It’s often said that when the United States sneezes, the rest of the world catches a cold. The maxim is meant to convey the economic might of the superpower and our ever increasingly interconnected world. When the Dow Jones index fell into freefall, like it did in 1987, 2001, and 2008, so did the stock market gauges of every other economy in the world.
The size and influence of the US not only makes it an economic leader and windsock, but also the source of origin for global social, cultural, and political movements.
The Black Lives Matter movement, which advocates non-violent civil disobedience in protest against police brutality and systemic racism, may have begun in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri in 2013, before morphing into a nationwide and mainstream movement in 2020 in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, but it has now sparked solidarity protests across the globe, particularly in countries with a colonial history.
Millions of people have taken to the streets in London, Paris, Berlin, Melbourne, Stockholm, and Johannesburg to speak out against racism and social inequality, which is leaving scholars of social movements wondering if the Black Lives Matter movement has reignited solidarity sentiments that formed against colonial rule in the 1960s.
Sit down protests against racial segregation in the Southern US states during the 1960s, and US involvement in the Vietnam War, gave birth to anti-colonial movements.
In what could be filed under the heading “history doesn’t repeat but it often rhymes,” it was sit down protests against racial segregation in the Southern US states during the 1960s, and then later US involvement in the Vietnam War, that gave birth to anti-colonial movements and de-colonization struggles, resulting in the formation of 20 independent states in the decade spanning 1960 to 1970, including Algeria, Kenya, Cameroon, Senegal, and Rwanda.
“The Vietnam War led to a global solidarity movement and had an impact οn the formation or radicalization of many social movements – especially youth movements – as well as on the emergence of anti-US, anti-imperialist sentiment throughout the world,” observes Christos Mais in “Maoism, Nationalism and anti-Colonialism” (2015). “For almost two decades, every social and cultural practice, from music and film to books and reading habits, was transformed in the light of anti-colonial struggles.”
Similarly, we have witnessed how the Black Lives Matter movement has been co-opted, supported, or internalized by nearly every segment of mainstream social, cultural, and political life, with just about every international professional sports organization and entertainment company echoing calls for an end to racial injustice.
“To be silent is to be complicit. Black lives matter,” said Netflix on Twitter. Both Hulu and Disney shared similar statements, as did many other corporations. The fact that NASCAR, an organization that most embodies white Southern culture, has denounced racism and taken down the Confederate flag speaks to the current winds of change.
This not only augurs badly for monuments and statues that celebrate colonial achievements or racist enterprises, but also nation states that continue to plunder foreign and occupied land and treasure in the name of strategic or national interests. The world is suddenly taking a closer look at Israel’s settler colonial project in the Palestinian territories; India’s “demographic genocide” in Jammu and Kashmir; and China’s “cultural genocide” in East Turkestan.
Murals of George Floyd have been painted and seen in the occupied West Bank and Gaza; Idlib province, Syria; and Srinagar, Kashmir. For those living under occupation, the Black Lives Matter movement has become a means to express solidarity for racial injustice and attain global solidarity for their similarly repressed existence.
Since 2013, Palestinians have forged an “unbreakable link” with the Black Lives Matter movement.
Since 2013, Palestinians have forged an “unbreakable link” with the Black Lives Matter movement. They, better than anyone, know what it’s like to live in fear of racist security forces who can snuff out your life for the most minor of infractions and with total impunity. Indeed, Israeli soldiers and border police are rarely or ever held accountable for murdering Palestinians in cold blood, and in some instances are lauded as heroes by Israel’s right-wing media.
“[Palestinians] go through the same struggle, so I understand the pain, and there’s nothing more painful than when it’s happening, and no-one is talking about it and no-one is doing anything about it,” a British Black Lives Matter activist of Palestinian heritage told Middle East Monitor.
Last week, the Boycott, Divest, Sanction (BDS) Israel movement expressed its continuing solidarity with Black Lives Matter in a statement that read:
“We can’t breathe until we’re free from oppression and racism. . . .To our Black brothers and sisters, your resilience in the face of brutal dehumanization is a source of inspiration to our own struggle against Israel’s regime of occupation, settler-colonialism, and apartheid.”
At the same time, calls are growing for a similar BDS campaign against India’s colonization of Jammu and Kashmir, with Pakistani and Kashmiri government officials urging Middle East countries to ban non-halal products from India.
“We are moving towards a human rights apocalypse in the Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir.”
“The United Nations has been sidelined in the dispute over Kashmir. . . [and as such] we are moving towards a human rights apocalypse in the Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir,” Mr. Sardar Masood Khan, President of Pakistan-administered Kashmir, told Inside Arabia by phone.
He believes a BDS campaign, one modelled on the Palestinian liberation cause, is the way forward for Indian administered Kashmir.
Interestingly, Arab observers are referring to the Black Lives Matter protests as the “American Spring” or “American Intifada.” There’s no arguing against the fact that the Black Lives Matter movement has now become the most consequential and influential human rights campaign since the sit-down protests held in diners throughout North Carolina in February 1960.
Protests against racial injustice in the United States of the previous century sparked global anti-colonial movements and decolonization struggles, and it’s likely the protests of today will mobilize global support against colonial rule in Palestine, Kashmir, East Turkestan, and elsewhere.