On Race, Police, and the US Capitol Riots

The coverage, the treatment, the conversation is firmly ensconced in the structures of white supremacist delusion. This is how America treats its Americans. Americans are white. The rest of us are disposable collateral to the project of white supremacist delusion.

– Sonya Renne Taylor, on the storming of the capitol by Trump-supporting insurrectionists

Race, Police, and the Capitol Riots

The Story

The story of how Trump-supporting insurrectionists successfully breached the capitol building last week is still unfolding. But the role that race played on January 6th is relatively clear. Author Alex Vitale, among many others, points out that the mostly peaceful Black Lives Matter protests of the past few years were met with a high level of police violence and restrictions. Many are comparing that to the lack of police force and their decidedly less severe response on Wednesday, when a mob of mostly white men stormed the capitol, brandishing weapons.

Our Take

We don’t have all the details to explain why there wasn’t more security on Wednesday. But we do know that:

  • As newly elected Congressperson Cori Bush stated, “Had it been people who look like me…had they been black and brown, we wouldn’t have made it up those steps.”
  • The insurrectionists were “emboldened by their racial status,” as Vitale puts it, feeling they had a right to do what they did and that they wouldn’t face consequences.
  • Bias very likely played a role in decision-making by the police. Vitale writes, “One of the things we know from extensive research is that these threat assessments are colored by police world views, which means that threats from the left and threats from racial minorities are always exaggerated, and threats from the right and from white nationalist groups are always diminished.”

How It Affects You

Vitale asks white people to use this moment to critically reflect on the role policing plays in furthering racial inequality, and to consider alternatives to policing. He says that white people need to show courage and willingness to live with the little bit of disorder and discomfort that comes with “producing a more just and ultimately more stable society.”

Helping Youth Make Sense of Chaos

The Story

The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) has issued a statement urging educators and caregivers to help youth process the storming of the United States Capitol. NASP argues that educators should help youth understand these events “in ways that are both truthful and focused on their personal safety, security, honest reflection, and a belief that positive change is possible.”

young student studying on laptop

Our Take

By engaging youth in discussions about racism and privilege, educators can help students understand the “history and current realities of racism in this country.” Avoiding these conversations is no longer an option, as youth turn to educators to make sense of chaos. Educators can help youth shift the conversation from silence and complacency to positive social change.

How It Affects You

Here are some ways educators can help youth understand the storming of the U.S. Capitol.

  1. Provide students with opportunities for sharing their feelings and concerns regarding the news.
  2. Discuss the history of racism and its current impact in this country.
  3. Model anti-racist behavior, such as acknowledging bias and privilege, and calling out racism.

A Historical Take on the Capitol Riots

The Story

Author Adrienne Marie Brown reflects on a response to the capitol riots that she keeps seeing pop up—the notion that “This isn’t American.” She gives us a historical lens to see that the riots are only the latest in a long legacy of white supremacist violence in this country. brown writes that much like the confederacy, “Thousands of unmasked people showed up ready to fight and die rather than quarantine, rather than relinquish supremacy, and rather than participate in a multiracial society.”

Our Take

We think brown’s comparison is apt; and in particular her characterization of the white supremacist riot as a mutation of the ideas held by the confederacy. She explains that while emancipation was true on paper, racist systems and ideas were not abolished. Rather, they morphed into the prison-industrial complex and Jim Crow. Jim Crow then morphed into modern-day racist policies and microaggressions. The insurrection of January 6, 2021 is another instance of racism that will end only “when it is no longer controversial to assert that Black lives matter.”

Black lives matter sign held up at protest

How It Affects You

brown emphasizes that we all need time to process and grieve the events unfolding before us. As a facilitator, she knows that difficult topics left unaddressed will only fester, and eventually undermine the whole endeavor. She asks us all to look to grassroots organizations, stay safe, and “center in revolutionary love.”

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Categories
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antiracist
black lives matter
police bias
racial bias
US capitol riots
white supremacy

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