• Tue. Mar 2nd, 2021

Wounds from Capitol siege run deep

On January 6th, I woke up in grief. It was the 11th anniversary of my father’s death, and my mom and I had made plans to visit his grave later on that day. That would not happen. Much like every other Gen Zer, after going through my daily morning routine of brushing my teeth, washing my face, and contemplating my existence, I opened Twitter to see what was happening in the world today. What I saw has not left my brain since that day. “Trump protestors have breached the Capitol” .

I was flooded with images and videos of a sea former president Donald Trump’s supporters in  “Make America Great Again” paraphernalia flooding the steps of the Capitol and seeping into the halls of the Citadel of Democracy and was absolutely sickened. Images of people destroying Nancy Pelosi’s office and littering the inner sanctum of our Democracy were displayed on every news channel. Some of the images also included a gallows set up in front of the capitol building, Jacob Angeli (better known as the man in the fur Viking helmet) sitting in the Senate Chamber, and perhaps the most chilling, a Confederate Flag being flown through the halls of Congress.  

A million thoughts and feelings rushed through me but, admittedly, my first thought was “Wow, white people can literally get away with anything.” I mean here were people who had openly admonished the Black Lives Matter protests of the summer and reduced the grieving and protests of the African American community to rioting, doing the very thing they had accused protestors of doing only a few months ago. Regardless of where you stand politically, the display of white privilege that was shown that day has to be addressed first and foremost because it is the key to understanding how this tragedy was able to happen.  

After the Capitol was cleared and things began to calm down a bit, I couldn’t rest. I consumed any and all information I could about how the attacks came to fruition and I didn’t have to go far to realize that the planning of the attempted coup could have been seen by anyone with internet access. Since the night of November 4, Donald Trump had not ceased to spread the rhetoric that he was the true winner of the presidency and that the election was fraudulent. It was these words that charged his base with anger and indignation that could be seen in any Pro-Trump, Proud Boy, or QAnon chatroom since mid November. Not only were groups planning to come to DC to protest, but they were planning to come armed, having conversations about the logistics. They literally planned carpools. 

The FBI was fully aware of the mass of protestors coming and even warned Congress members who would be present at the day’s counting of the electoral votes. Representative Maxine Waters even called the Capitol Police to ensure that the legislators would be protected and yet when the swarm of rioters appeared at the steps of the Capitol, only a fourth of the available personnel was on duty. Anyone who has ever been to the Capitol knows that you can’t just “breach”  it. There are a multitude of security measures and it’s usually crawling with armed Capitol Police on a normal day. So where was everybody? When asked about this, the (now former) Chief of the Capitol Police, a department that has faced repeated complaints of racism, admitted that he underestimated the Trump supporters. Big surprise.

This is an opinion piece so you’re probably wondering what I think. To be honest with you, dear reader, I’m still trying to figure that one out. I think that a police officer was beat to death with the same “Blue Lives Matter” flag that was supposedly created to symbolize protection and respect for police in America (although I can’t remember when being a police officer meant that you were oppressed, as the name suggests). I think we will never be able to bring all the people who committed crimes that day to justice. I think that a day that I associate with grief for the loss of my father will now have to share another painful memory. I think that when BLM protestors took to the streets of DC they were met with tweets of “When the looting starts, the shooting starts,” but when these actual rioters took over the Capitol, they were considered “very special people.” But overall, I think that the events of that day were sickening and yet representative of what Americans are willing to do and overlook in the name of white supremacy. 

This week, the Senate is beginning to hold the second impeachment trial for Donald Trump. I have no doubt in my mind that he will be acquitted. In fact, I doubt that he will ever truly be held responsible for his actions, because make no mistake, he is responsible for the events of January 6th as is everyone who supported and perpetuated his claims of election fraud.

Many Republicans are calling for unity in this moment. For us to let go of what happened and move forward. They don’t seek any retribution for the former president because it would damn many of their legislators as well, not to mention the angry base that would surely take action if their beloved leader were to ever come to harm. So is it really a time for unity? Or is it a time to reflect and address what over 74 million Americans really for. I’ll end with this, one of the most common reactions to the events of January 6th were stunned people saying “This isn’t my America”. I would argue that those people never had a true understanding of what America is.

Anitra Howard
adhoward@vwu.edu