No One Except A White-Dominated, Conservative-Aligned Movement Could’ve Gotten This Far
I know what you’re probably thinking. You probably had an Andrew Sullivan-type reaction to this headline; an eye-roll; a grunt; a “why does everything have to be about race?” I’m sure you have some reaction in there about how “wokeness” is the problem and stuff like this is why Trump supporters feel disaffected and maligned enough to do something like this. I’m asking you to put that aside for just a few minutes. Even if you think liberals talk too much about race, and make everything about race when it doesn’t need to be, there is good reason to think that what happened last week at the U.S. Capitol is not one of those situations.
Ask yourself, as no doubt many have asked you to do already, what would have happened last Wednesday if it were a Black Lives Matter protest that marched on the Capitol? Would we have been better prepared if the chatter was Islamic terrorists planning an assault on the national legislature, and not white Republicans? President-elect Joe Biden made an observation (or it was brought to him by his granddaughter) that many of us made; when BLM was holding protests in Washington D.C. last summer, they were met with military lined up on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, or with tear gas in Lafayette Park to allow Trump to take a photo outside of a church holding the Bible upside down. (I still don’t know what that was supposed to imply.)
But the protestors-turned-terrorist on Wednesday? They were met with minimal reaction. We knew this was coming. There was evidence everywhere. We saw it on social media; plans to march on the Capitol and storm inside, and “go after” members of Congress. There were even suggestions about “using violence” to force Congress to reject electoral votes and overturn the results. There were concerns about Proud Boys and other white supremacist groups showing up. The FBI even interviewed some of them before the protest. Clearly there was concern. A number of words were thrown around on social media; “strength,” “force,” “tough,” all signs that this protest wouldn’t end as just a protest.
Trump himself said “it would be wild.” One of his strongest supporters, Turning Point founder Charlie Kirk, said it would be “a historical event,” that would be “the largest and most consequential in history.” Earlier in the day, in speeches, Rudy Giuliani referenced “trial by combat,” while Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Alabama) called for force. Trump himself told his supporters to march to the Capitol and “show strength.” What did they think was going to happen when you tell a mob of angry people to “show strength” and “use force?” While it is absolutely fair that many may have read into that as nothing more than peacocking, their supporters certainly didn’t take it that way, and there is no reason that we could’ve been at least as prepared for them as they were for a much tamer BLM protest. That alone might have saved the Capitol from being pillaged.
The debate over policing focuses so much on how police treat black people, but Wednesday is a good representation of one part of the policing debate that goes under discussed. It isn’t just that black people and other people of color are overpoliced, though that’s most of it, it’s also that comparatively white people are UNDERpolicied. Law enforcement have so badly internalized the idea that white people are not capable of the same type of violence and lawlessness they think black people are capable of, they didn’t even consider the possibility that this could happen EVEN THOUGH they’ve been threatening it for more than a week.
White Privilege allowed Trump supporters to be given the benefit of the doubt, which gave them leverage to take us all by surprise. BLM could never have used language like that and have law enforcement respond as if they weren’t serious, dismissing is as just a lot of talk. They would have been met with overwhelming force, because law enforcement would have assumed they were being literal. They would have taken it seriously. The ideal that is systematic in our society that black people are naturally violent and capable of violent acts means you can take their violent language seriously. White people, the ideal states, are largely not capable of this type of violence – unless, of course, they’re liberals, which means they’ve adopted the practices of black people and people of color, and are prone to violence. God-fearing, flag-loving, self-identified patriots would never do such a thing. There’s no need to prepare. It won’t happen.
And because of that mentality, we let the Capitol fall to a mob that included a guy dressed up as a ram, and a dude who died after tasing himself in the nuts.
Good job everyone!
On a related manner, the term “economic anxiety,” has all but vanished since a mob of near-unanimously white Trump supporters, some of whom flew to D.C. on private jets and stayed in hotels like the Grand Hyatt, stormed the seat of American government to try to overthrow a democratic election. We were gaslighted for so many years by people on both ends of the political spectrum that Trumpism was about the economy, or trade, or lack of a social safety net, and not what we can clearly see now it was about – the superiority of a white, Christian way of life. Wednesday was more evidence that Trumpism is born in the belief most white people in this country were raised with; the value that “American” was a title reserved for those who shared the same race, ethnicity, religion, language as you, or for those willing to accept the culture dominance of those folks, and that straying from that core value is treason. We can’t delude ourselves any longer than this is about the economy, or that a progressive economic agenda would do anything to quell these people.