Yesterday the world watched as violent extremists took over the Capitol with guidance from the president and apparent permission from the police.
Amid yesterday’s attack, I, like many, couldn’t help but look back on last year’s BLM protests, when non-violence and cries for justice were met with tear gas and rubber bullets.
I think of every black man, woman, and child who have been murdered by police officers in their own homes and backyards.
I think of Breonna Taylor, who was sleeping in her bed as officers unlawfully broke into her home and blindly fired 16 rounds, ultimately ending her life. In the 10 months since Breonna’s murder, not a single officer has been charged with her death.
Then we watched as hundreds of armed white domestic terrorists storm into the nation’s Capitol under the president’s command, damaging national property at best and disrupting democracy and leaving four dead at worst, and faced few, if any, repercussions. (Nearly 80 people have been arrested, but we’ll see how far that goes.)
And I, yet again, can’t help but turn to Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail, as I did when Americans turned on Colin Kaepernick for taking a knee and as I have done each time this nation has refused to listen to the cries of the Black community.
While Dr. King’s letter comes from 1963 after he was arrested while non-violently protesting for civil rights, yesterday’s attack clearly demonstrated the ways that white people in America continue to profit off racial injustice today.
“An unjust law,” Dr. King wrote, “is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself. This is difference made legal.”
When Black Lives Matter protesters demonstrated at Lafayette Park, the group “was charged by a force made up of Washington police, U.S. Park police, over 5,000 national guard troops and federal agencies like the Bureau of Prisons. An army helicopter swooped low over the heads of the protesters. Teargas, batons and horses were used to clear a block so that Donald Trump could stage a photo op outside a church across the road.”
Yet, when white Trump supporters violently raid the Capitol, police act as though national security isn’t threatened.
“This is difference made legal.”
Yesterday was a terrible display of white privilege in America. But let us not gloss over yesterday’s victories.
Like Georgia’s senate election, where over 4.4 million voters, led predominantly by Black voters, came together to elect the state’s first Black senator, Reverend Raphael Warnock, along with Jon Ossoff, securing yet another uncharacteristic democrat-led victory in the state.
Or the news that Myles Cosgrove and Joshua Jaynes, two of the officers responsible for Breonna Taylor’s death, were fired from their positions. It’s a far cry from the murder charges they deserve, but it’s a long-awaited, minuscule step in the right direction.
As we quickly approach the transition to Biden’s presidency, let’s not forget that one moderate white man will not solve all of the problems that have withstood each of his 45 predecessors. The systemic inconsistencies and racial injustice that allowed armed white terrorists to storm the capitol and empowered police to kill, teargas, and arrest non-violent Black protesters will still exist in 13 days.
“Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists,” King wrote in ’63. “I had hoped that the white moderate would see this need. Perhaps I was too optimistic; perhaps I expected too much. I suppose I should have realized that few members of the oppressor race can understand the deep groans and passionate yearnings of the oppressed race, and still fewer have the vision to see that injustice must be rooted out by strong, persistent and determined action.”
The tides are turning because we’ve decided to turn them. Let’s ride the waves of these upcoming political changes and elicit real social change through the same “strong, persistent and determined action” that Dr. King called for 58 years ago.
Let’s eradicate the coronavirus with masks, vaccinations, and a call for public health; let’s reexamine America’s police and military forces by throwing away historic practices and reevaluating and reallocating their massive budgets; and let’s educate our citizens, ourselves, based on the facts that higher education leads to well-rounded world views, increased empathy, and a better understanding of political processes due to increased media literacy.
We vote for government officials who we believe will represent us in office, and hopefully our chosen legislators will do just that. But don’t let yesterday’s terrorist attack distract us from the changes we need to make; let it fuel you. And don’t expect politicians to make these changes unprovoked.
Our actions make the difference. Not politicians, and certainly not time.
“Actually, time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively,” King wrote. “More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right.”
Sources & more
Letter from a Birmingham Jail:
What’s happening in D.C.: