The Racial Reckoning That Wasn't : Code Switch In the wake of several high-profile police killings last summer, support for Black Lives Matter skyrocketed among white Americans. Their new concerns about racism pushed books about race to the top of the bestseller lists, while corporations pledged billions of dollars to address injustice. A year later, though, polls show that white support for the movement has not only waned, but is lower than it was before. On this episode, two researchers explain why last year so-called racial reckoning was always shakier than it looked.

The Racial Reckoning That Wasn't

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I'm Shereen Marisol Meraji.


I'm Gene Demby, and this is CODE SWITCH...

MERAJI: ...From NPR.


MERAJI: In June of 2020, the early days of the pandemic, it seemed like most of the nation's attention was focused on the police killings of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Louisville. People took to the streets across the country in outrage, even in cities and small towns that were almost entirely white.

DEMBY: And around that same time last June, a poll came out from the Pew Research Center that found that solid majorities of Americans, about two-thirds of all respondents, across racial and ethnic groups and political parties expressed support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

MERAJI: Oh, and corporate America wanted in on the action too - companies from big-box retailers to bidet manufacturers.

DEMBY: The NFL, too, of all people. The NFL.

MERAJI: Oh, yes, the NFL - they all released statements about the moment or they pledged to give money to, quote-unquote, "racial justice." News story after news story, essay after essay, sermon after sermon called it a time of racial reckoning for the entire country.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: 2020 was the year that forced Americans from all walks of life to pay attention to a movement and have some tough conversations about race.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Millions took to the streets last summer in some of the largest protests in U.S. history.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: History that needs to be reckoned with as we search for a way forward.

DEMBY: So, Shereen, just, like, on our side of things when all this was going down - I know this is probably true for you - I saw this wall of new white faces on my Instagram feed - like, thousands of new followers who had been pointed to CODE SWITCH, you know, on one of those anti-racist reading lists.

MERAJI: It was very surreal. I was like, oh, should I make my IG private? I'm still wondering if I should make it private or do something different with it. Anyway, yes.

DEMBY: Absolutely.

MERAJI: Very odd.

DEMBY: Very strange. So I said, OK. All right, white people, y'all are here now. Since you're here, I have some questions. Like, what is it about this moment that has you suddenly activated? And hundreds of people responded, like, earnestly and awkwardly, and if we're keeping it real, like, not all that convincingly.

MERAJI: A lot of people mentioned it was because the video was so shocking. But of course, we know that George Floyd wasn't the first Black person whose killing at the hands of the police in Minneapolis, even, was caught on video because we covered Philando Castile's death on the podcast, which was in 2016.

DEMBY: And of course, Eric Garner was killed by the police in New York City in eerily similar circumstances to George Floyd. That was also captured on video. Some of Eric Garner's last words were very similar to George Floyd's, I can't breathe. That became a rallying cry among protesters. That was back in 2014. And both those stories - Philando Castile, Eric Garner's - were national news. George Floyd's death was horrible, but as a news story, it wasn't new. It wasn't different.

MERAJI: But getting back to your IG query and all those white people who chimed in, almost every person who responded mentioned President Trump's rhetoric or the pandemic. And we wondered, so what happens if Trump is no longer president and when folks can go outside again? Will these newly activated white people still be in the trenches, fighting for racial justice? Will they even be paying attention?

DEMBY: And Shereen, we saw, not long after all that was going down, some signs that that shock and anger was waning. By the end of last summer, Pew found that while support for the Black Lives Matter movement remained, you know, real high among people of color, especially among Black folks and Asian Americans, white people were jumping ship. In June of 2020, 60% of white Americans said they supported Black Lives Matter. By September, though, a majority of white people said they did not. And a big part of the context here was that there was a presidential election going on last year, and this became a major part of the partisan rancor.

MERAJI: Even more than usual. And fast forward a little bit to May of 2021 - a year later, a year after Breonna Taylor and George Floyd were killed - a consulting firm called Creative Investment Research found that of the $50 billion pledged by corporations for, quote-unquote, "racial justice," almost none of it had actually materialized into anything.

DEMBY: So was any of this racial reckoning even real? We asked our white listeners again to tell us how they were feeling and what they were doing a year out from last summer's protest, and we got a lot, a lot, of feedback. Here's some of what people told us.

LINDSEY BOCKER: I'd say my views on racial justice have gotten a lot more radical.

JAMES MARTIN: I would say, like, if there's anything in the last year that's new about my views, it's the conversation around the defunding of the police effort.

