The ultimate policy victories of Black Lives Matter are not yet known. On the federal level, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which passed in the House, died in the Senate. But the movement has had much more success on the city and state level.

In 2020 and early 2021 alone, more than 30 states passed at least 140 new police oversight and reform laws. In total, seven states have mandated the use of body cameras, five states have limited qualified immunity for officers (Colorado and New Mexico eliminated it), and at least 24 states have passed legislation restricting neck restraints.

Even before 2020, there were nationwide pushes for the use of body cameras by officers and to have cameras installed and operational on their vehicles.

Black Lives Matter has also experienced a backlash. Resentments always bubble to the surface when a movement experiences some success, and racists rise up to repel its advances. But that’s not what I’m talking about. The backlash that always feels like betrayal is the shifting of allegiances among supposed allies, the people who are with you only up to a point, the point at which your liberation threatens their privilege.

The same dynamic played out during the civil rights movement. A New York Times survey, conducted in the months following the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964, found that a majority of white New Yorkers, a supposedly liberal bastion, “believed the Negro civil rights movement had gone too far.” Some of the respondents spoke of Black people getting “everything on a silver platter” and of “reverse discrimination” against white people.

When the Kerner Commission released its 1968 report pointing out inequality, highlighting the pernicious nature of police brutality and pushing the Johnson administration to invest heavily in improving Black people’s living conditions, Congress refused to act on any of those recommendations. Nor did it advance police reform alongside socioeconomic improvement, as the Black community wanted. Instead, as the Marshall Project’s Nicole Lewis has written, “the federal government responded by equipping police with new tools to control violent expressions of civil unrest.”

Today, Democrats are once again shrinking from — or, in some cases, running from — police reform in the face of rising violent crime data, worried about being labeled “soft on crime,” or worse, a defund-the-police pusher.



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