The recent attack on the U.S. Capitol shook many Americans to their very cores. It was anything but a “peaceful protest,” or even a simple riot. It was an act of terror and selfishness which sought to intimidate innocent people and swallow the democratic system through chaotic insurgency.
Hostages were taken, democracy as an ideal was thrown out, and many eyes were opened to a reality in which the police, along with federal armed forces like the National Guard, were proven to be exactly what some of us have always known. They are nothing more than violent deterrents utilized against protesting People of Color (PoC) when they try to access their rights.
As an Autistic PoC, I couldn’t help but think about how differently civil rights protests are treated when initiated by PoC who were sick of being killed, abused, unheard, and dismissed– while speaking out against white supremacy, privilege, and the systemic wrongs that are perpetuated in connection with these hateful mediums.
Think about it.
Historical social justice movements have been met with intense police aggression
Before Black Lives Matter organized and protested, there were many other historic social movements that were met by intense aggression from law enforcement, with excessive force used to neutralize people seeking justice– even young children– by any means necessary.
A great example of this is the Standing Rock Protest of the Dakota Access pipeline, during which law enforcement used excessive force and turned the treaty-held sacred land into a battleground. Tear gas and high-pressure hoses were used against members of the Tribe and their peaceful allies. While non-lethal, this happened in freezing conditions with the risk of hypothermia and exacerbating of other medical conditions a high possibility.
The exhibition of heavy military hardware, including armored vehicles, was a gesture of how willing the government was to displace rightful inhabitants of their own land. They used a type of “less than lethal” grenade which blew apart on protestor Sophia Wilansky’s arm, deployed attack dogs, strip searched tribal leaders, and threw them, naked, into cages.
These are actions that were not taken against violent Trump supporters who sought to attack our nation’s capital and democracy itself.
Apathetic response by law enforcement reinforces white supremacist ideals
When it came to the attempted coup by Donald Trump’s supporters, the reaction of law enforcement and the National Guard was apathetic. Not only was the planned security lax during a crucial time in United States history (counting of electoral college votes), but then minimal force and virtually no intimidation were used by law enforcement against the predominantly white supporters– a great deal of whom were verifiably emboldened by white supremacy.
White supremacy targeted the Senate during a change of power with the potential to make life better for marginalized groups, as an historically diverse administration prepares to take over.
That is no coincidence.
The maintenance of hateful ideology, while not the core belief of many Republicans, WAS the core belief of those who attacked the Capitol. The atrocious things said by our outgoing president about various minority groups are evidence of that.
Compared to the aggressive reactions from law enforcement agencies during other protests, the use of one flashbang while police politely escort terrorists down the Capitol steps is jarring. While details are still being uncovered about the multiple institutional failures that allowed this failed coup to occur, the security response can still best be characterized as tepid.
It is crucial as a nation to note the connections between white supremacy and excessive force
As a Person of Color, my Brown skin makes me a target. As an autistic human being, that target grows ever larger. And as a journalist, it’s a triple whammy. For all of these reasons, however, I feel it is crucial that we as a nation note the connections between white supremacy and the moderate, systemic oppression that can be seen through such excessive force. Law enforcement is currently attacking peaceful protests with full force but giving violent assailants to our democracy a free pass.
To quote President-elect Joe Biden:
No one can tell me that if it had been a group of Black Lives Matter protestors yesterday that they wouldn’t have been treated very differently than the mob that stormed the Capitol.
We all know that’s true — and it’s unacceptable.Joe Biden via Twitter, January 7, 2021
To add to that I’d like to say that rather than taking selfies, the officers responding to Black Lives Matter would have been taking lives– the lives of People of Color with a legitimate organization legitimately protesting. In how differently the domestic terrorists who besieged our capital are treated, and in President Trump’s willingness to overlook the incident, we can see the same spiteful, hateful rhetoric which fired up the behavior of Nazi Germany. It should be blatantly visible that if systemic oppression through racial prejudice is not vehemently confronted, then this nation will fall ever deeper into Darkness.
Lastly I wish to issue a challenge to my fellow Americans and allies worldwide. We MUST notice not only white privilege in society but also white denial; it is a massive privilege to stay in blissful denial of current events. Let it be shattered by current events, and become allies that can lift marginalized voices in a country built on the backs and necks of immigrants and slaves!
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