January 14, 2020 — Interfering with American democracy, a violent mob of Trump supporters broke into the Capitol last week with the purpose of interrupting the confirmation of the certified election results declaring Joseph R. Biden the next President of the United States. What took place in Washington was not a protest to ensure people’s voices were heard by members of Congress, it was an insurrection, and it was incited by the current, sitting President of the United States who told his supporters to “show force” and “fight much harder.” The sparks for the violent actions that took place on January 6 began years ago. The birther movement and the claims that elections would be rigged were part of the 2016 presidential elections. During this presidential campaign, with every tweet and message about stolen elections, refusal by Republican leaders to recognize the outcome of a legitimate, record breaking election turnout, and every call made to white supremacists eager for violence. The signs have been there for a long time. This recent violence was also sparked by Members of Congress challenging the certified election results, a move that divided Republican leaders. Trump’s enablers attempting to walk back objections or their complicit silence are too late. The threat of fascism is already here.
This moment in time is testing a fragile democracy in the United States. To strengthen and thrive, the United States needs reflection and thoughtful action. It must address the harm and disenfranchisement of vulnerable communities, and in particular communities of color, including the economic and social inequality that have led so many people to wrongfully believe in authoritarian and messianic leaders. We must keep insisting on eradicating institutional racism from the United States’ security forces, which became evident with the double standard in terms of Police response to the Trump supporters’ violent assault on the Capitol versus their actions in recent racial justice protests. Gerrymandering, the electoral college, and voter suppression efforts threaten democracy and must be addressed. There must be accountability for the violent actions that took place; holding not only President Trump responsible for his actions but sending a strong message to future leaders and to everyone who resides in the United States of America.
Following the violent assault of the US Capitol, almost all Members of Congress said “this is not who we are.” However, we should remind them, and ourselves, that this is exactly who we are and this is exactly what the United States has supported in countless countries around the globe. Central American countries like Guatemala and El Salvador are clear examples of how the United States sponsored political and armed conflicts during the Cold War. U.S. intervention in these countries ultimately caused deep social instability, loss of human life, and an exodus of people in search of protection. In Honduras, the United States played a shameful role in the recent social and political crisis that followed the coup d’etat against Manuel Zelaya in 2009.
In the domestic arena, mob-like violence has been used against native peoples, Black, Latino and other ethnic/racial minority communities by white supremacist groups throughout US history. The case of Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921 is a case in point. A prosperous Black community was turned into ashes by white supremacist forces unwilling to accept the accomplishments of shared prosperity led by Black people. At least several dozen individuals, mostly Black, were killed during this act of violence.
At the same time, in the US there are people who come together and fight for justice, peace, equality and a more equitable way to share the wealth we all help to generate. We are both. Without recognition of the worst behaviors that are part of our history, we cannot begin a healing process towards real change. So yes, this is who we are as a nation that was based on white supremacy and patriarchy, but it is not who we have to be. Now more than ever, we need to invest in political education and organize our communities to challenge the narrative of hate, white supremacy, and polarization that will not magically end with a different administration.