A tale of two Americas: The attack on Capitol Hill


Tyler Merbler via Wikipedia

In retaliation of election results, a mob of Trump supporters storms the United States Capitol on Jan. 6.

Jayne Abraham, Staff Contributor

With the end of 2020, a year filled with strife on many fronts, Americans were hopeful that 2021 would be the light at the end of this long, dark tunnel. However, a mere week into the new year, tens of thousands of Trump supporters, many of whom were armed, violently stormed the US Capitol in objection to the results of the presidential election.

While these Trump supporters were trying to prove their loyalty to Trump, what they truly accomplished was a painful emphasis on what Black people have known for centuries: racial disparity in this country has created two Americas.

Parading around the prestigious Capitol building with confederate flags, Blue Lives Matter flags (while actively resisting police officers), anti-semitic symbols, an abundance of Trump merchandise and few masks, Trump supporters made a mockery of democracy. Objecting to the results of a fair democratic election that has survived multiple court challenges, the mob damaged and stole Capitol property, wreaking havoc on the nation.

To simply call these Trump supporters “protestors” is to severely understate the caliber of such an attack. Several political figures, including DC Mayor Muriel Bowser and Republican Senator Ted Cruz, referred to the attack on the Capitol as an act of terrorism. In 18 US Code 2331(5), from the official United States Code, the FBI defines domestic terrorism as an attempt to “Intimidate or coerce a civilian population; [or] Influence the policy of government by intimidation or coercion.”

“What occurred at the U.S. Capitol yesterday conforms to [the FBI’s] definition,” stated terrorism scholar and Georgetown professor Bruce Hoffman. “It involved people using violence or the threat of violence to intimidate democratically elected representatives, the wanton vandalization and destruction of government property, the deliberate subversion of the U.S. electoral process, and the derailment of the peaceful transfer of power that is the hallmark of U.S. governance.”

Even more troubling is Trump’s key role in instigating and inciting the storming of the Capitol by his mob of supporters. On Dec. 20, Trump tweeted, “Statistically impossible to have lost the 2020 Election. Big protest in DC on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!” Instigative comments like this combined with his repeated unsubstantiated claims that the election was stolen from him are to blame for the violent events of Jan. 6.

One cannot help but acknowledge the irony of it all. The disparity in cause and response to the Black Lives Matter protests in the summer versus the storming of the Capitol further solidifies that there are two Americas.

One in which the National Guard lined the steps of the Capitol building as Black citizens begged for the ability to not constantly fear for their lives due to their skin color, and another in which the president is hesitant to deploy the National Guard in response to an act of treason by a mob of his own white supporters.

One in which peaceful protestors fighting for their human rights are pepper-sprayed and tear-gassed by police, and another in which police escort white domestic terrorists, as President-elect Joe Biden also referred to them, out of one of the most prestigious buildings in the nation.

One in which Breonna Taylor could be shot by police while laying in her own bed, and another in which white Trump supporters can scale the Capitol building, run around the Senate floor and come out unscathed. This is what white privilege looks like. One woman, who was a member of the mob, even stated, “This is not America. They’re shooting at us. They’re supposed to shoot BLM, but they’re shooting the patriots.”

Just months ago, Trump and his supporters condemned protests associated with the Black Lives Matter movement. Trump addressed these protests when he tweeted on Aug. 28, “If the Democratic Party wants to stand with anarchists, agitators, rioters, looters and flag burners, that is up to them. But I as your president will not be part of it. The Republican Party will remain the voice of the patriotic heroes who keep America safe.” Trump supporters retorted “Black Lives Matter” chants with “Blue Lives Matter” but would later end up completely disregarding authority in this violent attack on the Capitol.

Additionally, on May 29, Trump tweeted, “…when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” in response to protests surrounding George Floyd’s murder. However, he has not had a similar response to the mob of his supporters who broke into the Capitol and stole property. Trump and his base also called Black Lives Matter protestors “thugs,” but on Jan. 6, Trump called the mob at the Capitol “very special,” all the while making overtly false claims about the election.

The point here is that Trump has had a completely different response to protestors when they are Black, as opposed to when they are white. At the very least, Black people who are protesting for their rights should be treated the same way as these white Trump supporters have been.

As of Jan. 10, around 80 arrests were made after the attack on the Capitol. In contrast, in Minneapolis, 570 arrests of Black Lives Matter protestors were made on May 26 after George Floyd’s murder. The key factor at play here is racial discrimination by law enforcement.

In response to this incident, several members of Trump’s cabinet have resigned and many members of the Republican Party have denounced the events that took place. People across America are shocked and disgusted. But, why?

Before Trump’s cabinet members are congratulated for resigning and Republicans are praised for calling out Trump, let us question, “why now?” While some Republicans appear to be appalled by the violence at the Capitol, they fail to recognize that the same police tear-gassing and shooting at Black Lives Matter protestors also allowed Trump supporters to raid the Capitol. Racial disparity is staring them right in the face, and they are choosing not to acknowledge it for what it is, which is not commendable but cowardly.

Why are Americans shocked and embarrassed now? This should be no surprise considering the divisive and hateful foundation Trump has established over the past four years. Many have claimed that America is above this or that this is not America. If it is not, then I pose the question: what is?