On January 6th, mobs of Trump supporters stormed Capitol Hill and initiated mass riots at the Building, temporarily preventing the progression of Congress’ certification of Biden’s victory in the election. Footage revealed people breaking through police forces and breaching the chamber, heavily armed and waving American flags. Trump was hesitant to call upon the National Guard during the attack, which Pence eventually accomplished, and refused to urge his supporters to draw back. Biden’s session was quickly halted as staffers rushed to safety.
The reaction across America has been one of disdain and appallment. Disdain at the violent and hypocritical manner in which our democracy was fundamentally threatened by Trump’s crowd, and appallment at their reception by enforcement officials and the Capitol. Not only were Wednesday’s events an utterly disgraceful example of how transitions of power should be faced in our nation, but an exemplification of white privilege at its core.
The condemnatory attitudes among communities of color are strong, and it’s clear why. The contrast between the police response to Black Lives Matter protests during the summer of 2020 and the recent pro-Trump riots is stark. After George Floyd’s murder, largely Black and brown protestors stood against racial injustice and police brutality to face tear gas, flash grenades, and rubber bullets. The consequences and number of casualties were harsh. To quote just a few specific cases, as reported by TIME, 21-year-old Dounya Zayer faced a seizure after she was pushed and had her head hit the ground, and is still in recovery from her concussion and a back injury. 26-year-old Donavan La Bella suffered a fractured skull and broken bones around his left eye socket after he was shot at by police with impact ammunition. 30-year-old Shantania Love was blinded by projectiles fired by officers. In contrast, the Capitol terrorists met little to no resistance during their attack. In fact, some of the police cared enough to pose for pictures with the protesters.
It’s indisputably become a matter of race, as the Capitol’s come to embody, when taking into consideration the discernment between protest and riot. Following the response to BLM protests, activists took to further clarifying for the general public the peaceful manner in which they were carried out. Unarmed crowds exercised their right to speech and protested their fundamental rights as citizens to life and equality. The riot on Capitol hill was based on full intent to disrupt official processes and wreak havoc--it was a domestic insurrection.
These disparities in both the manner and intent of execution should be clear enough to demonstrate the hypocrisy and bias fueling such playout of events. Yet some have looked to the Capitol breakout and continued to claim that it wasn’t about race, but about politics. In their words, this was a protest against the results of an election. Ibram X. Kendi, director of the Center for Antiracist Research at Boston University, gives her insight in response: “You don’t have to say Black and Latinx and Native to be speaking about race. And, indeed, the grandfather clauses in poll taxes and literacy tests had no racial language in it. The history of racism in this country oftentimes does not speak directly and openly about race, but we know race and racism when we see it and hear it.”
And that’s it. No matter the disguise under which the riot was carried out as a demonstration against the election of our President, the sentiment behind its movement was racial, undeniably targeted towards members of communities based on race. Both its essence and reception rested on the glaring prejudice of white Trumpees and law enforcement officials. The hypocrisy couldn’t be made clearer.