In 2020, an estimated 15 million to 26 million people participated in nationwide demonstrations ignited by the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers, marking the largest movement in US history. On Dec. 22, former First Lady Michelle Obama took to Instagram to reflect on the lasting impact of the Black Lives Matter movement and the importance of embracing generosity, kindness, and humanity at both the individual and societal levels.
"For me, the holidays have always been a chance to slow down and reflect," the former first lady wrote. "We've endured so much this past year, from the devastation of the pandemic to the ups and downs of a hard-won election. But what has perhaps stayed with me most is the passionate message of justice and empathy that has defined the Black Lives Matter protests around the world."
"I hope more people can find it in their hearts to meet these cries for decency not with mistrust, but with love and a willingness to listen."
Narrowing in on individual instances of empathy, Michelle shared a video of Patrick Hutchinson, a protester in the UK who displayed unwavering humanity when he carried a stranger to safety during a Black Lives Matter protest back in June, despite the possibility that the man was a counter protester. "I want to highlight this story because it's hard to see so many people distort the unity and righteousness of these protests," Michelle wrote. "They've been sowing seeds of division, misrepresenting those crying out for justice as troublemakers or criminals. The truth is the millions around the world who showed up with their homemade signs were marching with the same kind of compassion that Mr. Hutchinson shows here."
It's this kind of empathy and compassion that the former first lady hopes will fuel future protests and demonstrations. "I hope more people can find it in their hearts to meet these cries for decency not with mistrust, but with love and a willingness to listen," she wrote. "Because as the COVID-19 crisis has made clear, our fates are inextricably bound. If the least of us struggles, we all in some way feel that pain. And, unless we keep speaking out and marching for equality, none of us will ever truly be free."
Looking ahead to the new year, Michelle implored that we all take what we've learned about humanity and kindness in 2020 and apply those learnings as we move forward in the ongoing fight for social and racial justice. "I pray that in 2021, more of us will reach out to understand the experiences of those who don't look, or vote, or think like we do," she wrote. "I pray that we learn to pause when we're tempted to react in anger or suspicion. And I pray that we choose generosity and kindness over our worst impulses. That isn't always easy. But it's a place to start."