IAN SNYDER: I have gotten more deeply involved in community organizing as part of a multiracial movement to end white supremacy, patriarchy, and capitalism.

JENNIFER SEMENSA: I have also really seen it as my responsibility to talk to other white women.

MARTIN: Increased regular monthly contributions to, like, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the ACLU, American Negro College Fund.

NINA TARNOWSKI: I started a book club at work, and we meet once a month during our lunch hour. We talk about - you know, I mean, it really is a bunch of well-meaning white ladies talking about race, but that's how this kind of stuff starts. I was definitely the white lady at the bookstore buying a lot of books by Black authors, so I hope I've filled in their royalties a little bit.

BOCKER: I centered myself in a lot of activism, so I basically wanted a cookie. And I've now realized that it's not about me, and I actually need to do all of the behind-the-scenes work so that other people can use their own voices to tell their own stories.

DEMBY: So obviously, Shereen, you know, the white folks who listen to CODE SWITCH are a very particular, you know, subset of white folks, I think we can say.


DEMBY: And the responses we got from them are not really representative of white people in the aggregate, as we're about to hear. I spoke to two political scientists who think about this cohort of white people a lot.

HAKEEM JEFFERSON: My name is Hakeem Jefferson. I'm an assistant professor at Stanford University.

JENNIFER CHUDY: And my name is Jennifer Chudy, and I'm an assistant professor of political science at Wellesley College.

DEMBY: Hakeem and Jennifer are good friends. They're bi-coastal friends like you and me, Shereen.


DEMBY: They go back a long ways, back to when they were both campus tour guides as grad students at the University of Michigan.

MERAJI: Oh, I love that.

CHUDY: And then we ended up actually being roommates and living together for two, three...

JEFFERSON: Many years.

CHUDY: Many, many years in a rundown yellow house that hosted Ann Arbor's best graduate student parties, which I don't even know what that means when we're all as nerdy as we are.

MERAJI: I'm imagining nerd ragers with fancy whiskey, very peaty, very smoky, perhaps. We know grad students can't really afford it, but because they're nerds, they're going for it. And regression models, of course.

DEMBY: Of course. Of course. And they are still very nerdily chopping it up. In May, they together scoured some public opinion data in order to write this essay for The New York Times. It's called "Support For The Black Lives Matter Movement Surged Last Year: Did It Last?"

MERAJI: That is a great question. And I have a feeling I know the answer because I'm a cynic.

DEMBY: I have a feeling I know what your feeling is. So in the immediate aftermath of George Floyd's killing, they thought that people were perhaps not paying enough attention to some pretty well-established patterns about white public opinion and issues of race. Here's Hakeem.

JEFFERSON: You know, I think I remarked at the time, yeah, it's good these white folks are there, but they're all going to go back to their fairly lily-white neighborhoods, their lily-white schools, and they're not going to have the sustained engagement with the political agenda of the movement. And Jenn, I don't know. I recall that being somewhat of your sentiment, too, but maybe my memory is different.

CHUDY: Yeah. I similarly said, you know, they have built a society in which it's very easy to segregate themselves from these issues. But additionally, you know, I don't know if this is eye-rolling or what, but I had said to one reporter, you know, it's not going out on a limb if you say murder is bad. So we have this very graphic, indisputable, you know, viscerally upsetting murder. And so how much progress is it if white people are like, oh, that was bad? Yes, I hope they would say that is bad. That is such a low bar to admit something like that is upsetting.

But, you know, kind of this is where my research comes in. These more ambiguous episodes where there aren't eyewitness accounts or when it's not resulting in murder is where you see white sympathy kind of trickle off. And that is important to note as well. Yes, we could conjure up sympathy for this moment with this egregious act of violence. But what about other instances? And also what about when the country isn't in this totally bizarre state of lockdown with few other distractions?

MERAJI: Listening to that makes me think about all the people who get their bones broken or who are bitten by police dogs and horribly injured that we never hear about. But I digress.

DEMBY: Yeah, all those sub-fatal encounters with the cops, right?


DEMBY: And that's where some of Jenn's previous research comes in, right? So she spent years studying white people, particularly white people, she says, who feel racial sympathy and racial guilt. But at the height of the racial reckoning...

CHUDY: I was kind of conflicted because within my discipline, I've done a lot of work trying to convince people, oh, these white people exist, and they're interesting to study.

JEFFERSON: These white people being racially sympathetic white people, right?

