Why should we be surprised that at a time when everything is supposed to be about race, from the skin color of certain newspaper editors forced to resign to whether we should capitalize the “b” in “black,” the most disturbing and consequential attack on our civic body in decades ends up being all about the color of the protesters/terrorists?
After the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol by desperate and angry Trump supporters, the conversation turned from “why did they do it?” to “who caused it?” to “why weren’t they stopped?” to “it’s because they were white.”
You think I’m exaggerating? All you had to do was listen to Philadelphia’s NPR affiliate WHYY, and there was interview after interview with people of color who suggested that if the protesters had been Black or Brown people, they would have been shot dead before they even launched that first brick through the window.
For just one example, Penn professor of Africana studies Anthea Buter came right out and said it was “a bunch of white people wilding out.” She followed that up with, “I observed a bunch of Donald Trump followers tearing down the bastion of democracy, the Capitol … and the other thing I watched was the complacency with which the Capitol Police let them crawl all over everything, and I couldn’t help but think that Black people couldn’t get past the stairs, the stairs would be filled with blood, if it had been Brown people, the stairs would have been filled with blood, and this is where I think that White America gets to see what we’ve been talking about.”
Again, it’s not a shocker that one of the more important narrative threads of that tragic afternoon, one that resulted in the killing of a woman and four other deaths, is a manipulative attempt to exploit the racial divide that deepened this past year.
You see it everywhere, in newspaper headlines and the historically inaccurate 1619 Project and Netflix programming, and commercials and the politically tinged manifestos of entertainers and even in connection with the pandemic. So many want to put race front and center, even when it’s only tangential to the larger story.
Americans attacked the Capitol last week, and the color of their skin was much less relevant than the content of their character. The fact that they are trying to make it a referendum on “violent White Americans” as opposed to “peaceful Americans of color” is as despicable as it is predictable.
An interesting corollary to what I absolutely call an attempted coup or an insurgency is the fact that some people are trying to suggest that liberals don’t cause the type of damage, nor do they storm government entities, the way conservative “cultists” do.
I am quite certain that the senators who were deliberating on the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court are having a bitter, rueful chuckle at that. All of us remember the hormonally crazed women (and some men) who tried to charge the Senate floor in an attempt to deprive a duly nominated, eminently qualified nominee of his legitimate right to a seat. They marched up and down the Capitol halls, unfurling banners, chanting obscenities and saying things like “withdraw Kavanaugh, no abusers on the Supreme Court!’ They even trapped Sen. Jeff Flake on an elevator, and others made death threats against Sen. Susan Collins, both of whom voted in favor of the nominee. Fortunately, more than 200 arrests of these crazed commandos were made.
I hope, with everything in me, that those who caused the carnage and damage are arrested and held accountable for their crimes. This was a coup, a terror attack, as unAmerican as it was reminiscent of juntas and strong men in South America. I don’t buy the conspiracy theory that the violent ones were antifa infiltrators, just as I didn’t buy the canard that the looters of the summer Black Lives Matter protests weren’t really a part of that movement.
But I won’t stand by while some people pretend that this is all about race or political ideology. This is about people who took the law into their own hands and became violent predators on the civic body. These are Republicans who cannibalized themselves, and in the process, alienated so many of us that it will take more than a generation to fix the damage.
This was not about the color of criminals, or their gender, or what hashtag movement they embrace.
To suggest that the Capitol Police let White people rampage when they would have murdered brothers of other colors is a slander. The White female Trump supporter who was shot through the heart can’t tell you that anymore.
But I can.