding the Floyd protests.

Given the social expectation to engage in activism and how the owner of the Instagram account can see followers’ responses, respondents may very well be less likely to respond if they have not helped with protests. Further, these polls represent nowhere near an accurate sample of the United States, though they do provide a less unreasonable sample of young people in the US.

The third and final poll was done on an account with a moderate number of followers:



The first question had a 53% response rate. The second question had a 56% response rate. I find it interesting that despite getting three fewer views, the second question received one more answer—a marked increase in stated political interest compared to the first question.

That’s all for now.

Lewis James