CHUDY: Racially sympathetic white people. And then George Floyd happened, and I said, these aren't - this isn't real. And so it was - it felt a little bit like a contradiction, because in my own academic work, I've tried to stress the importance of these types of unique white racial attitudes. But then with what was unfolding last summer, I was much more skeptical that this is actually what we were seeing.

MERAJI: Oh, that is fascinating. And before we go any further, though, we need to define some terms. So I'm hearing sympathetic, and I'm hearing guilty. We know what those things mean in the real world. I feel (laughter) both of those things all the time, especially guilt, because I was raised Catholic.

DEMBY: Me too. We were both raised Catholic. Shout out to the Catholic Church...

MERAJI: Yes, we were (laughter).

DEMBY: ...And generational trauma for sympathy and guilt.

MERAJI: Two great tastes that go great together.

DEMBY: Anyway, so...


DEMBY: ...Related to these points - right? - Jennifer studies, you know, white public opinion about race, and she's using sympathy and guilt in a particular way when it comes to polls and surveys. So when she talks about racially sympathetic white people, who she's talking about is...

CHUDY: White people who feel distress when they learn about Black suffering. Now, Black suffering can be very violent and unambiguous, you know, as was the case with George Floyd. But it can also be, you know, microaggressions. And so there are some white people who feel distress when they learn about that whole spectrum of suffering. And what makes a white person like that is, you know, the environment they were raised in, the kinds of values they've picked up along their lives. Those are all things that could contribute to a white person feeling sympathetic.

MERAJI: All right, that's sympathy. Let's talk about guilt.

DEMBY: Right, so guilt, as Jennifer defines it, is racial sympathy, but also that comes with a sense of personal responsibility. White people who feel racial guilt, she says, are the people who feel implicated in racism.

CHUDY: So white people can feel sad about Black distress. But guilt has the extra level of that is, you know, something upsetting, and I, as a white person, feel like I'm somehow, you know, culpable or responsible for this scenario.

MERAJI: So, Gene, maybe guilt isn't as bad as we thought it was, because in this case, guilt might motivate white people to take action for something good.

DEMBY: Right.

MERAJI: The good of mankind - humankind. Sorry.

DEMBY: Potentially, right? Spoilers - there are some big caveats to this that we're going to get to a little bit later. But OK, yeah. When it comes to white people who care about anti-Black racism at all...

CHUDY: They are a tiny, tiny, tiny, tiny, tiny percentage of the population.

DEMBY: What does that mean? Like, tiny percentage? Like, how tiny are we talking?

CHUDY: Well, there's a spectrum. It's not like white people either have sympathy for Black people, or they don't. It's kind of like some white people have no sympathy for Black people, and some white people have tons of sympathy for Black people. So it's not as clean as, you know, yes or no. And the percentage of white people who, if you tell them about Black suffering - many different, like, little iterations or stories of Black suffering - less than 20% feel sympathy towards kind of every flavor of Black suffering from microaggression to physical altercations akin to what George Floyd faced. So that said, the percentage of white people who admit that they carry guilt is, I would say, lower than 10%.

MERAJI: Wow. Those are not substantial numbers.

CHUDY: And so when I was watching this unfold and seeing this being kind of explained as a broadly felt sentiment among white Americans, my thought was just, like, disbelief or, you know, this is a mischaracterization because having studied these kind of attitudes among white people for years, I knew that it was much more rare. In fact, I think Malcolm X has a quote that I write about, like, you know, the number of good white people is so small you need, like, a microscope or, you know, to find it.

JEFFERSON: In the immediate aftermath of George Floyd's murder, you might get a bunch of white people who have all sorts of emotions that are exercised and the like. But then we have to wonder about how long-lasting any of these feelings attached to a particular episode, detached from somebody's imagined pattern of how these things work in the world - like, how long-lasting is any of that going to be?

MERAJI: How long-lasting is it going to be?

DEMBY: We are going to get into all of that after the break.

MERAJI: Stay with us.


DEMBY: Gene.

MERAJI: Shereen.



MERAJI: Before the break, we were talking to Jennifer Chudy and Hakeem Jefferson about how George Floyd's murder made a percentage of white people feel momentary sympathy for the plight of Black people.

DEMBY: At least, you know, as expressed in support for the so-called Black Lives Matter movement, right? So I wanted them to help us crunch these numbers. Like, OK, what did the high watermark of the support for the Black Lives Matter movement look like last year, you know, in the days and weeks immediately after George Floyd's death? And Hakeem reminds us, that spike was a real thing.

