The status of the US as a cultural superpower means that ripples in American politics tend to make waves elsewhere. The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement is no exception. Its role in leading and organising protests across the country in the wake of the George Floyd’s death has inspired the emergence of similar movements across the world.
Western Europe has seen the largest protests outside the US. Its corresponding patterns of racialised institutional violence, a shared history of participation the Atlantic slave trade, and the legacy of colonialism spurred sizeable demonstrations from London to Lisbon. Elsewhere, the movement has inspired protests against more localised dynamics of racial inequality. In Australia, most highlighted the historic and contemporary mistreatment of Aboriginal communities. In Israel, systemic socioeconomic discrimination against Ethiopian Jews was the focal point.
Perhaps the most intriguing manifestation of the internationalisation of the BLM movement is its transplantation to majority-black countries. Here, racism was not the focus. Instead, the narrative of injustice was transferred directly to the issue of state and specifically police violence. In countries where accusations of extrajudicial killings, indiscriminate arrests, torture and other forms of malpractice are common, George Floyd’s death at the hands of the Minneapolis police has a particular resonance. Demonstrations were held in Jamaica, where approximately 3,000 people have been killed by police since 2000. BLM protests in South Africa, Kenya and Ghana condemned police brutality in the enforcement of COVID-19 curfews. In Accra, demonstrations resulted in violent clashes and the incarceration of local organisers.
The globalisation of BLM can be attributed to its ubiquitous applicability. In countries with a history of black oppression it has reopened deep fissures historic racial injustice and inequality, whereas in Africa and the Caribbean the movement has centred on the perpetration of state violence. The strength of the movement is rooted in its near-universal appeal. Expect its momentum to persist for some time.
This article first appeared in the Axco Flashpoints newsletter, which provides monthly analysis on emerging risks and geopolitics from our Global Risk Intelligence and Data (GRID) team. You can sign up at https://www.axcoinfo.com/axco-flashpoints-signup.aspx