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.
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.
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.