January 6th, 2021 Reiterates a Message Which Was Unsurprising to the Black Community: Our Black Community Is Treated Like Second-Class Citizens.
The public, the mainstream media, and key figures have called the events of January 6th, 2021 as a day that will not be forgotten, as a day that threatened our democracy, and as a day that was both surprising and shocking. But, this has been happening for the last four years at a minimum- let’s discuss how this surge of public concern is a clear indication that Black and BIPOC communities are viewed as second-class citizens.
Insurgency groups have consistently threatened nonviolent BLM protests with what they call “counter-protests,” where they blend in perfectly with the police force with their bulletproof vests and their automatic rifles and machine guns. Videos show these groups making jokes and sharing laughter with police forces, and both of these groups have been proven to time and time again harm our Black community and BIPOC communities with ruthless violence that have greatly involved inhumanity. The tear gas, military-grade rubber bullets, riot squads, military tanks, pointless arrests with costly bail, physical violence where heads and bodies are slammed and pinned into concrete ground- all of this was inflicted towards our Black community, Indigenous community, and BLM protestors. In all this, Washington leadership said little and did little, and showed little concern or outrage that this shook them to the core. But, as I watched the Senators’ speeches on the Capitol Hill domestic terrorism which occurred on January 6th, 2021, there was a clear indication that they were either shaken, wanting to save their public image by saying the right words, or regretful. Why was the response so different?
The answer is simple- the violence was being inflicted on a white-paint building made by our white “founding fathers,” thus psychologically associating this building as a sacred and historical landmark. While I am not denying that the building holds historical importance, that same sacredness and value is not seen when it comes to Black and BIPOC lives. They are treated as second-class citizens because there is an implicit bias in a majority of establishment leadership in Washington. They see these individuals as getting themselves into trouble and starting sh*t for no reason- yet, they fail to grasp the reality is that they have no other option to protect themselves and get society to care and equally value their lives. They cannot rely on our legal system, which has continued to not prosecute the police officers directly responsible, with ample evidence, for the extreme harm and death of Black lives. They cannot rely on peaceful protest, as insurgency groups and the police, which are synonymous (and yesterday’s showing makes enough point to prove that), will over-exaggerate their response in the name of “law and order” and “a threat to national security” (despite the fact that the DOD did nothing to prevent insurgency groups from doing the same things that the proponents of “law and order” and “protecting national security” deeply feared) and cause the arrest, harm, and even death of Black lives. They cannot rely on the government and society, who fail to close the gaps which they created decades ago, whether it is failing affirmative action referendums in California or denying fair housing and zoning laws that continue to harm Black people and families, and so much more. They cannot rely on the police when receiving death threats just for being Black by white supremacists because the police are key members of these insurgency groups. People claim that Black people are protesting when they have other options, but what are these other options? The methods above may be reliable for privileged citizens, but Black people are not seen as regular citizens in the eyes of these institutions and Washington leadership- they are treated as second-class citizens.
The other reason that Washington leadership was shaken was because it was physically close to them. Many of them have become extremely out-of-touch with their communities, and our poor electoral design probably never even demanded that they understand the community struggles in the first place, and Republican leadership in particular felt scared when it seemed like law enforcement was failing them. They finally got a small taste of what it feels like when the supposed protectors are not protecting you at their own will, and when you have to be prepared to protect yourself despite it being almost impossible to do so against a mob of police and insurgency groups who have weapons against you, who is defenseless. That is why we saw such a reaction yesterday- and that’s why the Black community did not even bat an eye. This was nothing compared to what they experience on the daily.
White-paint buildings made by white people have greater value than Black lives: that’s all January 6th reaffirms. There is no surprise for the Black community- they have been dealing with this, and as someone who is not part of the Black community, I am likely not even capturing half of their daily battles and burdens which they experience, from microaggressions to ancestral and generational trauma. So, when you ask “what’s the big deal about BLM” or “why are they always protesting,” this is why.
Alisha Saxena is a senior at the University of California, San Diego majoring in Political Science-Public Law and minoring in African American Studies. She currently conducts research with RepresentWomen to advocate for ranked-choice voting and for increased women’s representation by means of alternative electoral systems. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.