Support for Black Lives Matter (BLM), the movement that alleges “systemic racism” in policing in the United States (and in general), soared after the death of George Floyd but has fallen back to levels last seen in 2019, the New York Times reports.
According to an essay by academics Jennifer Chudy and Hakeem Jefferson, net popular support for BLM was +5% in mid-2018, soared past +20% in mid-2020, but then quickly fell again, and is now just above +5%, where it was in mid-2019.
Chudy — whose specialties are “white racial guilt, sympathy and prejudice” — and Jefferson write that America’s so-called “racial reckoning” was short-lived:
The moment was called “a racial reckoning.” Multiracial crowds of protesters took to the streets to call for racial justice. Books about racism soared to the top of best-seller lists. And surveys suggested that white Americans, many of whom had long opposed efforts to advance the goals of racial equality, were having a change of heart.
This time felt different. If previous instances of violence against Black people were quickly forgotten, the sense among many Americans was that George Floyd’s death would usher in a durable shift in attitudes regarding race and justice.
Though there is, in the data, reason for some optimism, the more general picture contradicts the idea that the country underwent a racial reckoning. Last summer, as Black Americans turned their sorrow into action, attitudes — especially white attitudes — shifted from tacit support to outright opposition, a pattern familiar in American history. Whereas support for Black Lives Matter remains relatively high among racial and ethnic minorities, support among white Americans has proved both fickle and volatile.
The authors write that the decline was felt largely among whites and Republicans, who shared outrage at what happened to Floyd but have since “actually become less supportive of Black Lives Matter than they were before the death of George Floyd” (original emphasis).
The scholars go on to explain declining white and Republican support for BLM by referring to “increased politicization of the issue by elites,” including then-President Donald Trump.
They do not seem to consider the effect of violence, rioting, murder, and looting — except as reflected in Trump’s rhetoric — in alienating potential support.
Read the full essay here.