As Washington braces for the possibility of greater political violence at the “Justice for J6” rally on Saturday, the black community and its true allies across America await another specter of white privilege: the differential perception of threat and responsibility for violence by white men.
What happened on January 6 happened despite widely available indicators that the laws would be broken (including warnings from the Capitol Police’s own intelligence unit, the Secret Service, the National Fusion Center. Association and others). This reality was just as influential mentally, and probably more so, than the actions of the insurgents.
In a country where Black Lives Matter remains a controversial and politically charged statement, expectations of equal protection under, by, or the law have always been tempered for conscious blacks. This position is unfortunately confirmed time and again, both by knowledge held within communities and by statistics showing that black youth and black adults are both overrepresented and treated harshest by the justice system, ranging from higher rates of criminal prosecution at a seven times higher conviction rate, 20% longer sentences and fewer opportunities for pre-trial diversion programs. Black youth also make up 47 percent of all juveniles tried in adulthood, although blacks make up only 14 percent of the country’s youth population.
On January 6, the United States Capitol was also unprotected, at least from the men and women who tried to disrupt a free and fair election. For many of us who watched the events of that horrible day and their aftermath, the guys with Confederate flags and homemade gallows were certainly alarming. But arguably more frightening were the systemic failures – or, in some cases, allowances – that allowed these attackers to carry out their plan in plain sight.
The unprepared Capitol Police were quickly overpowered for the world to see. The criminal proceedings that followed were too slow and too lukewarm. Meanwhile, the rationalizations, justifications and silence from so-called leaders like parliamentary minority leader Kevin McCarthy and other GOP members – and even some Democrats – pose the greatest threat to life and freedom. .
The lack of accountability not only for the insurgents but also for their instigators after the January 6 insurgency is not just unfair, it is dangerous. And safety is a fundamental part of mental health. Too often, mental health clinicians pathologize black feelings of disappointment, fear, uncertainty, and anger, mistakenly labeling them as symptoms such as irrational thinking, paranoia, anxiety, or cognitive distortions. In fact, these emotions should be seen as justifiable responses to lived experiences of intergenerational structural violence.
Viral videos of police killings have recently begun to permeate national consciousness, but countless, often undocumented, manifestations of structural violence that shapes – and takes – black lives have loomed large on the black psyche for generations. Over the past year, there have been numerous examples of police and other law enforcement professionals crossing the line with Black Lives Matter protesters and supporters. Such inherent antipathy seemed to be a hallmark of many BLM marches. During this time, we saw police pull back and allow far-right activists to enter the United States Capitol. As we heard during emotional testimony in Congress, many police officers were fighting for what looked like their lives on January 6. But we can only imagine what that fight would have looked like – or if it had happened – if the rioters had been black.
This year, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared racism a “public health crisis.” National terrorists, especially those motivated by racial hatred, have put the Justice Department on high alert. Meanwhile, hate crimes have peaked in 12 years.
We are stressed – by racism, by structural violence, by the differential impact of the pandemic on our communities and by returning face-to-face to racist workplaces with empty, performative DCI (diversity, equity) ‘efforts’. and inclusion). This context is fertile ground for despair and marginalization. And it shows. That same year, the number of suicides in the black community increased at an alarming rate.
Thus, we will follow this rally, its speakers and the actions of its participants.
But in the end, we will not be satisfied with just observing the words and actions of the rally participants and facilitators, who have already made clear their devaluation of both black life and the democratic and legal processes of our country. country. Equally important is the silence and tacit complicity of our elected leaders – and our self-proclaimed allies.