There’s no denying that the death of George Floyd sparked something in this country. It was odd because there was nothing particularly egregious about his murder at the hands (or knee) of police that couldn’t also be applied to Eric Garner, Rekia Boyd, John Crawford, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, Philando Castile, Charleena Lyles and countless others who came before him. But, for whatever reason, it was Floyd’s death that became the catalyst for massive Black Lives Matter support and a wave of protests against police violence and systemic racism in policing.
Many of us called it America’s “racial awakening,” but it turns out it was more of a “racial yawning” soon to be followed by a “racial rolling over and falling back to sleep.”
A new national poll conducted by Civiqs, which is described by NBC News as “a nonpartisan online survey firm affiliated with the progressive media group Daily Kos,” shows that only 44 percent of Americans support the Black Lives Matter movement—a steep decline from the 52 percent of Americans who said they supported the movement in June 2020, according to the same survey.
But let’s be clear about one thing: When I say BLM support declined among Americans, I mostly mean white people.
According to the poll, 82 percent of Black respondents said they still supported the movement while more than half of those who said they opposed the movement were white.
None of this should be surprising since never in the history of America have a majority of white people supported movements for Black equality.
In August 1966, less than two years before Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated by a redneck with a Klan-ish ax to grind, a Gallup Poll revealed that 63 percent of Americans had an unfavorable opinion of the iconic civil rights leader. 95 percent of Black people favored King, so it’s not much of a stretch to guess that the majority of those who made up the 63 percent also had an unfavorable opinion of washcloths, raisinless potato salad, constant leg washing and clapping on the two and four.
White people’s opposition to King when he was alive is especially rich considering the fact that conservative whites can’t stop invoking his name in lecturing Black people on the proper way to behave (that is, when they’re not dropping his teachings from required school curricula).
Also, in October 1966, 85 percent of white Americans said that civil rights protests hurt Black people more than they helped.
And surprising to no one who takes daily showers and displays negro Santa Clauses during the Holiday season, the majority of white people in America statistically did not support the abolition of slavery.
“These polls are quite representative of America’s approach,” Vida Robertson, the director of the Center for Critical Race Studies at the University of Houston-Downtown, told NBC. “There’s no historical evidence whatsoever that America has ever been interested in Black liberation and building an equitable society. We are simply coming to grips with our romantic ideals that are running up against our political realities. And the fact stands that America has constantly and will constantly struggle with the liberation of Black bodies because we are endemically a racist society.”
Of course, white people aren’t going to listen to some critical race theorist anymore than they listened to MLK before he was killed and his name began to serve as a convenient “See, I’m not racist” talking point.
By all estimations, we’re probably going to have to wait for about a few dozen or so George Floyds to happen before we see BLM support among a majority of Americans again.
And that support will still likely only be temporary.