I've heard a lot of folks compare the heinous acts that took place in the U.S. Capitol last Wednesday to the demonstrations of the Black Lives Matter movement. Scrolling through my social media feeds and speaking to my friends and family, the number one thing I've heard is, "If they'd have been Black storming the Capitol ... " The consensus is that if those who stormed the U.S. Capitol in the name of a "revolution" were Black, or any other color than white, for that matter, the breach would not have been successful — and the situation would have ended very differently.
This assertion didn't sit well with me at all. And that's simply because social activism and acts of terrorism are not the same, period. Black people wouldn't have stormed the Capitol building — and trashed it — because the fight of the BLM movement is centered around justice, not spite or pettiness. (And our mommas taught us better than that.)
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- Black Lives Matter protest
Before coming to the Memphis Flyer in December, I spent 10 years calling Washington, D.C., my home. I watched as my precious city was torn apart after the murder of George Floyd. I've seen the city's culture be gentrified into a shadow of itself. It was devastating to walk around Farragut Park or 14th Street and see businesses boarded up for months. But what happened Wednesday in Washington, I could have never fathomed.
What you must understand is that D.C. is a city that's accustomed to spirited, even angry, protests. But the comparison of BLM to the display of white supremacy last week — Nazi and Confederate flags everywhere — is just disrespectful. The fight for justice is a long, arduous journey that involves tact and patience and courage. None of that was on display last week.
If you want to compare storming the Capitol to anything, compare it to when white Americans beat and brutalized Black people for registering to vote. Or when they bombed buses and churches for the sole purpose of maintaining Jim Crow. You can even compare it to when Southern states seceded from the Union to preserve whites' right to own slaves.
President Trump has cultivated and encouraged a breeding ground for white supremacy for years, and to compare this recent chaotic and pointless invasion of the Capitol to protests against a man getting murdered by cops on tape is ridiculous. We watched George Floyd call out for his mother as he lost his life. The price he paid, along with so many others, is worth protesting. Parading Confederate flags and Nazi paraphernalia into the nation's Capitol to support a president trying to overturn the will of the people is not comparable.
I acknowledge, as my friends say, that Black people wouldn't have made it up the Capitol steps without guns being drawn on them, at the least. But this is different. Our history has taught African Americans not to test the bounds of the police unless we are ready to die.
Having been born and raised in Memphis, I've witnessed the inherent distrust of whites by my elders. I've seen people afraid to look white people in the eye. I know the stories of how Black men can feel like they are an endangered species. This is not what our forefathers envisioned for our nation. Democrats were very disappointed when Trump took office in 2016. They wept and cried out in rage, yet they accepted the election results, participated in an orderly transition of power, and then responded politically.
Now we are watching our democracy unravel. The only way to mitigate this is to do something about it, immediately. Yes, we want the government to prosecute the rioters to the fullest extent of the law, but the power is with the people. It always has been. It's time for us to take back our country. (I'm talking to you Midtowners with BLM signs in your front yard.) Enough of well-meaning intentions. It's time to speak up when you hear the disgraceful things that we Black people know are being said behind our backs — no matter where you hear it. If you care at all, start small. Advocate for the people who are marginalized time and time again in your presence.
Because none of this is simply a matter of party loyalty or politics as usual. Trump supporters trying to overthrow a free and fair election by trashing the Capitol is not the same as protesting injustice against Black people. One of these things is traitorous. One is not.
Christen Hill is a Flyer staff writer.