White mobs and Capitol riots are American to the core
OPINION: Jan. 6, 2021 will forever live in infamy. But will America finally open its eyes to what has always been right in front of us?
If you needed any further proof that racism, white privilege, white rage and white entitlement lives deeply at the core of this country, look no further than Jan. 6, 2021 — a day that will forever live in infamy.
We all watched in abject horror as mostly white men — in many instances armed with confederate flags, weapons, and Trump regalia — stormed the United States Capitol (with little to no resistance from police), offices of the Senate and House chambers, climbed on the walls, sat in the presiding officers’ chairs, and ran wild like a pack of animals.
President-elect Joe Biden condemned the violence in a TV address and called for calm. He also demanded that President Trump step-up and call his Bull Connor mobs off.
Biden said in part, “Let me be very clear: the scenes of chaos at the Capitol do not represent who we are. What we are seeing is a small number of extremists dedicated to lawlessness. This is not dissent, it’s disorder. It borders on sedition, and it must end. Now.”
I, however, disagree with the president-elect: This is who we are. White mobs are as American as pecan pie. They date back from the founding of this country to the formation of the KKK following the American Civil War. Angry white people led the lynchings of Black bodies and the bombings of Black churches for most of the 20th century.
Don’t get it twisted, these actions are not new and we’ve seen this before.
Outgoing President Donald Trump, for his part, sent out a very despicable taped message. Not to quell the violence but to instead coddle his hate-mongering followers, telling them, “I know your pain. I know your hurt. But you have to go home now … We love you. You’re very special.”
The president’s statement was a wink and a nod to violence, which isn’t surprising given that Trump with his lies has been at the center of the chaos that has played out since he lost the election to Biden in November.
Tragically, these lies were allowed to go unchecked. The media replayed them and repeated them knowing they were lies. Twitter put up warning labels on Trump’s tweets but did not remove them or suspend his account — at least not until the damage was already done. Trump was allowed to foment lies and doubts about America’s election process — something no sitting president has ever done in its centuries-old history.
But what’s at the heart of the matter is this: There are two Americas. One for aggrieved, angry white mobs. White entitlement. White Karens who attack and lie on Black men and Black people in grocery stores, in the park, and anywhere they can spew their racism. The same kind of “Karenism” that that led to the 1955 murder of Emmitt Till.
Let’s call what transpired at the Capitol on Wednesday exactly what it is: white domestic terrorism. These people were not protesters and they were not peaceful. This past summer when Black Lives Matter protests broke out across the globe, they were by and large peaceful. Racially diverse. No weapons. No seditious flags. No property damage. And yet when they protested in Washington, D.C. peacefully, Trump called out the U.S. military to tear gas and attack protesters.
None of that happened as the U.S. Capitol was under attack on Jan. 6. It was supposed to be a day that the electoral votes were to be opened and confirmed by the Congress and accepted by the vice president who presides over the process.
The reality is that these Trump supporters who engaged in insurrection and sedition on Wednesday were not being oppressed. They lost an election. In our American system of governance, somebody wins and somebody loses.
They don’t know what oppression looks like. They don’t know the stench of slavery or the sting of Jim Crow. They don’t know what it’s like to live in fear for your life or having your church bombed or shot up by a white terrorist. Having your home invaded by white men wearing sheets in the dark of night. They have no clue what it is to fight for the basic right to vote or to have your votes routinely suppressed by southern politicians who think it’s 1921 and not 2021.
Frankly, what happened on Jan. 6 is not only undemocratic, it’s a slap in the face to the true activism of the Civil Rights Movement, and the true patriot movement that began this experiment we now call America.
Republicans are hypocrites and must own what transpired at the Capitol. They repeatedly attacked Black Lives Matter and called them a terrorist organization, simply for marching for the right not to be harassed and murdered by the police who paid to protect them.
This was not activism, it was full blown anarchy.
We all know that had these rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol 30,000 strong been men of color, people of color, they would have been tear-gassed, shot at, beaten, or worse, killed.
As a Black woman who is now in her 50’s, I cannot believe what I witnessed. I cannot believe that the Republican Party, of which I used to be a member, has become the party of coups and insurrections. Lincoln’s Republican Party is most certainly dead. It was slaughtered on Jan. 6 by traitors to the Republic. Traitors like Senator Ted Cruz, Congressman Steve Scalise, Senator Josh Hawley and others of their ilk. These Republican lawmakers have put Trump before the country, and frankly, they should be removed from office immediately as prescribed in the Constitution.
Let us be clear, the true enemy of Trump and his supporters is not a so-called rigged election — it’s change. They still see America as their country versus “our country.” And in their country, there’s no room for a Black woman serving as the second-most powerful person in the nation. There’s no room for an executive cabinet that reflects the true diversity of this country.
They didn’t like the election of America’s first Black president, Barack Obama, and they certainly fear Stacey Abrams and the power she wielded as proof positive of what can be done when Black, brown and working-class people organize and vote, including turning a once-red state like Georgia blue.
Let us not overlook or forget what happened in America on Jan. 6, 2021. The president of the United States incited a coup that ultimately failed. But have no doubt it shook American democracy to its core.
Sophia Nelson is a contributing editor to thegrio.com.