What The Capitol Riot Says About America


Supporters of US President Donald Trump protest in the US Capitol Rotunda on January 6, 2021, in Washington, DC. – Demonstrators breeched security and entered the Capitol as Congress debated the a 2020 presidential election Electoral Vote Certification. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

“Come on now, we’re going to go build a mirror factory first and put out nothing but mirrors for the next year and take a long look in them,” states Ray Bradbury, in Fahrenheit 451. The literal and metaphorical self-reflection that Bradburry is describing here is something that America could greatly benefit from doing. A few days after the capitol riots, my family member called me to ask how I was doing. We then got to talking, and he told me about the many articles that he had read in which authors from The New York Times, and other influential news sites, made claims that America is “better than the riot,” that we are “above this.” I completely disagree with these claims. I believe America is just as bad as these riots reveal it to be.

Over the days that followed, I was having a very hard time accepting the truth that not only does our country’s democracy appear to be at its breaking point, but there are still many people, including writers whom I have greatly admired, who refuse to recognize that the existence of white supremacy, and white privilege within the foundation of our country, are to blame for the Capitol riot. After some reflection, I think we should all be able to realize that America is no better than the Capitol riot, and in fact, the riot is the epitome of some of the greatest flaws within our country, specifically, white supremacy and white privilege.
There are traces of these hateful ideologies within every single aspect of the riot. Before all else, why don’t we take a look at the participants in the riot? Among the rioters were members of the right-wing extremist group, The Proud Boys. This group has recently been making efforts to rebrand themselves as an explicitly white-supremacist group (www.sun-sentinel.com). They were joined by others who participated in the Unite The Right Rally. Similar to the Capitol riot, this rally ended in one death and many injuries. However, this rally was held in opposition to the state-imposed removal of a confederate statue, a monument that has connections to the South’s pro-slavery agenda during The Civil War. Joining them on the more recent event on Jan. 6 were many riot members waving confederate flags, which also represents the southern states’ will to preserve slavery in the late 1800s, and which still hold racist connotations today. Many also flew Betsy Ross’s thirteen-star flag which can also be seen as a racist sentiment since it is directly related to America’s slavery era, and it has been used as an attack towards Black Americans in the past (www.wsj.com).

Although many rioters came from different backgrounds, they all shared one thing in common: their unwavering support for President Trump. The entire riot was held in an attempt to “stop the steal,” a term created by right-wing supporters in reference to the fraudulent election propaganda President Trump spreads. In fact, many of the rioters were headed from a speech President Trump held in which he fed the crowd unfounded claims that the election was rigged, and even encouraged the crowd to “storm the capitol.” Aside from this being undemocratic, irrational, and outright insane, the crowd took his suggestion and ran with it, both literally and metaphorically. Our own president incited an act of terrorism against our country which his disciples blindly enacted. Yet, some still can say that we are above this?

In the past, Trump has been completely unwilling to acknowledge the systemic racism within America. He denies the many ways in which Americans benefit from structures of white supremacy, and that may very well be because he is among those who benefit from the injustices rife within America. He has refused to openly reprimand any racist behaviors, and he sometimes even commends them. He did this once when he referred to members of a Neo-Nazi group that’s headed by former Klu Klux Klan member, David Duke as “fine people”. He did this again on Jan. 6 when after two hours of encouragement from other government officials to speak up about the riot, he announced to the rioters saying, “go home, we love you”. Both of these displays of affection towards white-supremacists show that–even if to a very small degree–he supports these hateful ideologies. The mere fact that 74 million Americans voted for a president who both implicitly, and sometimes explicitly encourages racism, substantiates the notion that we are no better than the riot.

WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 06: Protesters gather outside the U.S. Capitol Building on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC. Pro-Trump protesters entered the U.S. Capitol building after mass demonstrations in the nation’s capital during a joint session Congress to ratify President-elect Joe Biden’s 306-232 Electoral College win over President Donald Trump. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images) (Tasos Katopodis)

Lastly, the behavior that the police and National Guard displayed at the riot was nothing short of despicable. For the past year, we have been hearing many defend police brutality during the Black Lives Matter riots. While the situations are incomparable due to their differences in nature, there were threats being posed at both events. Thus, you would expect the police to react similarly to combat these threats. However, this was not the case. Rioters at the capitol were carrying Blue Lives Matter flags. These flags directly correlate to the BLM movement, countering the movement’s main claim that Black lives matter, and instead of showing support for the police who are responsible for many of the killings of Black Americans. Yet, the rioters did not even see the hypocrisy in carrying these flags–which they claim are merely demonstrations of their support towards America’s police forces– as they attacked Capitol police officers while armed with tasers, guns, zip ties, and pitchforks (thehill.com). Yet the police responded to this savage behavior, for the most part, in a calm and composed way.

Many capitol police and members of the national guard were seen taking selfies with the rioters, escorting them out of the building, and even making friendly conversation with them. However, this begs the question, where was this same calm composure as police officers brutally beat Black Lives Matter protesters? Why wasn’t the SWAT team deployed to stabilize the situation at the Capitol as protesters violated a government building, as they were when they tased and bludgeoned young protesters at the BLM protests? Our president has too contributed to these prejudices by reprimanding the BLM protesters by calling them thugs and criminals but not doing the same for the same Capitol rioters. These stark differences between the authoritative responses to both events can be credited to racist motivations.

All in all, the Capitol Riot that took place on Jan. 6 is a major display of both white supremacy and white privilege. From the members to their leader, to the response the event got, there is no doubt in my mind that the entire event was motivated by the desire for inequity to continue to thrive within our country. And by saying that America is above this event is to ignore the very real threat of white supremacy, which caused the event. If we cannot get our priorities straightened out, and acknowledge the serious issues that are embedded in the foundation of our country, then more destruction and chaos is bound to occur. Not only could we all benefit from Bradbury’s advice to do some reflecting, but if we don’t look in the mirror and bury our qualms, our civilization may face the same destiny as the characters in his book, and we will perish in war and hatred.