About six months ago, I wrote a post about the BLM movement. (Read my last post for more discussion, as this post will build on it.) It was the middle of June, and protests in support of BLM and equal human rights had reached a peak. Protests were erupting throughout the US and across major cities in Canada, as well as throughout the globe. The violent events occurring and subsequent protests caused many of us to recognize the systemic violence prevalent in our everyday lives. Particularly unnerving was the repeated violence from police towards protestors. For people of colour, this reality is ever-present. It’s nothing new, as our systems have been founded on white supremacy, superiority and corruption. But this moment in the BLM movement’s history was particularly potent as so many more people who may not have noticed these systemic inequities before began to recognize them. Among everything else in 2020, including the chaos of the COVID-19 pandemic, we stood up and fought for BIPOC rights – human rights. As we enter a new year, I am wary that many people want to leave behind all of the ‘bad’ that 2020 brought; but the year also brought a surge in the BLM movement that cannot be ignored or forgotten. And what we fought for then is something we will need to keep fighting for.
The Siege of the US Capitol
The events on January 6, 2021 made the realities of the fight continuing, and the fact that we can’t forget everything that 2020 taught us, all too clear. On January 6, with two weeks until the inauguration of US President-Elect Joe Biden, the current US President Donald Trump hosted a rally encouraging his supporters to not give up their support for him. Citing claims that the election was fraudulent, and that Trump had actually won, he wanted his supporters to know that they should keep fighting for their ‘right’ to be in office, and incited them to storm the Capitol Building in Washington, DC to delay the process of certifying the votes of the election. Mere hours later, chaos ensued. This group of domestic terrorists, under the full encouragement and support of the President, stormed the White House.
The action in and of itself is not all too surprising. Many Trump supporters are prone to violence as Trump incites this within them in his rhetoric of false news. What was more staggering, I believe, was the actions of the police and other law enforcement – or rather, the lack thereof. The heavy police and military presence that had been in place merely six months earlier against peaceful BLM protestors was essentially nowhere to be found for this group of white domestic terrorists. They somehow made their way fully into the Capitol, effectively stalling the certification of the election, as Cabinet members feared for their lives and gun shots went off. The fact that the police did next to nothing and these terrorists basically walked right in to the Capitol unchecked is the peak of white supremacy and privilege. As many media outlets have said, if this had been a group of non-white people, the results would be entirely different and I can almost guarantee there would have been much more activity from police and other security in the White House.
What these actions and non-actions of those involved in the attack and attempted coup on the US Capitol that day proves is that white lives are valued and privileged exponentially more than black lives. Even when it comes to domestic terrorism, America will continue to deny it – they even invite it in to sit in the highest house in the country. Black lives are clearly not valued in this system and if you had at all any doubt about the existence of white privilege or systemic racism and blatant disregard for Black lives before this, I hope you are now well aware of the reality. The fact is: our systems don’t care about Black lives and they will continue to destroy them. It is up to us to support and uplift Black lives when our own systems, police, governments, and more fail to do so.
Impeach or Bust
So, what next? Impeachment or forcible removal for a president that encouraged domestic terrorism from white supremacists on US soil? Or is this inconceivable because he himself is a white supremacist who benefits from this type of rhetoric, and is supported by cabinet members who believe the same things but perhaps are just afraid to say them out loud? On January 13, 2021, the paperwork was officially filed by the House to impeach President Trump. Not surprisingly, the majority of Republicans in Congress voted against impeachment and continue to want to keep Trump in office. However, the majority of Congress did vote for impeachment, and as I write this the impeachment is awaiting approval from the Senate, which is not anticipated to happen until after inauguration day. Though Trump won’t be removed prior to inauguration, hopefully he will be impeached to prevent him from running again for office in the future.
As inauguration day nears to swear in President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris, who have both made public statements condemning Trump’s actions, perhaps the future holds some hope. But what does that hope look like in a place where Americans are not willing to accept the results of a democratic election, all to uphold a racist, sexist, white supremacist in office whose power directly benefits them? The inauguration in and of itself will already be quite different than usual in response to the recent attacks on the Capitol. The problem moving forward is, this hate and these beliefs are there whether or not Donald Trump is in office. And this is not just an American problem, though much of this context is in the US. A colonial border does not mean that Canada is immune from these thoughts, beliefs, and violence.
