On Jan. 6, the United States’ Capitol was stormed by a mob of supporters of President Donald Trump. They sported Make America Great Again (MAGA) gear while carrying confederate flags and destroyed government property and equipment belonging to journalists. The breach was planned publicly for weeks over social media following Trump’s “Save America” rally speech. During the speech, he accused the “radical left” of having rigged the November 2020 presidential election. He said, “That’s what they’ve done and what they’re doing. We will never give up. We will never concede. It doesn’t happen. You don’t concede when there’s theft involved. Our country has had enough. We will not take it anymore, and that’s what this is all about” (Trump, 2021).
The event resulted in five deaths (CNN, 2021).
Trump made several public statements on Twitter that have raised suspicion of his involvement in the violent “protest.” He tweeted, “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly and unfairly treated for so long. Go home with love and in peace. Remember this day forever!” on Jan. 6, deleting the post only an hour after posting it at 7:15 p.m. (Propublica, 2021). On the same day, he made similar posts and later deleted them shortly after the tweets were made public. For his connection and alleged support of the insurrection, Trump was banned from all major social media platforms, including Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Tiktok and YouTube. This action on behalf of media mega-corporations has been a long time coming. However, many like-minded and similarly spoken groups and individuals remain on these very platforms with little to no consequence in sight. This is despite years of other users’ reports and complaints about the problems of violence, racism and “alt-right” ideologies, as has been demonstrated only days ago.
The responses to the riot have been less than appeasing in the minds of those who have faced lifelong and generational discrimination. President-elect Joe Biden addressed the disaster, saying that“[t]he scenes of chaos at the Capitol do not reflect the true America. This is not who we are.” Biden also called the incident just short of sedition. (USNews, 2021) These words have not convinced those who understand American history — one that is filled with exploitation, imperialism and sympathy toward anti-democratic groups such as the Proud Boys and neo-Nazi organizations. Biden acknowledged how differently the Capitol breach would have gone had it been a Black Lives Matter protest in the same address. He said, “No one can tell me that if it had been a group of Black Lives Matter protesters yesterday that they wouldn’t have been treated very differently than the mob that stormed the Capitol” (USNews, 2021). It almost seems like there is a miscomprehension about the depth of the problem and what the United States’ history really shows when these two statements are examined side-by-side. As columnist Derecka Purnell points out, “This is America” (2021).
During the raid, a Black police officer, Eugene Goodman, allegedly used himself as a distraction for the rioters inside the Capitol building during the event. Video footage shows Goodman single-handedly leading the mob away from the Senate Chamber (Bobic, 2021) where many lawmakers were not safely locked down within it (Huffington Post, 2021). He is being heralded as a hero in many spaces, especially online with the tags #eugenegoodman and #sayhisname. There is currently a petition to award Goodman with the Congressional Medal of Honor in circulation on Change.org. As touching as it is, his act of bravery has troubled others who have spoken about what a tragedy had caused the perfect storm that necessitated his successful risk. An explanation of how this plan worked is deeply rooted in racial awareness in both our culture and in Goodman himself; this meaning that racism against Black Americans is a problem so ingrained into one’s psyche that this man was convinced that he, as a Black man, could adequately pose as a target of riot violence.
This disturbing image results from the ongoing problem of racism and terror committed by groups that primarily, if not exclusively, benefit white cis-heteronormative power structures. The result of such conditions is a place where an alleged protest can breach a nation’s capitol building to dispute honest election results in the name of democracy. This is but one example of how systemic oppression manifests in our own country, not to mention the complex issues of American slavery and segregation. Fortunately, many riot participants have faced consequences, from social media bans to being added to the no-fly list.
Goodman is both a hero and a victim. He is one of many. Countless others have been put in unbearable, nightmarish situations that only the lucky ones make it out of alive. George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tamir Rice and Eric Garner are but a few of the victims to have lost their lives to systemic racism in the past couple of years while many, many more people have been lost to history. It is essential to recognize these facts and their implications for the Black community, what it does to their physical and mental health and the necessity for reparations to be made. Black lives are beautiful and deserve to be protected.
164 Black Americans were killed by police violence in the first eight months of 2020 alone (CBSNews, 2020).
The U.S. has a long, ugly and guilty history of atrocious acts against racial and ethnic minorities, especially toward Black America. From stolen music to horrifying abuses in the medical field, racial discrimination is who “We” are and have been.
Take these events to examine your own internalized biases lest they manifest as damaging actions toward others. What we have seen so far this year does not have to be what we are in the future. Standing up to fascism is up to every one of us, and it is possible to achieve.