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Political gestures can be inspiring. But let’s not mistake them for victory | Nesrine Malik

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The first anniversary of the global Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests was widely noted a few months ago, with acres of coverage and analysis asking: what has changed? Not much at all, appeared to be the broad conclusion. It seems obvious now that the excitement of those initial protests was bound to provoke an organised backlash – which first became visible in Britain in September 2020, when a BLM-inspired dance on ITV’s Britain’s Got Talent sparked nearly 25,000 complaints.

The moment when much opinion seemed to harden against BLM is an anniversary just as worthy of marking as the start of the protests because it teaches us a vital lesson: political change does not naturally follow after the public’s attention has been captured.

BLM’s clearest cultural footprint has been the popularising of taking the knee. It could be argued that the gesture has in fact helped trigger some meaningful change in public attitudes. It went from the fringes of the…

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