Yesterday’s attack on the Capitol was yet another reminder of the power of white supremacy. What more will it take before we decide to end white supremacy once and for all?
Yesterday was perhaps one of the clearest displays of the stark difference between how white people and Black people are treated by the police. Just last summer, when Black people and their allies were peacefully protesting against police violence, the police presence was extreme and militant, and the police often interrupted such peaceful protests with violent responses that included teargas and rubber bullets.
Furthermore, yesterday, we did not see “protestors.” Protestors march in the street. They do not break into and take over a Federal building, threaten elected officials, and interrupt the certification of a presidential election. This was something else entirely. These were domestic terrorists.
The police preparation for yesterday’s event and the police reaction to the event both reveal the power of white supremacy. The scant police presence to begin with reveals that those who plan how many police are stationed did not perceive those who were attending Trump’s rally to be a threat. Why would they? Trump’s supporters are predominantly white. In the US, for centuries, white equals good, innocent, well-meaning, and non-violent, and Black equals bad, guilty, dangerous, and criminal. One might ask, well how should the police have anticipated that rally attendees would go and do something like this? Well, they didn’t need to look far. There was ample evidence for such plans. It was not a random, spontaneous action. After all, some were wearing shirts saying “Civil War” with yesterday’s date on it. Others had shirts supporting Nazis. Let’s not forget that in recent years, the FBI has quietly acknowledged that white domestic terrorists are the most serious threat to national security.
The whiteness of the terrorists protected them from being identified before their violent actions. And then their whiteness protected them after they stormed and seized the Capitol. Footage from yesterday makes it clear that some police officers opened barricades allowing the domestic terrorists to enter Capitol grounds, and once inside the Capitol, some police officers took selfies with them.
Furthermore, it should be abundantly clear that any group of people who is not predominantly white would have been physically stopped from entering the Capitol, stopped at all costs, even with bullets. Then, finally, once the National Guard was called in and the terrorists were leaving, what happened to them? Many of them just simply walked away! How is it that every single person who entered the Capitol was not immediately arrested on the spot? Their whiteness shielded them from that. Instead of mass arrests, there is footage of a police officer assisting someone down the Capitol steps.
Some are saying, well yesterday was bad, a “stain” on our democracy, but everything will be ok after the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Will I breathe a sigh of relief, once that inauguration happens? Yes, of course. And yes, Congress did eventually certify the results of the presidential election, during today’s early hours. And in the midst of yesterday’s chaos, we even found out both Democrats running for Senate in Georgia won their election, shifting the Senate to the Democrats with Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris. And yes, some Republicans who originally intended to object to the election results changed their mind and acknowledged such a step would make things worse. However, let’s keep in mind the drastic events that had to occur in order for that to happen, and that was still not enough to stop some Republicans from continuing to object. This is not going to go away.
Trump incited an insurrection and then told the terrorists that he “loved” them. Even though he only has less than 13 days left, that is 13 too many. Will this finally be the tipping point to carry out the 25th Amendment? It seems unlikely. As he has said all along, he can get away with anything. And that is not just about him, it’s really about white supremacy. And that’s what we need to end, once and for all. White supremacy is an invention. It is an idea that was created to control, to protect the elite and the status quo, and to divide and conquer the masses. It was not a concept that existed for the majority of human history. But once it was invented a few centuries ago, it has held on, tightly. Let us loosen its grip and destroy it, once and for all.
-by Karen Gaffney, author of Dismantling the Racism Machine: A Manual and Toolbox (Routledge) and creator of the website Divided No Longer