JEFFERSON: And I mean, this is what everybody was talking about. And this is why Jenn and I were being approached by reporters asking us, what do you think of this? When I saw that peak, I was inspired by it, but I thought, this is going to go away as soon as the sort of news moves away from George Floyd. Or, to a point that Jenn was making, white folks have easy cases of amnesia when it comes to race, and so you go back to the everyday movements of life. You're distracted. The movement becomes less attached to this visceral, murderous event, and now the movement is about all that other stuff that you don't like.

MERAJI: Like maybe abolishing the police or reparations or equal access to health care and education - the kind of issues that we've been talking about a lot on CODE SWITCH.

DEMBY: Right. Right. Hakeem walked us through the data showing this big drop-off in support among white Americans. And, you know, for our A-plus superstar scholar listeners, Hakeem is about to reference the graph in their New York Times piece. It's called "Support For The Black Lives Matter Movement Surged Last Year: Did It Last?" So if you want to follow along and pull it up right now, you should do so.

MERAJI: You should. Just pause the podcast, pull that up. Get some of your own graph paper, a couple No. 2 pencils, perhaps a protractor.

DEMBY: Nerds. Nerds. Here's Hakeem.

JEFFERSON: Among white Americans, there's not just this return to normal. This would be - for listeners trying to follow along with the plots and the essay, this would be that third plot that's in the piece, where white folks are depicted with a purple line. A return to baseline would've just been at that zero line - right? - at that zero line. That would say that white opinion toward Black Lives Matter has just returned to where it was on January the 1, 2020.

DEMBY: But they found that white support didn't just return to pre-George Floyd levels.

JEFFERSON: Instead, what we see is that purple line - right? - and the current period is below the zero line, which suggests that in the aggregate, overall, on average, white support for Black Lives Matter is now lower than it was on January 1, 2020.

MERAJI: So for the people in the back who did not hear that, white support today is lower than it was before Breonna Taylor and George Floyd were killed by the police.

JEFFERSON: Now, in the aggregate, yeah, white people have more negative views toward the movement than they did in January 2020 before George Floyd was murdered.


MERAJI: The public opinion research available is telling us that support for BLM from white people has mostly evaporated. Jen Chudy's research that she was telling us about before the break show that most white people don't really care about anti-Black racism, period. But here on CODE SWITCH, we are always hearing from white people who write in and talk to us about all the reasons why they want to be anti-racist and how hard they're working on that. So many of our listeners rep that tiny, tiny percentage that Jen was telling us about. So I want to know, who are those white people who make up that tiny percentage who are sympathetic? And, you know, do we have more demographic data on them?

DEMBY: Yeah, this was something that I was very curious about, too. Like, are there throughlines? What do we know about who those people are? And Jen said, OK - again, caveat is we're talking about a very small percentage of white people - right? - but that those racially sympathetic white people tend to be Democrats. That's the identity that comes through most consistently in the public opinion research. That's probably not too surprising given how partisan these issues are, how partisan they tend to be framed. But after that, Jen says, we can't really say anything too definitive.

CHUDY: It's not the case that they are more often young or more often - I thought maybe it's more often to be women because women are often socialized to feel bad for people. And that's not the case either. You know, they do tend to live in cities. But here we get into kind of a selection, you know, to talk social science. Did the city make them have those attitudes, or did they have those attitudes, so they moved to the city? And so it's a little bit dicey to suss out.

They also - I should say the other kind of reliable predictor is that they tend to have higher levels of education. And again, it's - you know, here's social science-ese (ph) again. It's also selection effect. Do those folks who want more education have these values, and education is wrapped up in that, or does having more education lead a white person to become more sympathetic or more - have higher levels of guilt? So it's hard to know which way the arrow flows.

But there is some diversity within that, too. You know, as I said, I thought they would be young - not necessarily. And then I thought maybe having additional marginalized identities, whether gender or sexuality or religion, and those don't seem to be as reliable as I had kind of thought they might be.


CHUDY: I think it's funny 'cause when I have talked with journalists about this, you know, many of whom live in places like New York and in D.C. and some of whom are white, there's just shock that the numbers are as bad as they are for white people. And it just speaks to, you know, the high degree of political polarization that other folks have written about. And if that's crazy to a white person, then they are not hanging out with a representative group of white Americans, which who among us is hanging out with a representative group of Americans to begin with?


MERAJI: I said earlier in the show that I was a cynic, but it's really impossible to work on the race beat for as long as we have been doing this and not be skeptics. You know, we're also journalists, so that's in our DNA. They actually showed up in my genetic testing results.


