Argument

White Supremacy Created the Capitol Assault

The Trojan horse of racism put democracy’s enemies inside its walls.

Trump supporters try to storm the U.S. Capitol
A man calls on people to raid the building as Trump supporters clash with police and security forces as they try to storm the U.S. Capitol building in Washington on Jan. 6. Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images

U.S. President Donald Trump has committed sedition in broad daylight and incited a violent attempted coup that had the unintended effect of disrupting a political one. Both attempts failed for many reasons, but the question is how they even got that close. The answer is simple. The invaders were not Black.

While many of the police present made heroic efforts to protect the people inside the halls of the Capitol building during the mob attack on Jan. 6, and one gave his life doing so, they were hampered by leadership that did not see the real threat that the mob posed, by law enforcement posing in selfies with the attackers, but most of all by the assumption of white innocence and the years of white supremacist infiltration into police forces across the country. It is commendable that the police tried to show some humanity and attempted to keep the situation from escalating. But the juxtaposition of the images from the police response in the Capitol and to Black Lives Matter protests is telling. Had the Capitol rioters been Black, the police would have been ready with tanks.

White supremacy and, with it, the presumption of white innocence explain how in the 2014 Ferguson protests, the National Guard arrived in overwhelming numbers, and even peaceful Black protesters were deemed “enemy forces.” It also explains why federal law enforcement underestimated the size of Trump’s “Stop the Steal” protest by over 20,000 people and kept their presence too small and too far away to react. According to the Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, they were afraid of the optics of an armed confrontation with citizens and wanted to avoid a “Tiananmen Square moment.”

This is strange, as both the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI have known for some time that right-wing white nationalists are the top domestic terrorist threat to the United States. Observers of sites and apps like TheDonald.Win and Parler sounded warnings about the coming armed confrontation, as users declared their intentions, believing that they were in a “post-legal phase.”

The media and governmental leaders initially had great difficulty in deciding what to call the people who broke the barriers, and they still haven’t quite settled on a term. They were protesters, Trump supporters, alleged Trump followers, insurgents, conspiracy theorists, terrorists, patriots, a mob. Very special people. Few would call them by the most accurate name: tacitly sanctioned white supremacists.

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Rob Cameron is a speculative fiction writer and teacher in Brooklyn. Twitter: @cprwords

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