Response to the Attempted Capitol Coup
Why it wasn't a surprise and how white supremacy was still in evidence
As I write this, the attempted coup at the US Capitol Building is over, at least for now. I didn't know what to say about it for much of yesterday, and it was late last night when I finally articulated some of what I was - and am - feeling. Here it is:
There's a part of me that feels that this was almost inevitable. The beginning of the backlash against the election of a Black president started with the election of the orange one.
Black people knew and Black people warned that the orange one was bad news. We know racism when we see it, and can sniff it out even when many others can't. Call it a generational skill, if you will. It's in our DNA because sometimes that knowledge can help us avoid harmful or deadly situations.
Over four years, the orange one showed us who he was, and we knew he would never go quietly. In fact, he's been anything but quiet since he lost the election, lost the baseless challenges he continued to mount, and lost the support of some of his formerly ardent sycophants (we're still not fooled, y'all).
But he always maintained enough grip on his GOP colleagues to wreak havoc and incite further insurrection. His refusal to accept the inevitable and the support of people who should know better in the erroneous belief that the election was stolen from him led us to those scenes in the Capitol on January 6, 2021.
One of the things I've noticed is how many media outlets shy away from describing white thugs with guns and hate symbols (like the Confederate flag) as terrorists. Yet this is how they would be and have been described if they were different ethnicities or in different countries. Had it been a "sh*thole country", everyone would have condemned it as an attempted coup. Let's face it; that's what it was.
It's also clear the difference between the treatment of those protesting about the importance of Black lives, and those turning up armed to stage said coup. The former were met with violence, the latter turned away peacefully. What a disparity.
We all know that if those domestic terrorists had been Black, the National Guard would have been mobilized in full riot gear, and many of the protesters would have been dead. The media coverage would have been scathing. And the President would have condemned them outright. That’s what happened during the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020.
Yet none of those things happened in the attack on the Capitol. It's still hard for me to process that in a world where Black people can get killed while sleeping in their beds, white people can disrupt democracy and walk away unharmed.
(And let's not forget other examples of how little Black lives matter to some, like the failure to indict any cops for the shooting and paralysis of Jacob Blake. )
I can't help thinking that the orange one's tantrums over the election result and everything he's done since are the intersection of white privilege, white supremacy, and entitlement. And his strongest supporters feel those things too. As we've seen, that's a pretty dangerous combination, both for democracy, and for Black and brown people.
Even if the US gets the right result in the end - despite completed certification and reaffirmation of Biden's win this might not be over till Inauguration Day, and maybe not even then - nobody can rest easy.
Racism was on the ballot, and the racists and bigots only lost by a hair. Don't expect them to go away quietly and peacefully. The orange one won't let them, and many are too spineless to do what's right. While some have retreated from the precipice, appalled by what they have wrought, others have gone all in on their attempts to undermine democracy and uphold white supremacy. Let’s not forget that it’s primarily the Black vote they have tried to undo.
Honestly, some days it's hard not to give in to despair.
But we can't.
As I keep saying, we all have work to do. Maybe there's a chance to fix this, but we all have to do our part.
And while this happened in the US, the rest of the world has work to do, too. So, let's look to what just happened in the US as an example of the potential consequences when you elect bigots who are more supportive of white supremacy than democracy. and let's also hold our own politicians accountable so we can avoid similar outcomes.
If you want to do more work on anti-racism, and hear more of my experiences face to face, check out the anti-racism workshop I’m leading on January 23rd.
© Sharon Hurley Hall, 2021. All Rights Reserved.