How will history view the Capitol insurrection and its racial hypocrisy?
EXCLUSIVE: Historian and Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie Bunch says Jan. 6 will live in 'infamy' and be written about for years to come
President-Elect Joe Biden said ”it is a good thing” Donald Trump will not be coming to his inauguration. He is, however, welcoming outgoing Vice President Mike Pence to attend the historic transition of power on Jan. 20, 2021.
Biden’s reaction mirrors the thoughts of many with only days left until Inauguration Day. Why? The soon-to-be outgoing president of the United States incited a deadly mob that attacked Capitol Hill on Wednesday as Congress gathered to certify Biden’s Electoral College win.
As we look back on the events of Jan. 6, 2021, the question now is how will this moment in history be remembered years to come?
President Trump’s words ultimately sparked a fatal fire that could not be contained. In a series of tweets and speeches, he summoned his supporters to the Capitol and promised to walk with them to make a profound statement of his displeasure with the November 2020 election results.
Trump did not keep his promise to walk with the protestors to the Hill. One reason may be because he was not invited to come. New York Congressman Hakeem Jeffries tells theGrio no president is allowed to just show up at the Capitol. Instead, he has to be “invited” by Congress. There was no invitation from any of the federal lawmakers despite his exaggerated lie that he would visit.
Meanwhile, the rioters walked a popular path from The Ellipse to Capitol Hill. During their walk from one end of the National Mall to the other, they passed several sites that were fortified by a large contingent of National Park Service police who watched over the Smithsonian Museum cluster which encompasses the Museum of African American History and Culture.
A noose was hung from a structure on the west side of the Capitol. Trump 2020 and Confederate flags were carried by some of the marchers who walked between the maze of Smithsonian museums.
There is irony according to Smithsonian head, Secretary Lonnie Bunch.
“Where the museum is built, [it] was a place where the Klan actually stopped when they were having that parade in 1924 down Pennsylvania Avenue. So, for me, building on that spot was both a repudiation of the Klan, but also to say that, though, it took time. Truth ultimately trumps hatred,” Bunch told theGrio.
Even as Bunch provides a play on words, the nation’s top historian offers that the historical memory of the Jan. 6 insurrection will be a culmination of views.
“What happens with history is that I may write it from a different lens. Somebody else will write it from a different lens, and then initially we’ll then say, what does this tell us collectively? And what will happen is that somebody will then write a piece that will sort of subsume all the different points of view,” he said.
“But … I find it hard to say that any historian will not say this is a moment where the nation was in crisis. This is a moment that we had never expected to see in the United States … I think regardless of a historian’s politics, they will say that.”
The truth is Jan. 6 was a racial double standard played out for the world to see as just months ago a group of Black peaceful demonstrators was tear-gassed in front of the White House while they protested the endless police killings of unarmed Black Americans. The white rioters this week committed an egregious security breach that left five dead and Congressional leaders cowering in fear for their lives.
President-Elect Biden recently said, “Not only did we see the failure to protect one of the three branches of our government … we also saw a clear failure to carry out equal justice.”
Biden has said his decision to run for president in 2020 was largely prompted by the racist images and events of the deadly attacks in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017, in which Trump called the violent protesters “very fine people.”
Speaking out about Wednesday’s Capitol Hill insurrection, Biden at a Delaware press event said, “No one can tell me, that if it had been a group of Black Lives Matter protesting yesterday, they wouldn’t have been treated very, very differently.”
Smithsonian’s Bunch added that while it may be difficult to know for sure how Jan. 6 will be written in the history books, “it will be seen as a day of infamy.”
Bunch, who originally curated the African Museum of History and Culture, said this moment in time will be used to help people understand America’s divisions.
“Will America ever live up to its stated ideals? Are there are enough Americans who would say that was wrong and that, in essence, they would repudiate that kind of insurrection?” he queried.
“I think it will be something that historians will write about … there will be a thousand dissertations written.”
Have you subscribed to theGrio’s podcast “Dear Culture”? Download our newest episodes now!
TheGrio is now on Apple TV, Amazon Fire, and Roku. Download theGrio today!