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News > U.S.

Top 10 Events That Shaped North America in the 2010s

  • U.S. President Barack Obama (2nd L) and Vice President Joe Biden (L), along with members of the national security team, receive an update on the mission against Osama bin Laden in the Situation Room of the White House, Washington, U.S., May 1, 2011. Also pictured are Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (2nd R) and Defense Secretary Robert Gates (R).

    U.S. President Barack Obama (2nd L) and Vice President Joe Biden (L), along with members of the national security team, receive an update on the mission against Osama bin Laden in the Situation Room of the White House, Washington, U.S., May 1, 2011. Also pictured are Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (2nd R) and Defense Secretary Robert Gates (R). | Photo: Reuters

Published 31 December 2019

The past decade has witnessed several historical events take place in North America, including many social movements that have changed countries like the United States and Mexico. 

Over the course of the past decade, North America has experienced the rise of several social movements, such as #MeToo and Black Lives Matter, which have helped give voice to the voiceless and empower the oppressed. 

While these movements helped bring necessary social change, the 2010s also witnessed the rise of the far-right under U.S. President Donald Trump, which has further divided people across the continent and world. 

But as we look back at the 2010s, there are several events that have helped shape the present and the future of the continent.

1) Whistleblowers (2010-Present)

Julian Assange and Wikileaks kicked off the decade with major leaks about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, releasing several documents that showed the U.S.' controversial role in these conflicts. 

Starting with the Chelsea Manning leaks in March 2010, WikiLeaks released a secret 32-page U.S. Department of Defense Counterintelligence Analysis Report that was written in March 2008 discussing the leaking of material by WikiLeaks and how it could be deterred. The leaks then showed secret attacks that the U.S. carried out while their troops were deployed inside Iraq. 

In July, the massive 92,000-page-leaks on the Afghanistan War would cause significant damage to the U.S.' credibility, as documents revealed secret assassinations, withheld information about friendly fire, and correspondence between high-ranking officials. 

The most damaging leaks, however, were released in October of 2010, when Wikileaks posted over 400,000 cables and documents on the Iraq War. The leaks revealed the gruesome nature of the U.S. war, including the use of torture against suspected insurgents. 

Then, in 2013, Edward Snowden rocked the U.S. with a large set of leaks that revealed the National Security Agency's mass surveillance programs. This would lead to wide-spread outrage among Americans and questions about privacy. 

2) Death of Osama bin Laden (2011)

Perhaps no assassination in history was as documented and covered as the U.S.' killing of the Al-Qaeda leader and founder, Osama bin Laden, on May 2nd, 2011.

With the rise of 24-hour-long news broadcasts in the early 2000s, millions across the continent were able to toon in to watch the breaking coverage on May 2nd. 

This assassination would prove to be one of the most defining moments in Barack Obama's first term as president, with over 90 percent of the American population supporting the operation to kill the Al-Qaeda leader. 

The death of bin Laden would prove to be one of the most covered stories in the decade, as the U.S.' long war in Afghanistan had been extensively covered since 2001. 

3) Occupy Wall Street (2011-2013)

Years of financial corruption in the United States saw the rise of the Occupy Wall Street Movement in 2011. Thousands of people who were fed up with the U.S. financial institutions and their rampant corruption would let the world know through their organized protests from 2011 to 2013. 

The Occupy Wall Street activists bravely took a stand against a system that is rooted to benefit only a small percentage of Americans, while millions of U.S. citizens live under the poverty line. 

4) Black Lives Matter (2013-Present)

The African-American community has been the target of a racist system that has discriminated against them since the advent of European colonialism in the Americas. 

In the United States, a prejudice judicial system, coupled with the constant use of unnecessary force against the African-American community brought rise to the Black Lives Matter movement in 2013. 

The murders of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin and 28-year-old Michael Brown infuriated millions, as police officer Darren Wilson and neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman were found not guilty of the crimes they were charged with.

These murders, along with a long history of racism and violence against the African-American community, saw the formation of the Black Lives Matter movement.

The BLM movement has helped spread awareness of the systematic racism in the United States and helped defend the victims of an unjust system.

5) Obergefell V. Hodges (2015)

The historic Obergefell vs. Hodges case would pave the way for a landmark decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to give same-sex couples the fundamental right to marry. 

Prior to the Supreme Court case, same-sex marriage was largely a state issue, with 14 refusing to recognize its lawfulness. 

Once the Supreme Court decision was passed, same-sex couples were allowed to get married in every state in the United States.

6) Dakota Access Pipeline (2014-2017)

Also known as the "Bakken pipeline", the Dakota Access Pipeline began construction in 2014 and was later commissioned in 2017. Informational hearings among landowners took place between August 2014 and January 2015, prompting outrage among many people, including the Indigenous people at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation.

Thousands of people gathered at the Standing Rock Reservation to protest the commercial project, including several Indigenous Native Americans from the Meskwaki and Sioux tribes. However, they given no support from the municipal, state, and federal governments, as the latter called on the protesters to disperse. 

While the protesters were able to fend off the construction of the oil pipeline for a short period of time, the eventual election of U.S. President Donald Trump helped pave the way for the Bakken Pipeline to be commissioned. 

7) Donald Trump Elected as U.S. President (2016)

Arguably one of the biggest surprises of the decade, Donald Trump was elected President of the United States in November 2016 after defeating Democratic candidate Hilary Clinton in a tight race. 

Trump's election has birthed far-right movements like the Alt-Right, which have used the business mogul's presidency to strengthen their presence in American politics. 

Thus far, Trump's presidency has been marred with controversy, as the business mogul has not only been accused of collusion with Russia but also, destabilizing nations through economic blockades and threats. 

8) Justin Trudeau is Elected Canadian Prime Minister

For the second time in Canadian history, a member of the Trudeau family was elected as Prime Minister of the North American country. The leader of the Liberal Party, Justin Trudeau, was elected to the premiership, becoming the second youngest Prime Minister in Canadian history. 

While Trudeau's premiership began with promise, his tenure would be marred with controversy following the release of photos showing the Canadian premier in brownface and blackface. Trudeau would acknowledge the legitimacy of the photos, while also apologizing the Canadian public over the offensive pictures. 

9) #MeToo (2017-Present)

The #MeToo movement was initially founded in 2006 by sexual harassment survivor and activist Tarana Burke. The movement would come to the world's attention in 2017 following the exposure of the widespread sexual-abuse allegations against Harvey Weinstein in early October 2017.

The movement began to spread virally as a hashtag on social media, as many people began to share their stories to empower others to speak up about sexual abuse. 

On Facebook, the hashtag was used by more than 4.7 million people in 12 million posts during the first 24 hours. The platform reported that 45% of users in the United States had a friend who had posted using the term.

10) Trump Impeachment (2019)

As the decade closes, the largest story taking place is the ongoing impeachment of U.S. President Donald Trump. 

The impeachment took place on December 18, 2019, when the House of Representatives approved articles of impeachment on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. 

The president's impeachment came after a formal House inquiry found that he had solicited foreign interference in the 2020 U.S. presidential election to help his re-election bid, and then obstructed the inquiry itself by telling his administration officials to ignore subpoenas for documents and testimony. 

Trump's fate will now depend on the U.S. Senate's vote; however, there is a very slim chance they vote in favor of the impeachment, as the Senate is majority Republican. 

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