DEMBY: Iranian, Puerto Rican and skeptical.

MERAJI: Yes, that was it. Seriously, though, we were side-eyeing the rise in white American support and momentum for racial justice that came after George Floyd's murder. And it sounds to me like Hakeem and Jennifer share in our healthy skepticism.

DEMBY: They do. They do.

MERAJI: So I hate to ask the question, Gene, but I'm going to ask the question.

DEMBY: All right. Hit me.

MERAJI: Do they think that this racial reckoning that was such a huge deal last year actually meant anything?

DEMBY: Yeah. So, OK. So, Shereen, this is what they told me. And you might find this unsatisfying. It...

MERAJI: I probably will.

DEMBY: ...Is not definitely a yes - right? - but it's also not a complete no. I - you know...

MERAJI: Wait. Let me interrupt. Is it complicated?

DEMBY: Oh, my God. We almost got through the whole episode, and you didn't say it. But, yeah, let's get into it. I'm just going to play you some of the conversation that I had with them.

JEFFERSON: Maybe it is meaningful that we've got new language to talk about the state of policing in the U.S., that the discourse has shifted - right? - more people are aware, perhaps, that these are serious issues. And so I don't want to throw cold water on all of that.

But I think if we think of what we've reported here or documented here as being a reflection of, OK, when white people say they're committed to the cause of racial justice, how long-lasting, how meaningful, how significant is that, how much should we run to the bank and say, like, we've got some folks on our side, I think these data that we share and write about here, present, at least for me, a sort of depressing look at what we can expect from a lot of white Americans - not all of them, but a lot of white Americans - when these sorts of moments come into view.

DEMBY: The country is opening back up again. Donald Trump is no longer the president. Like, having looked at all this data and sat with it, what do the two of you think it tells people who are trying to make specific tangible advances in racial justice in the world? Is the issue about, like, getting enough white people to help, or is it about getting enough white people to just, like, not get in the way?

JEFFERSON: Oh, I get to defer first to Jen. And I'm just going to say, Jen, you've talked to all these white folks. I mean, you've been interviewing them and studying them and writing about them at great length.

CHUDY: Well, I think, you know, one way to interpret the responses you got is a lot of this is bound up in partisanship. The fact that they name Donald Trump, who is not only the president, but, you know, the leader of the Republican Party, and we do see that white - those white Americans who identify as Republicans are kind of driving the support for Black Lives Matter south does suggest that there is a role here for parties. There is a role for the Democratic Party to not sweep this under the rug, but to really - you know, talking about sitting with it.

So I think in terms of, like, action items, there should be some acknowledgement that this is tethered to a political identity. You know, but what is perplexing to me, to take it back to Hakeem's point, I have been talking with white racial justice activists, and I did so before George Floyd was murdered. So these were people who were showing up about race and caring about race when it wasn't a front-page news story. And many of them expressed real cynicism and skepticism about participating in mainstream politics.

DEMBY: Even if we moved away from sort of electoral politics, though, if you were an organizer who, you know, focuses on issues of - you know, I guess we'll call them issues of racial justice on the ground - right? - and you're not necessarily talking about, you know, voting, but, you know...


DEMBY: ...Organizing on the ground - how should those people be metabolizing this very sobering data?

CHUDY: Yeah. I mean, I think we do talk about in the essay that there is evidence that legislators are responsive to things like protests. I mean, if you are showing up and you have a critical mass of people, that a legislator can start to feel nervous that they may not get reelected. And so, you know, I don't know if we're being very narrow kind of taking it back to - the reason we take it back to voting is because that is kind of the easiest thing people can do.

JEFFERSON: We are so critical of momentary exercises of, say, upset or what have you in light of these moments. And so we just know from decades of social scientific research that when we disconnect some structural problem or some systemic problem, when we disconnect it from a pattern and we make it about episodes, that people respond differently. It matters how we talk and think about the case of George Floyd. When we just focus on George Floyd as an episode, what we forget is that police violence against Black folks is patterned, right? It's thematic, to use more formal academic language.

And so one of the things that happened, I think rather unfortunately, was that so many people last year took George Floyd as an episode, as a moment to get exercised about and didn't spend enough time reckoning, to use that word, reckoning with the fact that this has a long history in the U.S. It's part of a pattern. And to upend systems, you got to do more than read about white fragility or even about anti-racism. You've got to be engaged in the practice of politics that is sometimes not as sexy, not as sort of meaningful, perhaps, in the moment. But you've got to do the hard, dirty work of politics.

