TheGrio explains Josh Hawley’s Jan. 6 sprint

OPINION: The Missouri senator's Stop the Steal Sprint takes on an entirely different meaning when it’s filtered through the lens of the culturally designated musician/storyteller/poet/historical interpreter known as a “griot.” 

An image of US Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) raising his fist to protesters outside the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, is displayed on a screen during a hearing by the House Select Committee to investigate the January 6th attack on the US Capitol in the Cannon House Office Building in Washington, DC, on July 21, 2022. (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

On January sixth, some insurrectionists
stormed the Congress and went apesh*t
And when you caught a glimpse of the domestic terrorists
All you did was just pump your fist.

White boy, white boy, Whatcha gonna do?
Whatcha gonna do when they come for you?
White boy, white boy, whatcha gonna do?
Whatcha gonna do when they come for you?

Nobody don’t give you no break
A pardon won’t give you no break
The MAGAs won’t give you no break
Not even whiteness won’t give you no breaks

White boy, white boy, Whatcha gonna do?
Whatcha gonna do when they come for you?
White boy, white boy, whatcha gonna do?
Whatcha gonna do when the angry white mob comes for you?

“White Boy”
Inspired by Inner Circle’s “Bad Boys

If you haven’t had the pleasure of witnessing the surveillance footage of Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) scampering through the halls of the U.S. Capitol Building, fleeing the violence he encouraged for nine weeks, allow me to present, for your viewing pleasure, highlights of Missouri’s junior senator winning the gold medal run in the Jan. 6 Insurrection Olympics.

To understand why this is important, you must look beyond Hawley’s white power salute when he raised his fist to demonstrate solidarity with the America-hating, feces-smearing horde of domestic terrorists, white supremacists and one Supreme Court justice’s wife looking to overthrow the U.S. government. Look past his public support for a lawsuit that sought to overturn the most secure election in American history. If that were his only offense, Hawley’s eagerness to suppress Black votes would be just one more example of the historical effort to amputate Black people from the body of American democracy. 

Josh Hawley is a violent mob.

While we have explained how the narrowly constructed definition of violence benefits whiteness, we don’t need to expand the meaning of the word to show how Hawley has benefitted from the violence of whiteness for his entire life. Raised by a father who served as president of Boatmen’s Bancshares, a holding company that once allowed the use of enslaved people as collateral, Hawley was a private school kid who spent his high school years supporting police corruption, defending terrorists and white supremacist militias and calling affirmative action a “racial spoils system” that inspires “resentment among the races.”

After he was accepted to his mother’s alma mater, Stanford University, he continued to denounce “self-righteous pronouncements on racial oppression and gay rights activism,” before graduating from law school and working at a string of right-wing religious organizations like the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and the secretive anti-gay Blackstone Legal Fellowship. When he was not fighting LGBTQ rights, he spent his time writing legal briefs for companies fighting for the right to discriminate against employees on the basis of religion. After he was elected as Missouri’s attorney general, a Missouri judge struck down the state’s voter ID law but Hawley fought to get it reinstated. 

And then there is Bobby Bostic.

Before Josh Hawley was elected to the Senate, I wrote about the case of a man who had spent 21 years in prison for a string of robberies he committed one night when he was 16 years old. No one died. No one was even badly injured, but a judge sentenced Bostic to 241 years in prison. In the years since, he has completed numerous rehabilitation programs, participated in restorative justice training, earned his GED, became a paralegal and completed college courses in victim advocacy and business studies. The ACLU thinks he should be out of prison. Twenty-six former judges, prosecutors and law enforcement officials filed briefs saying the sentence was too harsh. The judge who sentenced Bostic thinks he should be out of jail. There is only one person standing in the way. On 2018, the case went all the way to the Supreme Court because there was only one brave soul who was willing to tell the U.S. Supreme Court that a two-and-a-half-century sentence for stealing less than $500 was not cruel or unusual.

Missouri Attorney General Joshua David Hawley.

If you think I’m reaching by comparing Bostic’s sentence to mob violence, then consider this:

On May 5, 2017, Tory Sanders was confused, took a wrong turn and ran out of gas in, from the name alone, the last place a Black man would want to be—Mississippi County, Mo. Sanders was arrested for not breaking the law, but instead of being released, he was placed on a mental health hold. A counselor suggested Sanders be transferred to a hospital but instead, they gave him their own treatment—they pepper-sprayed him and tasered him repeatedly. 

After eight hours of torture, every staffer on duty got in the cell with Sanders and released so much pepper spray they had to go outside for fresh air. As they were standing outside, the sheriff arrived and called more cops, who pulled up, piled back into Sanders’ cell and beat him, tased him and choked him until he died.

Josh Hawley refused to file charges

Yet, with three-and-a-half decades of racist, vote-suppressing, pro-mob violence under his belt, when it was time for this fascist Frankenstein to face the monster that he spent his entire life building in his laboratory, Josh Hawley knew that nothing—not even his own carefully curated version of white supremacy masquerading as conservatism—would prevent the monster he created from devouring him whole. He didn’t even possess the temerity or the bravado to stare it in the eye. So, he ran. Fast.

The image of him squirting through the bowels of Congress like unchecked diarrhea will forever serve as a metaphor for his particular brand of whiteness. He knows whiteness is nothing. All he ever had is the privilege and the social structure that catapults him and his Caucasian kin through life like confetti in a rocket launcher.

He knows that all he can ever produce is an untamable bloodthirsty beast that can never be tamed if it ever escapes its cage. He is a terrified terrorist in a tailored suit; a white supremacist who knows whiteness is not supreme. He is a chickenhearted pinata packed with caucasian colored confetti, yellow-bellied bubble gum and bullsh*t. He is hollow. He is easily broken and he can always be replaced. He is not special or smart. Of course, Josh Hawley ran. 

Josh Hawley is a coward.

What else are you gonna do when your own whiteness comes for you?

Michael Harriot

Michael Harriot is a writer, championship-level Spades player and host of theGrio Daily. His book, Black AF History: The Unwhitewashed Story of America, will be released in 2023.

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