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  • Sydney Williams & Jacinth Jones

America was Never America to Me

Credit: The 11th Hour

"If that was a Black Lives Matter protest in D.C., there would already be people shackled, arrested, or dead. Shackled, arrested en masse or dead." - Joy Reid via MSNBC

What we saw Wednesday was domestic terrorism, an attempted coup and a flagrant continued display of white privilege. Complete pandemonium. This is President Donald Trump’s legacy. We can’t say we’re surprised, shocked or stunned.

After enduring countless tragedies and setbacks in 2020, many people have been optimistic about what 2021 will bring. It’s unfortunate that this country has been forced to witness such a despicable, disturbing event less than a week into the new year. Maintaining hope for a better future can be difficult when we are constantly inundated with reminders of this country’s cruel history and the existence of people who continue to perpetuate patterns of evil and destruction.

Let’s call a spade a spade. From the very beginning, President Trump has encouraged animosity from his supporters. This was not days, but years in the making. From blaming both sides during the infamous riots in Charlottesville in 2017 to his failure to directly condemn his followers for their vile actions, it’s clear he enjoys witnessing the power he exerts over his base.

He instigated this insurrectional behavior since claiming election fraud in November, incited violence against the government and has fermented this anarchy with his disputed lies, baseless conspiracy theories and catchphrases like stand back and stand by.” He’s a dictator who thrives from his weak ego being stroked by his idiotic followers.

But how do you siege the Capitol building - with its “heightened security” - unscathed and alive? Can you imagine the mass amount of bloodshed if Black people attempted to invade the Capitol?

Yes - one woman lost her life but comparisons have been drawn between this highly inappropriate incident and last summer’s intense protests of police violence against Black people; there is an unbelievable double standard in how these situations were handled.

Why were protests for Black lives met with violent retaliation, while the criminals who ambushed the Capitol were enabled in their behavior? Where were the arrests? Where were the rubber bullets? Where were the aggressive tactics? Why did it take law enforcement more than two hours to regain control?

Considering Wednesday’s election proceedings were announced in advance, why weren’t law enforcement officers and the National Guard deployed ahead of time the way they are when a racially-charged incident happens? Rep. Maxine Waters said she “had an hour-long conversation with the chief of police” who assured her the Capitol would be “secured” four days ago. Four days. Capitol police had a minimum of four days.

The double standards in American policing is alarming, deafening, but expected.

Less than eight months ago, we spent a summer being beat, tear-gassed and arrested while peacefully protesting against structural racism, racial injustice and police brutality. There’s a difference between fighting for someone’s right to live and retaliating because you simply did not get your way. The latter is a peak embodiment of privilege.

White people - yet again - were allowed to override the law with ease. Maskless rioters had the ability to wake up and choose violence across state lines, damage government property (none of which is sealed off as a crime scene), endanger District residents with two pipe bombs, a cooler of Molotov cocktails and likely an increased transmission of COVID-19 all while having the opportunity to decompress in hotels or on flights back home without arrest or accountability.

The District is home to roughly 700,000 people who now have to deal with the aftermath:

  • AJ+ reported the District’s two largest charter school networks canceled meal distribution today - which serve over 9,000 low-income students - after yesterday’s incident.

  • Metro rail services ended between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m yesterday forcing essential workers to find other means of transportation while navigating a 6 p.m. curfew.

  • The District is now under a 15-day public emergency issued by Mayor Muriel Bowser who is pressuring Congress for D.C. statehood after her initial request to deploy D.C. National Guard troops was denied by the Department of Defense.

Back in July, the President tweeted “anarchists, agitators or protestors who vandalize or damage...any federal buildings in our cities or states” should serve a minimum of ten years in prison, but his tone was dramatically different in the one-minute video address to the situation. There was no mention of criminal sentencing, just sympathy, ignorance and irresponsible rhetoric.

As a result, the video and President Trump’s ensuing tweets were removed from Twitter after posing “severe violations” of the company’s civic integrity policy” and his account is now locked. Facebook and Instagram have suspended his account through the remainder of his term. It’s about five years too late but now it appears everyone wants to be on the right side of history.

Ida B. Wells-Barnett reminds us in her 1900 book “Mob Rule in New Orleans”:

“during the entire time, the mob held the city in their hands..the police and the legally constituted authorities showed plainly where their sympathies were..The ringleaders of the mob were at no time disguised...Not only were they exempt from prosecution by the police while the town was in the hands of the mob, but even now that law and order is supposed to resume control, these men, well known, are not now, nor will ever be, called to account for the unspeakable brutalities of that terrible week.”

In his poem “Let America Be America Again,” Langston Hughes proclaims “America was never America to me.” His statements confirm what most Black people and people of color have known for centuries: America is not the land of freedom we learned about in school. This country was founded on principles of hostility, violence and dishonesty, and those same values are present today.

Although there’s a silver lining in knowing the country will soon be under new leadership, the damaging effects of Trump’s presidency are likely to linger for a very long time. The worst part is knowing there is a very large sector of people who carry such deep hatred inside them - these are people who could be walking among us everyday.

These people are afraid to witness America’s transition into a country that is inclusive and accepting of all people. They fear their privilege will be taken away from them, but that’s exactly what we want to see. It’s scary seeing this country’s divisiveness right before our eyes, but perhaps this is the wake up call America needs to finally begin the process of healing.


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