Monuments Fall, Nations Rise: How 2020 Has Been A Year Of Reconciliation Regarding The Racist Past Of Countries Around The Globe

Alexandra Wagner, Deputy Editor, Feature

2020 may come across to many as a year with many burdens, inconveniences, and little progress made politically and economically. To be more specific, this year may have been one of the most detrimental for the black community, and the Black Lives Matter movement has been spurred on as a result. It is important to recognize the significant rise in national and global civil rights protests, as well as the demand for the United States’ removal of Confederate symbols. 


After an estimated eight minutes and forty-six seconds of extensive pressure from an officer’s knee on his neck, George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man, was killed by Minneapolis Police on the corner of 38th Street and Chicago Avenue. His death rekindled an ever-burning flame to end racism and police brutality across the globe, inspiring marches, protests, demonstrations, memorials, artwork and murals. Mourners stood in silence for eight minutes and forty-six seconds, athletes organized walks and runs that were 8.46 miles long and lawmakers knelt for the eight minutes and forty-six seconds. In the heart of Minneapolis and other enraged cities, violence, rioting, looting, the burning of buildings and vandalism swept the community, leaving many civilians shocked at the sudden strong push for change and simultaneously terrified of the unprecedented threat the violence posed. 

As early as June 9, the Star Tribune approximated that 570 businesses in the Minneapolis–St. Paul area had been vandalized or destroyed, with 67 charred by fire. While implementing curfews and restrictions to gain control of the unsafe methods of protest, all levels of Minnesota government immediately began the grueling process of addressing the prominent issue of systemic racism. 

The Minneapolis City Council started by changing the name of the blocks between 37th and 39th streets from Chicago Avenue to George Perry Floyd Jr. Place. 

Then, it voted in favor of structuring the police department to be a “new community-based system of public safety,” prioritizing the needs of the people regardless of race. While the council’s proposal failed to make the 2020 general ballot, the Minneapolis Police Chief canceled his contract negotiations with the police union and announced plans to involve unaffiliated outside professionals to examine how the union contract could be restructured to offer “flexibility for true reform.” 

In addition to the protests and civil unrest that occurred locally in the Twin Cities, floods of demonstrations reached every corner of the country. Two thousand cities in the US similarly protested and demonstrated as of June 13. Soon after, the Black Lives Matter movement was reignited in over 60 countries. 


Arthur Ashe, an African American professional tennis player, who was born in Richmond, Virginia, was honored by the placement of a bronze statue in 1996 on Monument Avenue after extensive debate about whether or not he should be recognized in a place where many Confederates were recognized as well. 

Most officials thought recognizing Ashe was a good idea and would encourage diversity, but a substantial number of civilians opposed the statue, claiming the boulevard should remain a “shrine for the preservation of Confederate memories.” 

Now, nearly 25 years later, the statue of Ashe is one of few remaining on Monument Avenue. Of the six focal statues on the boulevard, four of the five statues of Confederate leaders have been removed as of June 2020, leaving Ashe and Robert E. Lee. The removal of Confederate monuments has been a long-standing project that has recently been expedited since the death of George Floyd. 

In light of such actions taking place to remove Confederate representatives from display, efforts to remove statues of other systemic racists are underway. Less than two months after the protests began in late May, nearly 183 Confederate monuments in the US alone have been removed, damaged, or destroyed. Statues in Richmond, Virginia and Washington D.C. were the primary focal points of removal as the actions of protestors spidering across the nation increased. 

Around the world, the public was taking action, too. In Ghent, a statue of King Leopold II was vandalized as the movement to end racism gained momentum. A statue of slave trader Edward Colston was thrown into Bristol Harbor in Bristol, England and was replaced with a statue of Black Lives Matter protester, Jen Reid, holding her fist in the air, a symbol of hope for the globe. Further vandalism and destruction of racist monuments took place in Belgium, New Zealand, South Africa, India, Slovenia, Barbados, Cambodia, Canada, Ireland, and Colombia. 


On ballots during this year’s presidential election, Mississippi residents had the opportunity to approve a new flag design after the previous pattern selected on February 7, 1894 was retired on June 30, 2020. In 2001, current Governor Ronnie Musgrove appointed an independent commission that developed a new flag design that did not pass, despite the state referendum that was presented to Mississippi voters. Later, in 2015, after the Charleston, South Carolina church shooting and the increase in hostility toward Confederate emblems, attempts were made to adopt a new banner and replace the Confederate saltire in the upper left corner. These also failed to pass through the committee. 

After over a century of voting to keep this offensive flag as well as due to the recent attention brought to systemic racism through events such as George Floyd’s death, over 73% of Mississippi residents voted to oust the Confederate imagery in the flag, changing it to the state flower, the magnolia, surrounded by a ring of stars and the words “In God We Trust.” 

“I think it’s already starting to indicate that changes are beginning to happen,” Don Shaffer, a professor and the director of African American Studies at Mississippi State University, said about the flag change. “The way people talk about our state is changing. Symbols matter.”



So yes, 2020 has been unprecedented for multiple reasons. But what was the pivotal moment in which the world began to see drastic change in the behavior toward ending racism? Many would say the George Floyd incident that occurred May 25, 2020. However, many other events during the year played key roles in the progression of the movement. Demands to “defund the police” gained popularity nationwide. The NFL corrected themselves, claiming they had “been on the wrong side of the issue,” taking a larger stance against systemic racism. NASCAR banned the use of the Confederate flag at all events. In light of the recent activism regarding global civil rights, it is also important to remember that, while these events were a significant mile marker in the movement, the desire for change has lasted for centuries. While many have stayed silent, leaving minorities to vouch for change themselves, this year has brought out voices of all races and beliefs, uniting the people of America and across the globe for much-needed change.