Updated: Jan 12
Today, AAPF joins all Americans who are horrified that a rage-fueled mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol, determined to stop the electoral certification of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. This was a blatantly illegal plot to subvert our democracy by force, in an attempt to pave the way for Donald Trump to remain in office.
This shameful event came as the Democrats took a decisive step towards controlling the Senate with historic wins in Georgia. Reverend Raphael Warnock became Georgia’s first Black Senator and only the second Black American elected to the Senate from the South since Reconstruction. Jon Ossoff became the state’s first Jewish Senator. Yet, their shared victory was soon eclipsed by the horrific attack by white nationalists on the U.S. Capitol while the results of the free and fair November general election were being certified.
This was not civil dissent, it was seditious insurrection—an attack on democracy by followers of an authoritarian ruler bent on subverting the will of the American people. Although President-elect Biden has denounced the mob, assuring the world that this “does not represent a true America, who we are…” the shocking events which were witnessed by people around the globe rehearse sentiments and actions that have undermined our democracy in the past. Unless we confront the fact that treasonous aggression has brought our nation to the brink of dissolution in the past, we will not muster the resolve needed to respond appropriately to this crisis.
White supremacy has been and continues to be an animating political force in this country, a force that not only galvanized the mob rule and seditious enablement that we witnessed on Wednesday, but also played out in the shockingly disparate treatment of peaceful #BlackLivesMatter protesters and the coddling facilitation of insurrectionists attacking our lawmakers in the capitol. Nothing captures this sickening inequality more than the remembrance of the vicious killing of Miriam Carey, a 34-year-old dental hygienist who was shot to death in 2013 by Secret Service and U.S. Capitol Police on U.S. Capitol grounds. Video recordings show that Miriam was making a U-turn at a White House security checkpoint and when she attempted to exit, an off-duty officer barricaded her car with portable fencing. Fearing for her life, she attempted to drive away but Capitol police opened fire, unleashing 26 rounds as her 13-month-old baby, Erica, was strapped in the backseat of the car.
When we #SayHerName and so many others, we draw attention to the vulnerability of Black women to the kind of racist double-standards that were on display this week. It is exceptionally outrageous that #SayHerName has been more prominent this week in expressions of outrage about the fact that a woman was killed in the assault on the Capitol rather than the utter injustice that Carey was killed because she was mistakenly perceived to be dangerous. We have often said that #SayHerName elevates the lost lives of Black women, and also the loss of that loss. The cooptation of #SayHerName this week presents a new and troubling low in the erasure of Black women killed by police.
We are at a critical juncture, once again, because America has allowed white grievances—embodied by a narcissistic authoritarian bent on retaining power—to embolden white supremacists, armed with guns, Confederate flags, and Nazi propaganda. Everyone is shocked, but we are not surprised. As our Executive Director, Kimberlé Crenshaw, stated in her recent piece in The New Republic, even after Donald Trump is evicted from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, he will still lead a multimillion-person political movement determined to protect and defend a white nation-state. Deeply aggrieved, self-righteous, and well-armed, a substantial percentage of these belligerents harbor a far greater commitment to whiteness than to American democracy. More chilling is the possibility that among Trump’s sympathizers were officers who facilitated this assault on the Capitol.
While we celebrate a victory in Georgia, and congratulate the thousands of organizers and voters who risked their lives to save our democracy, we must fight —not against division but white supremacy, not against patriotism but fascism, not against difference but dominance. Not only can we never make peace with Trumpism or abandon those most harmed by it, we cannot cast our attention away from the fact that America has two legacies. What we saw Wednesday was one of them.
As we attempt to make sense of this chaotic start to the new year it is imperative that we fight together to bind the monstrosity that fueled Wednesday’s debacle. Join us next Wednesday, January 13, at 8:00 p.m. ET (5:00 p.m. PT) for the 2021 premiere of our acclaimed Under the Blacklight series. Kimberlé Crenshaw will be joined by powerful panelists, to demystify how the events this week were an utterly predictable consequence of dynamics that were clearly legible through 2020.
The episode will feature veterans of our 2020 season who will revisit their most prescient observations from the past year. Carol Anderson, David Blight, Anoa Changa, and Joe Lowndes will join us to answer the burning question for all of us who hoped that the lessons of the past would somehow protect us in the future. Specifically, if hindsight is 2020, why are we still not saved? In this episode, we look back at a year defined by the twin pandemics of COVID-19 and white supremacy and see what insights we can take away as we gird ourselves for what is undoubtedly another challenging year. How should we understand both Tuesday’s history-making victories as well as Wednesday’s appalling events in light of our troubled history of racial oppression and struggle.
We hope you can join us.