Popular culture made it impossible to ignore America's reckoning with racism in 2020.

Popular culture made it impossible to ignore America's reckoning with racism in 2020

Updated 9:03 AM ET, Tue December 22, 2020

(CNN)Whether you lived in rural America, the bustling streets of a big city or even another country, you couldn't ignore the nation's racial reckoning of 2020 -- and how Black Lives Matter resonated throughout popular culture.

From the basketball arenas and football fields, to Hollywood movie sets and grocery store shelves, the country was awakened to the inequities that Black and brown people have known for generations.
The death of George Floyd was the tipping point.
As video of the brazen police killing of Floyd spread through social media, protesters poured into the streets demanding racial equality. Civil rights leaders and historians say the movement's reach was incomparable to uprisings of the past.
"I think the Black Lives Matter movement is probably the first worldwide human rights movement that I've seen," civil rights leader Andrew Young told CNN. "I mean, everybody in the world saw George Floyd die. And there were people marching for Black Lives Matter in New Zealand, in Europe and Africa, some parts of Latin America. Because the authority of law enforcement is almost a problem everywhere."
After Floyd's death, companies and professional sports teams were suddenly pledging to remove racist names and branding, Nike and Twitter made Juneteenth a company holiday, Confederate monuments were toppled and LeBron James denounced the killings of unarmed Black people.
And this was all happening as a global Covid-19 pandemic was ripping through the country, disproportionately killing people of color.
The weight of the parallel crises led to a cultural shift that made 2020 like no other year.
"It really changed the consciousness for a while of America wanting to wrestle with systemic racism, wanting to grapple with the inequities that prevailed and how best to respond to them," said Michael Eric Dyson author of "Long Time Coming: Reckoning with Race in America" and professor at Vanderbilt University. "And popular culture followed through."

How athletes changed the game

The sports world played a pivotal role in America's awakening on racism this year.
When the NBA resumed its season in July, the words Black Lives Matter stretched across both ends of the court. Most players wore jerseys with social justice messages such as "Equality" "Black Lives Matter" and knelt during the National Anthem.
Star players including James and Tobias Harris demanded justice for Breonna Taylor in press conferences.
James was unwavering in his demand for equality, often using Instagram and Twitter to express his frustrations with the police killings of Black people and the lack of accountability for law enforcement.
"Why Doesn't America Love US!!!!!????TOO," James tweeted on May 31.
James also spoke out against racist voter suppression. This summer, James launched More Than a Vote, a nonprofit that strives to combat voter suppression and recruit poll workers in vulnerable Black communities.
Karlos Hill, professor of African American Studies at the University of Oklahoma, said support from the NBA helped keep the issue of racial inequality alive.
"They made it impossible for those who love sports and love the NBA to look away," Hill said. "Particularly for White fans, if they wanted to watch LeBron James be one of the greatest athletes in the world, they also had to understand an issue that he really cares about it."
The WNBA also responded, dedicating its season to Breonna Taylor and the "Say Her Name" campaign.
New this season, they introduced a Social Justi