Similar Concerns in Canada
On the same day and shortly after these terrorists attacks occurred in the US Capitol, there were protests of “support” for Trump breaking out in cities across Canada as well. Prior to this, Canada has also had multiple examples of white supremacist terrorism, including a raid in a Mosque in Quebec in 2017 and most recently attacks against the Mi’kmaq nation in 2020. There are multiple right-wing extremism groups that exist in Canada, many of which have risen since Trump’s election in 2016, as the influence of American society is felt throughout the globe. Some examples include the Sons of Odin, Northern Guard, and the Proud Boys branch which operate in various provinces across Canada, including BC, Alberta and Ontario. Even an online presence of these groups and white supremacy rhetoric in general is still very concerning as it can be quick to manifest in-person, as was demonstrated by those who held protests across Canada the same day that the US Capitol was stormed.
Those who hold strong beliefs of white supremacy and seek to inflict violence on others, these terrorists who are continuing to attack democracy – they are not people in a far away land who you don’t know, as xenophobic rhetoric would have you believe. Terrorists are your neighbours, your friends, the people in your own backyard who truly believe that white lives are of more value than other lives. Perhaps they don’t say this out loud, or maybe they don’t even believe it at their core, but supporting those who condone these violent actions in the name of white supremacy is directly supporting white supremacy. It’s present in Canada, present in our neighbours, present in Trump supporters who will still be there long after Trump leaves office. So how can we address it and find a way to move forward? Where to from here?
I truly do not know the answer. I wish I did. But I don’t even know where to begin to bridge the gap between those who are on the correct side of history and believe in equal human rights, and those who take part in domestic terrorist attacks in the name of white supremacy. Perhaps there isn’t a common ground anymore and those that foster white supremacy should be punished and held accountable in some capacity. There is only so much education you can give to expand the minds of others, and there are some people who will never hear you no matter how loudly and rightly you speak – as one of my favorite quotes above mentions. If they are not open to hearing you, how can we move forward?
I would love to hear your thoughts. We must find a way to move forward together, as I truly believe the future depends on it.
References and Further Resources:
US Capitol secured, 4 dead after rioters stormed the halls of Congress to block Biden’s win, via CNN: https://www.cnn.com/2021/01/06/politics/us-capitol-lockdown/index.html
How US police failed to stop the rise of the far right and the Capitol attack, via The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/jan/17/us-police-far-right-capitol-attack
Lafayette Square, Capitol rallies met starkly different policing response, via The Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/dc-md-va/interactive/2021/blm-protest-capitol-riot-police-comparison/
Treat the Attack on the Capitol as Terrorism, via The Atlantic: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/01/treat-attack-capitol-terrorism/617714/
Photo credit of Officer Eugene Goodman defending the Capitol amidst a mob of white domestic terrorists to New York Times via: https://twitter.com/RepDeanPhillips/status/1348387635245572096/photo/1
‘Most dangerous crime’: Democrats build impeachment case against Trump ahead of trial, via Global News: https://globalnews.ca/news/7581967/democrats-build-trump-impeachment-case/
How Joe Biden Watched the Capitol Assault, via The Atlantic: https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2021/01/joe-biden-responded-storming-capitol/617575/
‘I never imagined this’: Washington prepares for an inauguration under siege, via The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/jan/17/washington-inauguration-national-guard-capitol-donald-trump-joe-biden
Small pro-Trump rallies break out in Canada amid chaos at U.S. Capitol, via Global News: https://globalnews.ca/news/7559368/canada-pro-trump-rallies-us-capitol-lockdown/
Mi’kmaq tackle decades-old standstill on fishing rights with historic, self-regulated lobster fishery, via CBC: https://www.cbc.ca/news/indigenous/mi-kmaq-self-regulated-moderate-livelihood-fishery-1.5727622
Quote from @tinybuddha on Twitter via: https://twitter.com/tinybuddha/status/1083030786901721089/photo/1
Be sure to refer to my last post about the BLM movement that listed multiple great activists’ work to check out if you are on your own personal anti-racist journey at this time. Don’t forget – donations are still needed for the movement! You can donate to the Black Lives Matter global network here, and the local Black Lives Matter Vancouver chapter here. This resource also lists further places you can donate to.
Yours in solidarity,