American white privilege demonstrated once again at Capitol insurrection


Courtesy of Jasmin Van T Photography

One of the four peaceful protestors, Alyssa Martinez, wrongfully arrested at a Sept. 7 march on Golden Gate Bridge. Organizers and vocal advocates for BLM were taken into custody but released later that evening due to the fact that the cops had no legitimate basis for their arrests.

By now the riots at the Capitol may have left the forefront of your mind. But it’s imperative that they don’t. President Joe Biden rightfully denounced this display of unchecked whiteness, but in a sweeping claim that much of his party mirrored: “This is unamerican… the crowd at the Capitol does not reflect ‘True America.’”  While the sentiment is something we, a nation in the “free world,” should be able to stand by, absorbing these phrases as truth is simply irresponsible. 

This past summer, after what was certainly not the exposition but merely the breaking point of racial injustice, protests broke out across the country and, soon, the world. Voices united chanting Black Lives Matter, BLM, into the faces of corrupt, militarized police. Our infamous ex-president denounced these protestors, and his supporters blindly followed suit, claiming the demonstrators were anarchists and dangerous terrorists.

An infographic depicting the comparative arrests of a BLM protest in Washington D.C. in June vs. the Capitol Hill raid in January. (Kelsey Riemer)

It’s vital to note that less than 7% of BLM events ever turned violent, and when violence erupted it was instigated by outside, far-right groups or the police. And still, BLM organizers were vilified and met with an unprecedented police force, clad in riot gear, fully armed. On Jun. 1, 2020,  a peaceful BLM protest was organized in the U.S. Capitol, at which 326 non-violent protesters were arrested.

Black Lives Matter protestors fight for the right for Black people to simply exist safely in this country, pointing out the glaring issues in the fabric of our country. The Capitol was stormed by Neo-Nazi white supremacists, angry that their candidate lost the election. Yet, the former was met with rubber bullets (misnomered to imply a sense of safety: they can, and do, kill), tear gas, batons, and staggering numbers of arrests, while the latter was often gently escorted by the cops. Spot the difference? That’s the American way. 

We live on land stolen by brutal genocide, our lives shaped by institutions and systems built by slavery. Never in American history were the voices of the minority players ever welcomed at the table. Our founding fathers, a homogenous group of privileged, oblivious white men, created this country with the intent of protecting the rights to “liberty and justice” for all of those who looked, thought, and spent exactly as they did. 

The recent riots and the insurrection of Capitol Hill by pro-Trump extremists have once again proven the foundation of white privilege and systemic racism that our country was built upon. Sporting anti-semitic gear, racist flags, and lethal weapons, these rightly named domestic terrorists pulled off a modern-day (albeit failed) coup for hours before police intervention. Although their terrorist tantrum caused the deaths of five people, along with various injuries to officers, only 61 arrests were made, 28 of which were for curfew violations. Only after the FBI got involved in the investigation were more arrests made, but the total arrests resulted in only a third of those at the protest on the sixth of June. 

The facts are terrifying: shirts supporting Auschwitz, the largest extermination camp during the Holocaust, proudly sported in the room where Congress convenes, confederate flags mingling with semi-automatic weapons illegally brought over state lines, and a noose erected in a public square, a direct threat against our nation’s Black community. The pro-Trump mobs attacked police who stood and took it, with their hands far from their holsters, proving law enforcement truly does have the ability to discern when to shoot. To cap it all off, President Trump’s only move to end the riot was tweeting, “Go home. We love you.” 

If you have never been able to pinpoint the true thread tying all of American history together, let this display -this childish, terrifying, and virtually unpunished display- be the turning point. We all know what would have happened if the riot at the Capitol were for Black Lives Matter, especially if led by Black citizens. Jan. 6th, 2021 was and always will stand as a tangible exposition to our country’s innate truth: we have created and propelled a society in which being white, no matter if you pose threat to our nation through acts of literal domestic terrorism, means you get what you ask for. To rightfully claim we as a nation uphold equality, justice or freedom will require a vast amount of work we have yet to put in.