They Think This is Their Country

A member of a pro-Trump mob shatters a window with his fist from inside the Capitol Building after breaking into it on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC.
A member of a pro-Trump mob shatters a window with his fist from inside the Capitol Building after breaking into it on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Jon Cherry/Getty Images)

This morning I woke up and thought about all of the reports I’d seen yesterday—Jan. 6, 2021.

The image of a shirtless white man, wearing horned headgear, as he claimed the chamber of some of the highest ranking officials in this country. The footage of a white woman, who would later die, bleeding from the neck as a red, white and blue flag lay on the ground by her side. The visual of hundreds of people scaling the walls, storming through the gates and running up the stairs of the U.S. Capitol building, claiming it as their own.

And then I thought about what I didn’t see: the trademark brute force that America is known to bring to those who terrorize it. Yesterday’s actions were a sick and twisted display of a misplaced patriotic sentiment that’s clearly a dog whistle for the white supremacist agenda. And all of it happened largely with impunity, and at the backing of the president.

It was a scene. It was like the opening sequence of a horrible new feature film. But it wasn’t cinema; and it wasn’t new. Same movie since 1776. Different theaters. A variety of actors. Always the same message: this is white people’s country.

Over 30 years ago, the late Pan-African scholar and former Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee leader Kwame Ture spoke at the University of Chicago. The whole speech is worth watching, but one section floated through the social media ethers and found me last night during news recaps of the day’s events.

“Look to the white right in this country,” Ture said. “Where they disagree with bussing, they burn busses. Where they disagree with abortion, they bomb clinics. Thus they, themselves, have come to demonstrate the use of violence as a potent force at arriving at a political objective.”

Ture continued: “Everywhere the conditions for revolution are more ripe today than ever before. And in all of this, of course, is the rising consciousness of the people.”

The rising consciousness of the people. It’s something that, backed by truth and with facts, I hope to see come out of all of this.

Supporters of US President Donald Trump, including Jake Angeli (C), a QAnon supporter known for his painted face and horned hat, enter the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, in Washington, DC.
Supporters of US President Donald Trump, including Jake Angeli (C), a QAnon supporter known for his painted face and horned hat, enter the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, in Washington, DC. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

Yesterday’s actions may have delayed the certification of President-Elect Joe Biden’s victory by several hours, but it also served as a reminder of who thinks they run this country. White Americans can storm one of the highest offices in the land, kick their feet up, take pictures and then leave smiling, with a podium or placard as a take-home gift.

The number of arrests made was low (last reported to be 52 individuals, 47 of whom were cited for breaking curfew), and the FBI’s call for tips toward further arrests rings trite. Especially when juxtaposed against footage of uniformed officers opening the barricades to let people wreak havoc on the U.S. Capitol, or politely helping them down the stairs afterward—not to mention posing for a selfie with rioters.

Maybe it is their country? And they were fighting for what’s rightfully theirs?

Blinded by patriotism, the insurrectionists planned and promoted yesterday's actions, even printing hoodies referring to January 6 as a “MAGA Civil War.” They brought guns and pipe bombs. They brought confederate flags and neo-nazi flags. They brought a noose and strung it up outside.

They also suffered multiple casualties: four people dead, including one woman who was shot by what appears to be law enforcement. Quickly, my brain tried to compare this to stories and images of Black people being killed for holding a cellphone, playing with a toy gun or sleeping in their own home. I re-read the story of Miriam Carey who, during a police chase, was shot and killed by Capitol Police in 2014 after hitting one of the building’s barriers with her car, her one-year-old child in the back seat.

Yeah, this is their country. Because things happen differently in our USA.

Damage and debris are seen left behind by a pro-Trump mob in the entrance to the western promenade of the U.S. Capitol building on January 7, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Damage and debris are seen left behind by a pro-Trump mob in the entrance to the western promenade of the U.S. Capitol building on January 7, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

Even their media is different. If I thought it’d change anything, I’d send a one-line email to the New York Times that reads, “How does this bullshit even get published?”

It’s a profile on someone who has committed a federal crime, written without mentioning that they committed a federal crime. Does it not occur to the writer, editor or publisher that printing this story will do nothing but encourage others to follow suit? Not only putting elected officials in jeopardy, but encouraging more of these kinds of acts, and further dividing this country—or rather, as it's looking more and more, these countries.

Maybe they want more of it. It sells. It keeps readers engaged (and enraged). And it reinforces the underlying narrative: this is white people’s country.

It’s one thing to be a blatant white supremacist, but you’re not too far removed if you’re elevating their efforts. I even hesitated before writing this article; the last thing they need is another story to carry their legacy further. But there are two points I have to make.

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First: there’s a clip of the cleanup in the Capitol after the insurrection, where what appears to be a couple of Black and Latino men doing custodial duties. Literally cleaning up our country after it was ransacked by people who claim to love it. Frontline workers, making this place better. That’s the New York Times interview I want to read; I’ll bet they have something to say about the direction of this union.

Secondly—on the note of the future of the United States—in Kwame Ture’s 1989 speech, he addresses something significant about the nation's progress.

Ture notes that young people of that era are building on the accomplishments of the ’60s. Even if they don’t know Martin Luther King by name, they know his efforts—the young people of the ’80s cannot be forced to sit on the back of the bus. “Once history is made, it cannot be unmade,” says Ture.

Thus, consciousness is forever rising.

And if you look at one group of people doing something, you say to yourself: “Oh, that’s how things get done in their country? Well, let me get active.”

That action isn’t just reposting, sharing or texting—although I’m obviously all for informing people. I’m not even talking about actions like Trump’s social media accounts being suspended, his staffers quitting or the renewed calls to impeach and remove him from office. Those 11th-hour knee-jerk reactions aren’t about consciousness, they’re about saving face.

Instead, when the young people are confronted with the next version of this American movie, they’ll remember this part of the film, this era, and know that they can’t just sit back while adversaries mount power, spew hate, organize and mobilize without impunity for four years. They won’t be able to passively post about it, laugh at the viral memes, and just barely vote it out of office. They will have to condemn it, obliterate it and ensure that it never comes back. Any inkling of it will have to go. Those flags. Those statues. The “mistaken” Nazi salutes. All of it—gone.

Otherwise, people will show up on the front steps like they did yesterday—calling for democracy itself to fall, demanding rights and flaunting privileges that aren’t equally shared by all, breaking windows and crashing through doors, and demanding complete ownership of a country that was never solely theirs.

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