When I spoke out in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement in Times Square this past summer, I was told that raising my fist in solidarity wasn’t “becoming” of me. I was told that I must be anti-Indian for standing up for black lives. Heck, I’m still getting spam emails from people of generations before me questioning whether I have ever spoken up for the rights of my “own” people. People accused me of being “part of riots” and supportive of violence. They asked me if I had forgotten where I had come from. If any of these folks got up from hiding behind their computer screens complaining without doing any self-introspection, or if they did any digging on my organizing work, they would have seen just how much I care about my people. If they led with compassion, they would understand that it is actually possible to care for your people, but also care for others who have been oppressed, arguably far more and for far longer. If they attended any of the protests, they would have realized just how peaceful they were, and also how large of a police presence authorities felt was needed to crowd control.
Fast forward to January 6, 2020, which pundits have called one of the darkest days in modern American history. As I was amidst completing a work assignment, my mom called to tell me to turn on the television. When I turned on the screen and saw a reporter with tears in her eyes speaking directly to the camera from in front of the Capitol, one of the most majestic buildings in America in my perspective, tears started to well in my own eyes. I saw white supremacists and bigots emboldened by a President who cowardly jeered them on from a distance in a tent with partying supporters. I saw smoke emanating from the corridors. Windows being smashed. White people who through social media organized a terrorist mob mislabeled as a protest. I saw them sneering. I saw them defacing. I saw them violating. And no one pushed back.
I thought to myself, what would have happened if these people were Black? What if they were Indo-Caribbean? What if they were Muslim? Sure as hell, police would have been there in droves, they would have been armed, and they probably would have used their weapons. Sure as hell, the incident would immediately have been deemed a terrorist attack. There were just 13 arrests made. Yet, at protests for George Floyd, there were over 14,000. On Wednesday, law enforcement stepped back and basically let rioters have at it in one of our country’s most sacred political buildings. Members of Congress and their staff had to duck under their chairs. NYC’s own Congresswoman Grace Meng had to create a makeshift bunker and remain there for 5 hours.
Trump was nowhere to be found. After some time had passed, President-Elect Biden indicated in an even-tempered yet firm televised message to the American people that words could either “inspire” or they could “incite.” He called on Trump to immediately issue a statement.
Despite pleas from officials, including members of his own party, to speak out in person and call on the anarchists to cease their occupation of Capitol Hill, Trump delivered an unemotional pre-recorded message to the anarchists quite literally celebrating them. “We Love You! You’re special!,” he said.
While President-Elect Biden had to choose his words carefully so as not to incense the ignorant crowd building at the Capitol, I couldn’t help but feel he didn’t go far enough to tell it like it is. He said “the scenes of chaos at the Capitol do not represent who we are. What we are seeing is a small number of extremists dedicated to lawlessness.” The truth of the matter is, what we saw at the Capitol on Wednesday is America’s unfortunate reality, a reality awakened by the most demagogic President we will ever see. Make no mistake. America is broken. Racism and white supremacy has long been a part of the history of the United States and this played out before our eyes in the most surreal way after a year that literally sucked the life out of our country.
The truth is, we have a glorified idea of America. We want so desperately to believe that we live in a land of opportunity and equity for all. But January 6 showed us that there is a difference between our notion of America and the real America. Every living president of America spoke out condemning the anarchy on Wednesday. “History will rightly remember today’s violence at the Capitol, incited by a sitting president who has continued to baselessly lie about the outcome of a lawful election, as a moment of great dishonor and shame for our nation. But we’d be kidding ourselves if we treated it as a total surprise,” President Obama said.
Yet, there remains hope. Almost simultaneous to the anarchy was the huge announcement that Democrats were taking back the Senate, paving the way for a presidency that hopefully won’t experience the kind of gridlock it did under Obama. Congress immediately went back to business after the anarchists were cleared out, and it was obvious to see that Trump no longer enjoyed ongoing support from many of his Republican peers. Since Wednesday, many Trump supporters and officials have expressly repudiated him and/or resigned. They know better than to continue to endorse a president who will be painted in history books as a blemish to our national history and a laughing stock among world leaders. For those of you who voted for Trump and supported a man who has clearly encouraged bigoted behavior time and again, I hope you take a hard look at reality, as opposed to the size of your bank account. Was it worth it?
In this broken country, perhaps everything had to get that much worse for it to get better. Perhaps a boiling point was needed for us to heal this nation. Time will only tell. In the year 2021, I ask all my readers for one thing: please lead with love.
The views expressed in these articles are solely those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the THE WEST INDIAN.