CHUDY: Agreed. I think, you know, there - my take on this is cynical, like Hakeem's, but it's more - for me, it's a numeracy issue. Like, we are exaggerating this percentage of small, dedicated white people. They are there, but they are small. So, you know, activists keep doing their thing. This small group will be into it. They don't have to bend to try to meet white - whitestream America - mainstream white America because, as the essay demonstrates, that is a more fickle and volatile kind of mark to hit. So I don't think there has to be an adjustment on their part.

DEMBY: You were also cited in a New York Times retrospective on the new side (ph) a few weeks ago that said that, according to your research, that even among white folks who remain sympathetic to the Black Lives Matter movement, the initiatives that they tend to support, the things they tend to support tend to be, like, small or personal initiatives. Can you say more about that?

CHUDY: I think Hakeem and I have both talked about, you know, in the end, as political scientists, we care about the politics. Are our politics changing? Are our laws changing? Are the folks getting elected to office changing? Because if you have this groundswell of support and, you know, all this enthusiasm, and then it just goes into, you know, buying books - with no disrespect to the authors of those books. You know, I don't...


CHUDY: OK, OK. You know, that is - seems to kind of be missing the mark. And again, it's just - it's particularly perplexing because these folks often have the recognition of the system that upholds this. It's not like, oh, this is all individual, you know, racists. They're like, no, this is built into our policy. It's baked into our laws. And yet the solution seems to be missing the mark a little.

JEFFERSON: I think about the fact that white folks in this country have had a racial reckoning, I think, in recent years, but it's been much more localized and much less meaningful for the kinds of things I know Jen and I care about than media depictions of that racial reckoning would suggest.

Let me put a finer point on it. I think white folks are keenly aware on both sides of the political aisle of their racial identity. They have a sense of what people think about white people. They are reckoning with that, right? I think white people are, indeed. And certainly, the white people in my social circle, perhaps in Jen's social circle, perhaps in the social circles of those listening to CODE SWITCH - like, the white folks we know are having quite a racial reckoning. All right, they reckoned. But I think a lot of that - and I love the way that Jen puts this. A lot of that has been feeling bad about being white, engaging in some "anti-racist," quote-unquote, behaviors and the like. But Jen's evidence is suggesting a lot of this reckoning is starting at the bookshelf and ending on the couch. And I just don't think that - if that's what you know about the state of the reckoning, you don't expect the reckoning to persist.


MERAJI: Our listeners and a lot of our white listeners are going to have some deep, deep thinking to do after listening to that conversation.

DEMBY: And hopefully not just some thinking, Shereen, but maybe some doing, too. You know what I mean?

MERAJI: Well, let's end this with a cliche that I vow never to use but does, I feel, work perfectly in this case. Time will tell, Gene. Time will tell.


MERAJI: And that's our show. Big thanks to our guests, Jennifer Chudy and Hakeem Jefferson. They're both poli sci professors. Jen's at Wellesley, and Hakeem's at Stanford.

DEMBY: And their essay, titled "Support For The Black Lives Matter Movement Surged Last Year: Did It Last?" is in The New York Times. You can follow CODE SWITCH on Twitter and Instagram. We're @NPRCodeSwitch on both those places. And subscribe to our newsletter at

MERAJI: This episode was produced by Alyssa Jeong Perry, Brianna Scott and Leah Donnella. It was edited by Leah and Steve Drummond. And it was fact-checked by Summer Thomad.

DEMBY: And a big, big shoutout to the CODE SWITCH massive - Karen Grigsby Bates, Kumari Devarajan, Jess Kung, Natalie Escobar and LA Johnson. Our new intern is Carmen Molina Acosta, and our inaugural CODE SWITCH fellow is Sam Yellowhorse Kesler. Welcome, y'all.

MERAJI: Also, a huge thanks to the listeners who were brave and sent in their audio messages. We got a lot of messages, but the voices you heard on this episode belong to...

SNYDER: Ian Snyder (ph).

SEMENSA: Jennifer Semensa (ph).

BOCKER: Lindsey Bocker (ph).

TARNOWSKI: Nina Tarnowski (ph).

MARTIN: James Martin (ph).

DEMBY: Thank you, y'all. By the way, I'm Gene Demby.

MERAJI: And I'm Shereen Marisol Meraji.

DEMBY: Be easy, y'all.

MERAJI: Peace.


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