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White Supremacy and the Capitol Attack

Writer: Banyu Bening

Editor: Laila Michel

Graphic Designer: Hannah Bugeja

By definition, white supremacy can be described as the exploitation and oppression of people of color by white people for the purpose of maintaining and defending a system of wealth, power, and privilege (Martinez, 1998). Its roots in history date back to when Columbus supposedly “discovered” America and began to colonize it and build up settlements; this is an indication of how white supremacy is and has always been an underlying factor in the establishment of the country.

Fast forward 525 years into the future to January 6th, 2021, where the influence of white supremacy in America has evolved into something much greater. On that day, the U.S Capitol building was ambushed in plain sight during a white supremacist terrorist attack. Thousands of supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol in an attempted coup to sabotage the Congress meeting that would declare Joe Biden’s presidential triumph. Thousands of people made headway to the building to force their ways into the Capitol’s main entrance; many were far-right extremists, pro-Trump supporters, and deep state conspiracy theorists. They brandished divisive flags and symbols, including the Confederate flag, which represents the Americans who wanted slavery to continue during the Civil War.

Supporters of President Donald Trump breach the U.S. Capitol as election results are to be certified on Jan. 6, 2021.Carol Guzy / Zuma Wire

Despite the scale of their insurrection as they raided the capitol, hunting down politicians like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Mike Pence, the mob seemed strangely comfortable. They could be seen taking selfies with police officers and proudly sharing their identities with media outlets. Little resistance was shown by the police force as the mob stormed in. This response stands in striking contrast to the aggressive, and sometimes deadly force that was used during the Black Lives Matter demonstrations early last year. During that time, peaceful protestors, children and adults alike, were fired with tear gas, rubber bullets, and pepper-spray.

This contrast in reactions clearly illustrates the racism that minorities in the United States constantly face, particularly African Americans. Peaceful protestors fighting for racial justice were referred to as "thugs," "agitators" and "looters." During the protests demanding justice for the murder of George Floyd, President Trump himself tweeted "When the looting starts, the shooting starts," as an attempt to threaten protestors. But hypocritically, regarding the capitol break-in, Trump expressed a warmer, more sympathetic standpoint, and tweeted, "We love you. You're very special ... but you have to go home." Furthermore, elected officials seemed to be appalled by the turn of events. Statements like, "This is not what America is" and "No one could have predicted this" were made. White supremacist violence was on the rise while being increasingly normalized and defended by said elected officials.

Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson, a national activist for the Black Lives Matter movement and co-executive director of the Highlander Research and Education Center in eastern Tennessee says,

"People like me, Black people who have been doing work to actually put this country in a place where we're practicing our ideals around justice and liberty for everybody, are being designated Black identity extremists, being compared to the same people who attacked the Capitol. I felt frustrated. I felt empathy for every targeted and marginalized community in this country that was like, 'God, man, they really clearly treat us differently than they treat white people' and all of the hard feelings that come with that."

Thus from this, we are able to derive that to white supremacists, enforcing and necessitating pro-black or pro-people-of-color ideologies in pursuit of racial equity is seen as a threat to white supremacy itself. People of color who were demanding social justice were viewed as criminals, whereas a mostly white mob leading an attack on the Capitol were merely seen as demonstrators. (Fadel. 2021)




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