As all of you, I am horrified by last week’s insurrection at the Capitol. The horror deepens each day as new videos and details emerge of violent and armed militias and neo-Nazis beating police officers with American flag poles, searching for and nearly finding members of Congress and the vice president. The horror deepens further as videos and details emerge of other police officers opening doors and beckoning rioters within the Capitol, of rumors and the possibility that some rioters were equipped – by whom? - with maps of the Capitol to find otherwise impossible-to-find rooms. Some rioters were seeking selfies for social media, others were deeply dangerous, there to destroy democracy. All were incited by the president and his enablers with a lie that overturning a fair election was possible, and most were driven by, at its core, an urgency to uphold white supremacy.
Efforts to uphold and advance white supremacy have been a defining feature of Trump’s presidency. Almost four years ago, when white supremacists marched in Charlottesville, Virginia, President Trump called them “very fine people” and wrongly attempted to equate marchers for civil rights and justice with those sowing hatred and violent extremism in our neighborhoods and communities. He has emboldened and empowered white supremacists throughout his administration, through staffing, speech and policies. All of it led to this shameful moment in our history where the stain and the danger of white supremacy – present from our country’s founding and throughout its history to the present - is fully revealed once again.
Just as we did nearly four years ago, all of us at NLIHC condemn white supremacists and neo-Nazis and the racism, anti-Semitism, anti-immigrant, homophobia, Islamophobia, and other forms of hate they spew. We condemn the rioters’ terrible acts at the Capitol. As I said after Charlottesville, “we can't be silent as the president creates cover for such hatred to fester and grow even more violent. We must speak out and act against intolerance and oppression. We must reject hateful rhetoric and act for inclusivity and solidarity.”
First and foremost, all those involved in these heinous acts must be held accountable – the rioters on Capitol Hill and all those that incited them to insurrection. This is a moment of reckoning. The event at the Capitol was not an isolated event. The photo of the white supremacist proudly carrying the confederate flag in the halls of the Capitol - the first time in that majestic building’s history - encapsulates the hate, lies, racism and violence that led to this moment and the risk of additional attempts if we don’t act with urgency to hold accountable all those responsible.
Still, we’ll be left with the hate. Dr. Martin Luther King said, “Darkness cannot drive out hate. Only light can do that.” Each of us can strive to be the light through the work of being anti-racist – as individuals, professionals, communities, and as a country.
As I said last summer, we have work to do to dismantle structures of power and culture upholding white supremacy and from which all white people benefit, willingly or not. Calls for change and justice are not enough. We must actively work to create it. It’s not enough to only be outraged when white supremacists violently storm the Capitol. White supremacist systems and culture, in all their daily, insidious forms, should outrage and lead us to action every day.
We have work to do, and the days, weeks and months ahead will be difficult. These are extraordinarily challenging times. But with a shared commitment to justice and action, we will get through these times together. If we get it right, we will be stronger and better from the struggles. A new day dawns on January 20. Until then, please stay healthy, safe, hopeful and determined.