“I would call this a big shift,” Linzer said, adding that changes in opinion like this are “really unusual.”
The question, however, is whether this change in public opinion is fleeting or a sign of a new state of racial consciousness among white Americans. Researchers have warned about the need for caution in declaring decisive victories.
“We’ve had other watershed moments, but American racism seems to be very hard to eradicate,” said Doug McAdam, a professor at Stanford University who has studied American racial politics since the 1970s.
Judy Weston, a 69-year-old retiree from Massachusetts, is one of the white Americans who had their perspectives change, spurring long-term action.
“For me, it was because it was so graphic, it was so blatant,” she said of the video of Floyd’s death. “You couldn’t get it out of your mind, you know?”
Weston’s reaction, which included attending protests, volunteering and taking part in educational webinars on race in the U.S., resulted in a personal epiphany.
Though she was a high school student who watched her classes integrate through busing in the 1960s, she never learned about the history of racism in America. Nothing awakened her to the racism around her as much as Floyd’s death and the activism that followed, she says.
“We never learned anything about any of this in school. So it is time to really teach everybody about what’s going on, what has gone on,” Weston said.