The failure of the police to secure the Capitol complex, despite days of notice of pro-Trump protests and warnings of possible violence, drew outrage from lawmakers, officials but did not surprise the Muslim American and Black community.
In sharp contrast to June 1, when federal law enforcement officers used force against largely peaceful Black Lives Matter demonstrators near the White House, the Capitol Police retreated in the face of the crowd, who could be seen using crowbars and other objects to break windows and entering the Capitol building.
Advocates have rightly pointed to the hypocrisy on exhibit this past week, comparing the treatment and prosecution of Black Lives Matter protesters with the Capitol Police and National Guard’s hands-off approach toward Wednesday’s predominantly White mob.
They have noted that Black protest is automatically treated as terrorism, citing the Justice Department’s aggressive posture from the summer. Some have replied that the answer to such abuses is to seek to equalize their application — to demand “equal opportunity” enforcement against white-supremacist protest and Brown, Black, and leftist protest.
There were enormous strategic and planning failures by the Capitol Police, by the Sergeant at Arms, and anyone else who was part of coordinating the effort. But the irony remains that if these insurrectionists were Black, they would have been shot in the face. And, if these insurrectionists were Muslims, it would have been worse.
Nearly 63 million Americans voted for Trump in 2016. He had zero record of serving in public office at the time, but we knew enough about him then to know he was unfit for it. He was accused of sexually assaulting multiple women. He said Muslims should be put on a registry. He cast undocumented people as “illegals” and murderers, Mexican immigrants as rapists. He pledged to build a wall between Mexico and the U.S. and have Mexico pay for it.
Many people—especially racialized activists, writers, and thinkers—rang the alarm. The concern then was not only the damage Trump would do, but that millions voted for him knowing what he stood for, millions who either loved his vision for the country or didn’t care enough about the people that vision cast aside.
So, what did we see over those four years? An aggressive agenda aimed to “take America back.” An immediate “Muslim ban,” deportation raids targeting Latin communities, the separation of at least 2,500 children from their families at the southern border, an outrageous show of force against peaceful Black Lives Matter protests police violence, stacking the Supreme Court with another conservative judge a week before the election. And let’s not forget the revolving door of terrifying people ranging from unapologetic racists to straight-up white supremacists that helped enact these policies.
This is the president whose people – since the racial justice movement in the summer – said they were for “law and order”. So, the “law and order” people broke into the Capitol and changed the American flag with the Trump flag. History shows that has not happened in over 200 years.
As predictable as the scene may have been, it still amounted to a low point for American democracy.
The moment is right to reflect on the side of our country that we have been struggling against, in civil society and institutionally, with the hope of bringing about a more inclusive, just and welcoming America for all.
We hope that the January 6th event can awaken in all of us the essence of equality and civil rights under the law and a new energy focused on building the society that all of our children deserve.