We can concede that it was a shock to many, if not most, White folks to see “their own” dressed in Hollywood Viking and Visigoth headdress, howling hate, attacking police and property, calling out kill lists for various future victims, as they rampaged seditiously and sanctimoniously through the Capitol attempting a coup. But they should not have been surprised, even if shocked, about how this time they found themselves and some of us and others, needing to shelter in place and hide under desks and tables to escape harm and possible death in one of America’s most sacred and secured places of government, the U.S. Capitol Building.
Indeed, it was not new or surprising to us, for we have experienced and continue to experience violence against us and violations of our sacred places, i.e., homes, churches, mosques, schools, etc. It has come down through the centuries as official and vigilante racist terrorism, as public policy and socially sanctioned practice, as vigilante violence and police abuse, and killing under the camouflage and color of law. Our reaction then, was not so much shock, but apprehension of how far this wild wild west show would go or be allowed to go on this insurrectionist and racist road.
Still, it is important for us to ask and seek to answer how this societal-shaking, world-noted mob assault on the American seat of power and its claim to exceptional specialness came to be. As Min. Malcolm, excellent teacher of the hard lessons of history suggests, it was a clear case of the Trumpian chickens coming home to roost.
Speaking of what he called “a law of nature” and natural justice, he said that the violence White American society imposed on us and the world would eventually come back to haunt and harm them. Indeed, he said, “the chickens this country is responsible for sending out, someday and someday soon have got to come back to roost.” And again, “if you send chickens out . . . in the morning, at nightfall those chickens will come home to roost.” Continuing, he said, by this he meant that the violence that came to perpetrators “was a result of seeds they had sown, that this was the harvest.” So, the Trumpian chickens had come home to roost and rage. The roosters and hens crowed and cackled chants about having their day. It was, they said, their house and they were bound and determined to do with it what they wanted with it. So, they pillaged and plundered, broke down doors, smashed windows and took trophies. They imagined they came committed to save America from its politically corrupt and racially compromised self and to restore a democracy of White domination.
They had come embracing the QAnon mythology of Trump Triumphant, the White knight sword or gun in hand, capturing and executing his opponents and the weak ones among them who dared believe otherwise. The had weapons, a noose and zip ties as tools of their trade. They were hyped up and high on the addictive asininity of Trump’s tweets and twitter and were reenergized by his call to arms, to not show weakness, but be strong, interrupt the democratic election process and impose themselves. They saw themselves as heralds, heroes and heroines of a mythical coming storm in which the light of White domination would overcome the darkness of political transformation and the racial and cultural mongrelization of an imaginary White America.
Secondly, we should recognize that it is important to move beyond self-deluding disclaimers of that’s not who we are if you mean that’s not what American society is and has been like for centuries, indeed, since its inception. We don’t need here to go into horrid details about the violence and violation that imposes, accompanies and perpetuates White racist domination. The Trumpian mob became a necessary mirror and self-measure of American society without the self-congratulatory and self-blinding cant which only convinces the most gullible and self-deluding.
Moreover, there is ample evidence that society and its leaders have been complicit in the development of this historical moment, not simply in the insurrectionist assault of the Trumpian mob, but also of its cult leader who told them he loved them and that they were “very special.” He remembered them from his rallies and from Charlottesville where he called them equally good people in comparison to those who were demonstrating for justice.
Also, it is no secret and certainly no surprise that this seditious assault on the Capitol reaffirmed the sinister selective enforcement and double standard applied against Black people. And it is important to recognize and reaffirm that it was not simply a current summer experience of Black Lives Matter demonstrators, but is also an ongoing historical pattern of police practice against Black people in general in their peaceful protests against injustice in its various racist forms. Also, it is important to remember that such selective enforcement is not only against peaceful demonstrators, but also against Black people everywhere, in their communities and homes, in the streets and on college campuses, at parks and playgrounds, in a word, wherever they encounter and decide to brutalize or kill us.
Finally, whatever else underlies and prompted the White racist rage and insurrectionist rioting by the Trumpian mob, Black political victory and expressed political power are at the core of it all. It is the underlying and immediate cause for the intensity of the rage, the extensive measure of the madness and anger, and the unabashed and clearly expressed will to destroy, disrupt, disable and kill. The attack on the Capitol was not only to disrupt the democratic electoral process, but also a racist and desperate response to the historical turn of events, especially, Black political self-assertion and victory at the polls. Moreover, it is a historical response to what this political self-assertion and victories mean. A review of the elections, especially the Presidential and Vice-Presidential election and the senatorial election in Georgia, and their impact, reveals what finally drove the mob mad and sent it on its racist rampage in the Capitol.
First, it is Black people, against all odds and obstacles, that determined the candidate, Joe Biden, and elected him President and thus were decisive in defeating Trump, ending in reality his and his mob’s fantasy of four more years. It is Black people who demanded and elected Vice-President Kamala Harris, a Black woman, the first Black woman and Asian woman, to assume this position. It was also Black people who were decisive in electing Rev. Raphael Warnock, the first Black senator from Georgia and Jon Ossoff, the first Jewish senator from that state. And it is Black people who were decisive in turning the state of Georgia purple, if not blue. Indeed, Sen. Warnock greeted and thanked his constituency saying, “Welcome to the new Georgia. Welcome to the blue Georgia.” Thus, it is Black people in their decisive role in this election who were key in retaking the Senate for the Democrats. This also means Black people were decisively instrumental in driving madman Mitch McConnel from Senate leadership. And finally, it is Black people who were key to creating political space for Biden, Harris and the Democrats to advocate, advance and implement a new, inclusive and progressive agenda for the people and the country.
But regardless of the key and decisive role we’ve played in creating space for new policies and new political practice, we must know the struggle is not fully won. And we must also know that all that we’ve won, gained or achieved could be lost unless we continue and intensify our righteous and relentless struggle. This means remembering and reaffirming in practice our critical role as a moral and social vanguard in this country. It also means insisting on recognition and respect for what we’ve done and achieved in and for this country, consistently saving it from its morally monstrous self and challenging it to go beyond its founding narrow and racist notions of a just and good society. And finally, it means radically reimagining a whole new way of achieving African and human good and the well-being of the world and daring to struggle resolutely and relentlessly to bring it into being.
Dr. Maulana Karenga, Professor and Chair of Africana Studies, California State University-Long Beach; Executive Director, African American Cultural Center (Us); Creator of Kwanzaa; and author of Kwanzaa: A Celebration of Family, Community and Culture and Essays on Struggle: Position and Analysis, www.OfficialKwanzaaWebsite.org; www.MaulanaKarenga.org, www.AfricanAmericanCulturalCenter-LA.org; www.Us-Organization.org.