Some called it a mob.
Some called it an insurrection.
But what we witnessed Jan. 6 on full display for the world to see was a demonstration of White supremacy, the belief held by far too many White people in the United States that the country is theirs -- solely. That demonstration was not a result of months -- or even years -- of violent rhetoric as some have said, but centuries of violent rhetoric and actions -- and the tolerance for both. (photo above: We’re not asking you to shoot them like you shoot us, we’re asking you to NOT shoot us like you don’t shoot them. . . –Davontae Harris, @wichkid)
Some would have us believe that what happened at the U.S. Capitol is a direct result of one lone bad actor -- Donald Trump, the current president of the United States. Yes, the election of Donald Trump emboldened the vileness that has been building over the past several years. But if they can allow themselves to finally -- and for once -- be honest, they will admit that the madness at the Capitol -- the thousands of mostly White men and women who “stormed the Capitol” desecrating the building, its halls, offices, and chambers -- was actually a result of hundreds of years of making the wrong people the enemy.
White people, and admittedly even some Black and Brown people, have for too long painted the Indigenous peoples of this country and the enslaved Africans and their descendants in this country as the wretched of the earth. As inferior. As having “no rights which a white man is bound to respect.” As animals even, vermin to be exterminated.
When we ran away to gain our freedom, we were hunted down, beaten, castrated, lynched, and put on display. When we marched and protested for our franchise, we were bullied, threatened, beaten, and lynched. When we marched and protested to have our basic rights, civil rights, human rights acknowledged, respected, we were hosed, attacked, and bitten by dogs, billy-clubbed, beaten, jailed, and killed. When we marched and protested against police violence in our communities, we were tased, tear-gassed, beaten, shot, run over with cars, and in some cases killed.
All of this has been done with the protection of the U.S. executive, judicial, and legislative institutions.
When we showed up in numbers to demand our rights not only as U.S. citizens, but as humans, these institutions responded with armed guards in military gear -- guns pointed at us and our children. When we said take your foot off our neck, a law enforcement officer choked the life out of one of us with his knee. Our children have been shot down -- in a park, in a store, on the street, in their own home. Our men and women have been placed in chokeholds and gunned down while driving, eating, sleeping, walking, shopping, standing, existing.
Again, all of this has been done with the protection of the U.S. executive, judicial, and legislative institutions.
And with the complicity of the people -- White people -- all White people.
So many were “appalled,” “in disbelief,” “saddened,” by what they saw. I could muster only anger. . .and fear. Like no other time before, it was proven to me that I am not protected by the institutions that govern the country of my birth.
That privilege has only been fully afforded White people in this country. The people of this country have reinforced the idea time and again that these United States of America are for White people.
This is why we hear words like, “protest,” and “insurrection,” and “sedition.”
This is why D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s request for deployment of the National Guard was initially denied. And why the Capitol police appeared to welcome in the rioters -- removing blockades, stepping aside, posing for selfies, and barely using force.
It is why when thousands of White men and women showed up at the Capitol and made their way inside, looting and vandalizing -- desecrating what’s been called our symbol of democracy -- more than 100 members of Congress can still go along with and politicize baseless claims of election fraud.
White people are scared. Some are afraid of being the minority. And the others are afraid of those who are afraid of being the minority.
White Americans talk about bravery and courage but cannot even stand up to their own enemy within.
I keep hearing, “This is not America.” “This is un-American.” That is not true. This is America. This country was founded on violence and desecration.
But if you want this to no longer be America, if you want Americans to be “better than this,” then prove it.
Congress moving forward with the confirmation of the Biden/Harris administration was the democratic thing to do. . .but is only a start.
Show your courage and bravery now by removing Donald Trump from office -- even if for these last two weeks -- and removing those members of Congress who participated in and encouraged this “attempted coup.” Find -- and it should not be difficult with all of the technology at the disposal of the federal government -- every single person who entered that building and bring federal charges against them.
For those who live in so-called red states and disagree with this demonstration of White supremacy, prove it: organize, mobilize, do not re-elect people who support and uphold White supremacist ideology. (Georgia has given us a blueprint. Follow it.)
It’s one thing to have political difference on policies.
But when it comes to the very lives of all the people in this country. . .White leadership in this country must do better.
Enough is enough.
(Zenobia Jeffries Warfield is the executive editor at Yes! where she directs editorial coverage for YES! Magazine, YES! Media’s editorial partnerships and serves as chair of the YES! Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee.) Photos, top to bottom: Spencer Platt/Getty Images, Samuel Corum/Getty Images, Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images, Win McNamee/Getty Images, Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images. Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.