Considering the mounting opposition to critical race theory, it’s important to put the January 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capitol in its proper historical perspective and document the decidedly racist elements that helped fuel the riots and define that moment’s legacy.
One year after the violent uprising that left five people dead, a glaring double standard along racial lines remains impossible to ignore for anyone paying attention.
The purpose of the so-called “Stop the Steal” rally was to prevent Congress from certifying Joe Biden‘s presidential election based on “the big lie” that nonexistent voter fraud played a role in his victory over Donald Trump, a racist whose rhetoric is being blamed for helping to incite the rioters. But if you peel back a few layers of that racist onion, you might recall how Trump falsely blamed states with significant Black voting populations that provided the deciding electoral college votes to secure Biden’s win.
Georgia, for instance, is largely credited with pushing Biden past the finish line — thanks in no small part to the devoted legion of Black organizers who mobilized voters across the state to cast their ballots against Trump, who also blamed Black election workers under false pretenses. This was the basis of energizing Trump’s base to act on his behalf to avenge his loss in the most disingenuous of ways: by blindly parroting the claim that he was cheated out of being re-elected with the help of Black folks.
With that seed planted, it was no wonder the Capitol riots unfolded the way they did — with white privilege at the forefront.
Police reactions and responses
Let’s take the reactions from officers with the Capitol Police, for instance. Black Capitol police officers have recounted their treatment by rioters, including being called the N-word. White Capitol police officers, however, could be seen actually assisting Capitol rioters, with one even stopping to take a selfie with someone who obviously had illegally broken into the hallowed building on the federal government property.
Capitol Police Pfc. Harry Dunn, who is Black, testified before Congress that rioters showered him with anti-Black racism as he attempted in vain to control the rabid crowd.
“You hear that, guys, this [N-word] voted for Joe Biden!” Dunn said a woman wearing a MAGA shirt yelled at him during the riots. He said that prompted a collective response from other rioters: “Boo! F–king [N-word]!”
He said he had never been called the N-word to his face until Jan. 6.
Dunn also testified that other Black officers told him they experienced similar treatment, including one who said he was threatened with racist violence: “Put your gun down, and we’ll show you what kind of [N-word] you really are!”
The privilege of white supremacy
Philadelphia columnist Solomon Jones wondered the obvious at the time: “Would those insurrectionists have been allowed to breach the Capitol if they were Black?” He answered his own question in the resounding negative because, “Black people and white people are treated differently by the police, and that’s why it was so easy for an overwhelmingly white mob to attack the Capitol.”
Not only did they break into and attack the Capitol, but many perpetrators also unabashedly looted items from inside the building, including personal effects belonging to members of Congress, like a laptop that was stolen from House Leader Nancy Pelosi’s office.
Rashawn Ray, a senior fellow of governance studies at the Brookings Institute, drew a clear contrast between police responses to nonviolent Black Lives Matter protests and the uber-violent Capitol riots that also answers Jones’ rhetorical question above.
“Only about 60 rioters were arrested on January 6, 2021, while nearly the same number of police officers were injured (including one officer who was killed along with one of the insurgents),” Ray wrote. “For comparison, on June 1, 2020 in Washington DC, nearly 6,000 law enforcement officers ranging from ICE to DEA including National Guard helicopters were mobilized to descend on the area for a Black Lives Matter protest. Over 300 people were arrested that night. They never even got close to the Capitol or the White House.”
Anti-Black hate groups were involved in the Capitol riots
Anytime the Proud Boys participate in anything, chances are there will be an anti-Black theme attached. Members of the so-called Oath Keepers — a group recognized by the Southern Poverty Law Center as far-right antigovernment extremists who described Black Lives Matter as “racist” — took part in the Capitol riots, as well.
Jan. 6 was a model of white privilege — it’s taken months for suspects to be charged and convicted, a luxury that likely would not have been afforded had the rioters been mostly Black instead of mostly white as people would have been arrested on the spot, probably with the brutal violence we see law enforcement wielding against Black suspects every single day.
Jan. 6 is defended by racist elected officials
While it has been proven that a number of Republican elected officials played a key role in inciting the Capitol riots, people like right-wing Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green keep defending accused rioters in a racist context. After all, it was only last month when Taylor Green said they were being abused because they were white.
She claimed that “alleged” participants in the Capitol riots who have been jailed after being accused of some of the most serious crimes of the event are being discriminated against.
“They were isolated in a separate wing of the jail, where they are abused, where they are ridiculed, where they are mocked because of their political beliefs and because of January 6, and because of the color of their skin,” she said, according to Vice. “So there is a two-tiered justice system, and these are the things that need to end.”
As of one year later, not a single one of the elected officials — none of whom are Black — alleged to be behind the Capitol riots have been held accountable for their roles.
This is America.