When pro-Trump extremists attacked the capitol last Wednesday, they claimed to be patriots: their actions defended by their love and devotion to America, their defiance sparked by unqualified claims of stolen election from a misleading president. At one point, the stream of red, white, and blue at the scene was more likely to be a Trump or Confederate flag than a U.S flag; an American flag was torn down to be replaced with a Trump 2020 flag. Rioters stormed the capitol, trespassed in offices, destroyed precious artifacts, desiccated property, and interrupted Congress’s certification of the electoral votes. Windows were smashed. Offices looted. People injured. Freedom of press assaulted. Widespread images of a man with his legs propped up on house speaker Nancy Pelosi’s desk, two men mimicking George Floyds’ death on the steps of the Capitol, rioters scaling the capitol walls surfaced across the media. While some rioters may believe they only shattered windows, to the rest of the country, their actions momentary shattered a democracy. This was not an act of patriotism but an insurrection at the heart of America. The rioters present at the capitol, and those who support them, cannot use patriotism as an excuse for their toxic rhetoric, ignorance, and reckless violence. Rioters need a wake up call- choosing to express personal beliefs through violence and insurrection is not protected under the First Amendment.
The attack on the Capitol is deeply rooted in racism, not only in the insurrectionists’ actions but in the way those committing crimes were treated. A poll by The Hill, reports 18% of Republicans condoned the rioting and violence at Capitol Hill. Does this mean the skin color makes us fundamentally different from each other? Imagine if the crowd of rioters at the capitol were any other race but white. Would the police still have eased their barricades for the rioters and then allow those same people who just wrecked havoc to walk out of the capitol building unescorted with triumph on their faces?
No one can tell me that if it had been a group of Black Lives Matter protestors yesterday that they wouldn’t have been treated very differently than the mob that stormed the Capitol.
We all know that’s true — and it’s unacceptable.
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) January 7, 2021
Look back to last summer amidst the nationwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice to find answers. According to studies carried out by the CNN and Washington Post, out of the 7,305 Black Lives Matter protests and events, fewer than 5% involved property damage or police injuries. Most of the violence found at the scene was also not initiated by BLM protesters. Nevertheless, more than five times as many people were arrested during DC’s BLM protest last summer than at the Capitol insurrection on Wednesday. During several instances, President Trump did not hesitate to summon the National Guard during the nationwide BLM protests either. Last Wednesday, the nation saw a different Trump. No National Guards were called, only the local and Capitol Police officers were at the scene. Later in an interview with the Washington Post, former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund revealed that he had requested the D.C. National Guard to be ondeck but was denied. The difference we see in the approaches the government and higher authority take in handling the Capitol insurrection and BLM protest highlights the systemic prejudices and unequal exercise of rights granted to individuals of different races. If only we could put race aside, if only we could view everything under an equal lens, the events, outcomes, and consequences of both the Capitol insurrection and BLM protest would look very different.
But as important as it is to recognize that not all Americans have recognized the threats and lawlessness of Wednesday’s riots, it is just as important to recognize that since the events, many major Republican party members like Vice President Pence and U.S. Senators Graham and McConnell have condemned the violence; some even casting aside their objections against election results as a result. The divide we see between differing opinions and reactions on last Wednesday’s rioting is not a Republican Democrat split but a matter of white supremacy and ignorance.
And we will always be grateful for the men and women who stayed at their post to defend this historic place. To those who wreaked havoc in our Capitol today, you did not win. Violence never wins. Freedom wins. And this is still the People’s House. pic.twitter.com/ytErRKnk4O
— Mike Pence (@Mike_Pence) January 7, 2021
While it’s clear that race has always been deeply intertwined with American history and is at the center of many issues regarding inequality and discrimination, it is not acceptable that even in the 21st century, patriotism and the First Amendment are accepted, defined, and granted differently for people of different races. It’s undeniable that under the legal system and Constitution, racism is still prevalent and white privilege exists.
January 6, 2021, should have been the beginning of a new chapter for our democratic republic. Instead, it has become a page of US history filled with the word disgrace. A misrepresentation of our country and our ideals of freedom and equality for all. The riots of Wednesday were the definition of white privilege, an assault on democracy. This is not what the U.S. Constitution stands for and certainly not what patriotism stands for.
What happened at the Capitol goes deeper than party lines and skin color. To make sure that our democracy is never threatened, the events of Wednesday never repeated, it is time to understand history and our shortcomings. It’s time to take action. It’s time to call out the offenders and traitors who choose to undermine and disrespect the Constitution and all that it represents -not only on Jan. 6, but today, tomorrow, and every day after. The healing and growing of our Nation from darkness will only come with full accountability from all.