Opinions

January 6th: A Violent Display of White Privilege

Maggie Connolly ’21

Chief Opinions Editor

This week, the United States government will see a change in leadership, both individual and party. That change is long overdue, and much needed in light of both recent events and the events of the last four years. Make no mistake, the insurrection that took place outside of the Capitol Building on January 6th was not a random, once-off event. It was meticulously planned by the president, his supporters in Congress and his supporters throughout the United States.

There is an overwhelming flow of news, content and discussion surrounding the events at the Capitol and the second impeachment of Donald J. Trump, but I thought it would be remiss to release this edition of The Spire without commenting on the injustice and disgusting display of white privilege shown from the Trump and his supporters in Congress, like Senator Josh Hawley, and staunch MAGA supporters who have been planning this attempted coup on social media platforms like Parler and Gab.

Their conversations about travel plans, firearms to bring and restaurants to gather in all took place on these platforms, as well as on more familiar ones like Facebook, a common culprit of promoting misinformation from white supremacists. The ‘movement’ leading up to the events on January 6th came to be known as an effort to #StopTheSteal of the 2020 election results, coming just the afternoon after the results in Georgia made certain Democrats would have control of the Senate.

Democrats were celebrating all around the country. The podcasts that I belatedly listened to struck cheerful tones if they were recorded early in the morning after Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff’s historic wins in the state of Georgia, securing Democratic control of the Senate. Others were re-recorded with an intro disclaiming that they were in fact, filmed pre-coup, or some lamented how our team couldn’t just have one day to celebrate. In Trump’s America? Never.

Minutes, hours or even days after the Capitol was breached by the white supremacist, MAGA-adorned rioters, both sides of the political spectrum were already comparing the events at the Capitol to the Black Lives Matter protests over the summer.

On the left, pundits, politicians and journalists were commenting on how if the people at the Capitol had been people of color, specifically Black people, there would have been a very different reaction from the police, most of whom, treated the rioters with kid gloves as they opened the gates to the building and meekly guarded Senators, the Speaker of the House, and the Vice President from possible assassination. The evidence was all in the violence police officers partook in over the summer as they fought back at peaceful protesters with tear gas and firearms.

The right was claiming either that they would denounce violence no matter when it happened, referring to both the riot at the Capitol and the protestors at Black Lives Matter events across the country over the summer. Others were pointing fingers, claiming that it was hypocritical of the left to be disgusted by the violence at the Capitol and not condemn the actions of BLM protestors who looted or acted violently.

In ‘Letters to the Editor’ from the LA Times, one individual called for the publication to stop comparing the protests to the mob at the Capitol. He attested that the violence over the summer was “troubling,” but noted that BLM representatives “condemned the violence, and some bravely tried to stop it as it occurred.” He mentions the key finding that many on the right leave out in their comparisons: most of the looting was not related to or incited by protests against police brutality. There were countless videos circulating over the summer of opportunists and white people trying to take away from the message behind the protests. “In one, there was unintended destruction; in the other, violent destruction was the very purpose,” he says to the LA Times.

Regardless, in my eyes, it is not my place or any other white person’s place to criticize any action by a Black person reacting to the immense injustice in this country. It is not possible to imagine a world in which a white person fears going on a run in their neighborhood or sleeping in their own bed because a police officer may see them as deserving of brutality and violence just because of the color of their skin. I cannot understand the experiences of those people, and I will not blindly say that peace is the only answer because frankly, peace has not been working – Black people are still dying at the hands of the police.

The protests associated with Black Lives Matter this summer were fighting for their lives. They were fighting and continue to fight for a country that protects and values the lives of everyone equally, a country that finally values the lives of Black people. The mob at the Capitol was a violent mob incited by the President of the United States against the result of a free and fair election with record turnout. There is a stark difference between sore losers and those taking to the street for the lives of their friends, families and neighbors, and those who cannot see that are lacking the most basic levels of morality and justice.

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