The Five Largest Social Movements of 2020 and How They Impacted the Nation

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2020 has been plagued by more than one pandemic.

The coronavirus and the United States government’s less than adequate response to it easily takes the forefront as the defining event of this year. Its effect has been devastating in more ways than one. But the pandemic also sparked an unforeseen uptick in social movements across the country. Stuck at home in quarantine, many had no choice but to finally come to terms with the issues that have been going on in this country for decades.

Movements, including some anti-movements, took hold of the United States like never before. Here are the five largest U.S. social movements of 2020.

  1. Black Lives Matter

The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement took over social media for months, forcing anyone who had chosen to remain silent on issues of police brutality and racial violence to finally speak up and take a stance. From Ahmaud Arbery to George Floyd to Breonna Taylor, the overwhelming amount of loss faced by the Black community was undeniable. While the unprecedented support the movement received was incredible, conversations around performative activism arose soon after. Did posting a black square for Black Out Tuesday actually do anything for the cause, or was it an easy way for people to check off the “woke” box on their to do list?

  1. Anti-Mask Movement

In what is possibly the greatest representation of why the two-party voting system of the United States is damaging, the COVID-19 pandemic was politicized with the wearing of masks being split down party lines. Anti-mask protests, led mostly by conservatives and Trump supporters, continue to take place across the country. Despite the overwhelming scientific evidence that wearing a mask helps slow the spread of the virus, protestors have turned it into an issue of “personal freedom,” putting millions of lives at risk.

  1. Voting Rights

The pandemic could not have hit at a more politically high stakes time in the U.S. as millions questioned whether or not it was even safe to vote in person for the 2020 presidential election. Mail-in ballots were utilized like never before, shattering early voting records despite the Trump administration's efforts to restrict voting access. For the weeks leading up to, and the weeks after the votes were cast, protests from both sides of the political spectrum took place. Many Democrats and liberals fought to expand voting access while pro-Trump conservatives fought to discount mail-in votes with unfounded accusations of fraud.

  1. Trans Lives Matter

This year has been the deadliest year on record for transgender and gender non-conforming people, with at least 41 violent deaths. Trans people are often discluded from major social movements, leaving the issues they face unreported on by major media outlets, and ignored by the politicians who have the ability to pass legislation to protect them. This year’s uptick in violence, matched with the surfacing of videos capturing this violence, forced people to recognize the dire need the trans community is in and has encouraged many to join the fight as allies.

  1. Climate Change

As we inch closer to the time when the effects of climate change on our planet will be irreversible, the fight to compel people in power to act grows more desperate. Despite COVID restrictions, thousands of young people led socially distanced protests all over the world, including virtual climate strikes. Climate change doesn’t stop for the pandemic, and neither do the brilliant young organizers trying to save our planet.