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Why the January 6 Hearings Matter to Black America

Why the January 6 Hearings Matter to Black America

On January 6, 2021, we witnessed an unprecedented attack on the U.S. Capitol, which was the conclusion of then-President Donald Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election. In short, Trump told lies about it instead of conceding to Joe Biden.

The U.S. House Committee has been tasked with investigating the attack including never before seen video, new audio, testimonies, and new evidence that reveals what we already know to be true — how destructive and deadly the mob took over the Capitol had become.

The first hearing, on June 9, 2022, opened with eyewitness testimony from the first police officer who was attacked during the riot, as well as actual footage from a filmmaker who recorded most of the incident.

As Black Americans, it’s difficult not to label this as a white people’s problem. But there are reasons why these hearings are important for Black America to bear witness to.

Let’s be clear — this is yet another fight against racism and hate. The people who stormed the Capitol on January 6 were racists, in the name of Donald Trump. U.S. Capitol police officers have testified that racism and bigotry were the main ingredients stirring on that day.

“One woman in a pink ‘MAGA’ [Make America Great Again] shirt yelled, ‘You hear that guys, this n——— voted for Joe Biden!’” Dunn told lawmakers during testimony. “Then the crowd, perhaps around 20 people, joined in, screaming ‘Boo! F——— n—— !’” said Dunn. It was the first time he had been called the n-word while in uniform.

I remember turning on the television on January 6 and seeing white people unhinged because Joe Biden had won the election. My first thought was, how are they getting away with this? Then, it hit me. White privilege.

Black people are not remiss in wondering what would have happened had that been us on the steps of the Capitol that day. The conclusion would have been catastrophic. There would have more armed police officers, and Trump probably would have called in the National Guard, just like he did when people gathered peacefully outside the White House in June 2020 to protest the murder of George Floyd. Every Black protestor would have been gunned down.

One man managed to make it to Nancy Pelosi’s office, sit in her chair, and had time to leave her a handwritten note. On January 6, one insurrectionist was shot and killed. There would have been hundreds more had they been Black.

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I believe this incident could be a useful case study to teach in schools about the mixed nature of white privilege. Black people cannot take over federal buildings, march through them with weapons, and destroy property without any consequence. The rioters that day exposed America’s racialized double standard with law enforcement.

When matters affect the country, they affect Black people as well. We are a part of this country.  When America is under attack, so are we. Therefore, we have to participate in what’s going on and understand how it affects our future. Yes, there is a lot to take in and understand. You may be asking yourself, “Do these hearings even matter?”

One of the most dangerous things Black America can do is ignore what’s happening and think it doesn’t pertain to us. It’s not clear if voting restrictions or changes to election administration will really change. But I do believe the hearings have the potential to move the needle on Trump’s lack of accountability and how it is going to shape elections. Believe it or not, most Americans feel that our democracy is a mess. Holding Trump accountable for his actions (and non-action) that day may seem far-fetched. However, these hearings can go a long way in cleaning up the mess.

This should not be complicated. But we live in the United States of America. We have seen, time and time again, how things should play out, and then they take a turn for the worse. The goal of these hearings is not to just tell the story of what happened, but to allow us to see how unstable our democracy has become. Historically, the powers that be have used their power to rewrite history and retell stories to fit their own agenda. We can’t detach from what happened on January 6, because that’s giving them exactly what they want.

The hearing this week was Monday, July 12. It focused on the rioters and mob who stormed the Capitol, and far-right groups such as the Proud Boys and the “efforts to assemble” them, such as providing financing.

Democracy is directly tied to our freedoms, Black America’s especially. Domestic extremists and far-right militias have very different ideas about what this country should be, and they don’t mind using violence to make it happen.

It’s time for a different story to be told.

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