While attending a Black Lives Matter protest days after George Floyd was killed, I saw the Orlando Police Department tear gas a group of peaceful protestors. I still remember the paralyzing fear of running from what I first thought was a gunshot and then the pain of watching daughters pour milk on their mothers’ burning eyes. The National Guard were gathered on the roof of the police department, with snipers pointed towards the unarmed protestors who were just met with chemical warfare. The initial passion that led me to attend the protests quickly felt minimal to the horror of what had actually happened that day. I left feeling defeated.
Fast forward to January 6, 2021, as I watched, white protestors violently breach the U.S. Capitol. I saw police officers taking selfies with these people, holding their hands as they walked down the stairs, and allowing them to rummage through and destroy federal property.
As I watched in horror, President Donald Trump released a video message on Twitter telling these insurrectionists they were very special and that he loved them. It was a direct contrast to his “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” tweet about last summer’s Minneapolis protests.
Many Americans were shocked that these right-wing protestors were not met with the same violence as Black Lives Matter activists, but why would they have been? America’s allegiance to white supremacy has always been stronger than its desire to protect its Black citizens.
I am never shocked to hear about the opposite realities that Black and white Americans experience. I have always known that Black folks are afraid of the police and that white folks don’t have to be. Police gunned down 12-year-old Tamir Rice for playing with a toy gun but remained peaceful while rioters, some fully armed, broke into the United States Capitol. I am all too familiar with the double standard that deems a Black child more dangerous than entire groups of white supremacists.
President-elect Joe Biden tweeted “America is so much better” than what we saw on Wednesday. But is it? Trump’s America may not be what the optimistic white liberals want us to be, but it is the America that Black Americans have always known. While I am relieved to see Trump leave the White House, I remain pessimistic that a country founded upon slavery and genocide can ever be safe for Black people, even with a Democratic president and majority ruled Congress.
The idea of a benevolent America is dishonest and gaslights the many citizens that have fallen victim to the violence that is embedded into the very fabric of this country. White supremacy has always been just as American as apple pie and baseball. The insurgents we saw at the Capitol were not a random group of people with aimless goals. They were organized militias that are propagandized into believing that people of color and the political left will be America’s downfall. While criminal charges and accountability against the insurrectionists would be nice, it would be purely symbolic and merely treat a symptom to a 244-year-old problem. It is time for America to reckon with its history that has transpired into an ugly present. And until that happens white supremacy will always be synonymous with America.