World News in Review

International Responses to #BlackLivesMatter

Zimbabwe

August 4, 2020 – With political reform at the forefront of public consciousness, people have taken to social media to condemn recent persecution, kidnappings, and beatings of Zimbabwean civil rights activists. Government suppression of peaceful protests and the arrests of several high profile opposition leaders have sparked a twitter campaign with over 700,000 tweets. Zimbabweans are using the hashtag ‘ZimbabweLivesMatter’ on social media to call out brutality from authorities with messages such as, “The justice system has loopholes and has lost its independence,” and, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” Many twitter users express anger toward the current president of Zimbabwe, Emmerson Mnangagwa, who they call out for protest repression and political corruption. “The brutalization of ordinary Zimbabweans continues as the Mnangagwa regime hunkers down,” former Zimbabwean Minister of Education David Coltart wrote in response to arrests during peaceful protests. Since the hashtag made its debut, it has garnered global support, leading people from all over the world to raise awareness in solidarity with Zimbabwe. South African professional rugby player Tendai ‘Beast’ Mtawarira South endorsed the hashtag, along with other notable personalities such as pop star Cassper Nyovest and actor Pearl Thusi. The hashtag can be found on Twitter at #ZimbabweLivesMatter.

England

August 11, 2020 – All Gallagher Premiership clubs have agreed to use their platform to combat systemic racism, as underlined by a virtual meeting on August 11, 2020. As a well-established rugby championship, Gallagher Premiership is one of few professional sports leagues to announce that pre-match time will be devoted to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. Additionally, Premiership Rugby has expressed their commitment to improve ethnic representation, increase access to the sport, and build protocols that establish safe environments for all players. “Together, we the players stand united in the fight against racism, and we are proud to support the positive message that Black Lives Matter,” league members explained. “We are uniting as players to combat racial discrimination, in our sport and in society,” they said. Although all teams will show their support, there’s been no directive from the leagues organizers as to how teams should approach the issue. Some teams plan to take a knee, an action synonymous with the Black Lives Matter movement, while others plan on donning symbols such as the Black Power fist. Concerns about the lack of a unified approach have been brought up, but many players are reluctant to associate with the politicization of “taking a knee,” and prefer to show their pledge to anti-racism in other ways. With the league still working out how to best publicize their stance against institutional racism, Gallagher Premiership illustrates one way that England is shifting its focus to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Canada

August 1, 2020 – Emancipation Day commemorates the abolition of slavery in Canada and most of the British Empire. On August 1, 1834, the British parliament passed the Slavery Abolition Act, and in doing so inspired other resistance efforts and became a safe haven for self-emancipated Africans who were fleeing persecution in the United States. Although the legacy of this freedom legislation has changed the course of Canadian history, Emancipation Day has not yet been recognized in popular culture. This year, with increased awareness of the Black Lives Matter movement, activists worked to include this history in the narrative. In Vancouver, activists Nova Stevens and Shamika Mitchell organized demonstrations, made phone calls, and met with city staff to have August 1 officially recognized as Emancipation Day. Other activists, like Ngozi Paul, work to emphasize the importance of the day by creating platforms for creative expression. Paul partnered with UforChange to host an evening of art intended to recognize cultural heritage. Canada still doesn’t nationally recognize Emancipation Day, but it’s been forever written into Canadian history through the passionate work of activists.

France

June 29, 2020 – In late June, anti-racism activist Assa Traoré was awarded the Black Entertainment Television (BET) International Global Good Award. The Global Good Award recognizes public figures who use their platforms to advocate for the welfare of the Black community. Amassing a social media following of over 400,000, Traoré has done just that. Since her brother’s death in 2016, Traoré has been leading France in the protest for criminal justice reform and the end of police brutality. Adama Traoré, her brother, died in police custody on his 24th birthday. Official medical reports claim his death was a result of underlying medical conditions, but a second autopsy by the Traoré family suggests that he died by asphyxiation from sustained pressure. Since 2016, Traoré has fought to uncover the truth behind her brother’s death and unmask the systemic racial injustice so many Black communities face. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States, Traoré organized protests in early June to stand against the disproportionate police violence French ethnic groups face. With the movement starting as a shout of justice for Adama, it’s burgeoned into a swell of voices that demand acknowledgement of institutional discrimination and a promise of judicial reform. French officials have responded to the outcry for structural change by announcing new police de-escalation tactics and stricter punishments for racist comments within the force. Traoré now heads a movement not just for her brother, but for racial justice in France as a whole.

South Africa

August 18, 2020 – An eminent South African political figure and representative of the Democratic Alliance, Zakhele Njabulo Mbhele, made his views on the Black Lives Matter movement clear during a parliamentary debate on August 18. When discussing the fight for racial justice in the US, Mbhele said, “The Black Lives Matter movement is about highlighting the longstanding, chronic, and systemic abuses perpetrated specifically against African American communities in the United States.” Although Mbhele showed support of the American movement, he argued that political leaders need to deconstruct the intricacies of South African history and set those as foundations from which to progress, rather than replicate the protests in the US. Institutionalized racial segregation is at the forefront of South African history, with apartheid ending just over fifteen years ago. Mbhele stressed the importance of addressing those political structures. Many different views on how racial justice should be approached in the South African government were also proposed in the debate, and many want the reforms to echo those proposed in the US. This might include economic reparations, the defunding of the police, and protections for public education.

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