A world of George Floyds, one year later

A world of George Floyds, one year later

A year ago, the police murder of George Floyd galvanized a new generation of protest and advocacy for racial justice and police reform in the United States. But it also energized activists in other countries, who for decades had been waging their own fights for social and racial justice.

Here we take a look at three places where the Floyd rallies struck a chord and ask: what's happened in the year since?


Brazil: When the George Floyd protests erupted in the US, many in Brazil were still reeling from the police shooting of a 14-year old Black child, João Pedro Matos Pinto, in Rio de Janeiro. He was merely the latest of thousands in recent years. Of the 9,000 Brazilians killed by police in the decade before 2020, three-quarters were Black. Impunity for police in these cases is the norm. And as in the US, the problems of racial inequality are much broader. Though 56 percent of Brazilians now identify as Black or biracial, economic and political power remains primarily with whites. And the pandemic which continues to rage in Brazil has taken an extra harsh toll on Brazilians of African descent

In the past year, there have been several positive steps. Last fall, electoral authorities ruled that political parties should give more funding to Black candidates, who are generally underrepresented in Brazil. And a historically high number of Black or biracial lawmakers took office in local elections last November. ( Interestingly, many had miraculously changed their race from white to Black ahead of the vote.) Some of Brazil's large companies made controversial moves to boost the number of Black employees specifically.

And yet, amid rising crime and killings in Brazil's cities, rightwing President Jair Bolsonaro has accused racial justice activists of "importing tensions" to Brazil and has a track record of encouraging police violence against suspects. Last November, fresh protests erupted after security guards in southern Brazil beat a Black man to death. And just weeks ago, a brutal, and potentially legally-questionable, police raid of a gang-infested favela in Rio de Janeiro left 28 people of color dead. In the days afterwards, protesters again decried the fate of so many Black Brazilians who die, they chanted, "by bullets, by hunger, or by COVID."

France: The Floyd protests also prompted a fresh reckoning with racial justice and police violence in France, where the case of Adama Traoré, a Malian-French man who died in police custody in 2016, remains an open wound for justice activists. According to the BBC, young men of African or Arab background are 20 times more likely to be stopped by French police than whites.

But in the year since, progress has been halting. For one thing, identifying the problem itself has been hard because France as part of its idea of a race-blind republican citizenship keeps very few statistics organized by race.

For another, although crime rates have stayed relatively low in France, a crime spike in 2019 and a spate of attacks by Islamic extremists created a sense of concern about both crime and France's national identity that rightwing politicians like Marine Le Pen have seized upon, forcing beleaguered centrist president Emmanuel Macron to tack rightward on security. Police unions have successfully blocked efforts to ban the chokehold that killed Traoré, and a new security law restricts the right of citizens to film on-duty police officers. Supporters of the measure say it protects law-abiding police from being subjected to online harassment, but critics say it makes it harder to hold bad cops accountable.

Australia: Some of the largest racial justice protests energized by those in the US took place in Australia, where thousands took to the streets to highlight the plight of the country's indigenous populations.

Although Indigenous Australians comprise just 3 percent of Australia's 25 million people, they account for nearly a third of all prison inmates, and a fifth of all deaths in jail. Hundreds have died in custody since the 1990s. Nearly a century after an Australian government program to strip Indigenous children from their families created a "Stolen Generation," Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities' health and education indicators lag, and bias against them remains widespread.

There has been some progress over the past year. Last July, the Australian government, working with Indigenous groups, expanded the scope of its "Closing the Gap" agreement, a policy framework that aims to redress generations of discrimination against Australia's Indigenous peoples. The new targets include a commitment to substantially reduce the number of Aboriginal people in prison by 2031.

But some critics say the targets aren't nearly ambitious enough. Others point out that many of the goals in an earlier agreement from 2008 remain unmet, and that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians aren't sufficiently involved in the policy decisions that affect their communities.

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No country in the Western Hemisphere is more closely associated with disaster and misery than the Caribbean nation of Haiti. Its latest upheaval centers on news that the country's top prosecutor wants Haiti's prime minister to answer questions about the murder of the president in July. Haiti is again locked in a power struggle among competing factions within its ruling elite.

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For Michael Chertoff, former US secretary of Homeland Security from 2005 to 2009, the fact that America has not experienced a single attack by foreign terrorists since 9/11 proves that the US was "successful" in its strategy to prevent terrorism. That "was not [an] accident and there was a deterrent effect to be honest — had we been lax, more would have tried." Although he admits the US government wasn't transparent enough about the intelligence it was collecting, Chertoff credits US intelligence agencies with helping to foil the plot to blow up airplanes mid-air from Heathrow to the US in 2006. The US mission in Iraq, or what came after was not clearly thought out, according to Michael Chertoff, who served as the Secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security under George W. Bush. The Iraq war made it difficult to focus on the US mission in Afghanistan and absorbed resources that could have been used more effectively elsewhere, he said.

Watch the full episode: Is America safer since 9/11?

Listen: In a frank interview on the GZERO World podcast, António Guterres, the United Nations Secretary-General, speaks with Ian Bremmer at the UN ahead of the annual General Assembly week. Guterres discusses COVID, climate, the US-China rift, and the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan, and does not mince words when it comes to the dire state of the world. "We are standing at the edge of an abyss," Guterres warns. COVID is "defeating" the global community and a climate catastrophe is all but assured without drastic action. Amidst this unprecedented peril, there remains a startling lack of trust among nations. And yet, there is still hope.

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.


"Men make history and not the other way around. In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still." — Harry S. Truman

The former US president's warning feels particularly prescient as world leaders prepare to gather at the 76th United National General Assembly in New York City, the first such in-person event in over 18 months. The importance of apt leadership in determining societies' ability to cope — and survive — has been on full display since COVID-19 enveloped the globe, decimating communities and killing some 4.5 million people.

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For UN Secretary-General António Guterres, the pandemic has made the world even more divided than it was before COVID. That's especially true on climate, in his view, because rich and poor countries simply don't trust each other anymore. If we want COP26 to succeed, Guterres says we must rebuild that trust — or face the consequences of inaction. "If you are on the verge of an abyss, you must be careful about your next step." Watch his interview with Ian Bremmer on the latest episode of GZERO World.

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Unfinished Business: Is the World Really Building Back Better?

Wednesday, September 22nd, 11am ET/ 8am PT

Our speakers:

Special appearance by António Guterres, UN Secretary-General.

Visit gzeromedia.com/globalstage to watch on the day of the event.

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