Proud Boys -- descended on DC to instigate violence and protest the election. Photo credit: Geoff Livingston

Yes America, this is EXACTLY who you are | Think Piece

3 mins read

From lynch mobs to a Capitol mob invasion. Black America and Black protestors shake their heads at the reports of  “shock” around mostly while domestic terrorists in the recent insurrection.

On January 6, 2021, hundreds of angry whites convinced that the November Presidential election was “fraudulent” and “stolen” from them by “Communists” as they perceive the Democratic Party, mobbed into  U.S. Capitol. During and after the invasion, politicians and news commentators rushed to  news media, ensuring everyone here and abroad that what happened was unusual for this country.

“This is NOT who we are,” they intoned. They characterized the incident as an aberration in “our”  otherwise peaceful and idyllic democracy.

Many of us who are Black watched the invasion videos and shook our heads.  On Black Twitter, Facebook and other social media, it was noted that if the mob had been comprised of Black people, the Capitol Police would have arrested them, handcuffed them, beaten them, or shot them dead.

Instead, the invaders were treated almost gently by the police, compared to Black Lives Matter demonstrators last summer, who were tear gassed and arrested while protesting the killings by white police of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others.  Following the U.S. Capitol invasion, only 60. Sixty. Out of the hundreds who broke windows in the building, sat in Senators’ private offices, stole items as keepsakes, and in one instance, chased a Black Capitol Police officer up flights of stairs. He evaded them, but he could have lost his life. Five people were killed in the chaos.

Yes America, this is who you are.

| Read: Legacy Museum and Memorial explores racial terror through interactive art

When Americans say the events of this week are unprecedented, their selective memory is skipping over the way people of color, notably Black people, are historically treated in this country.  Another glaring example of white mob violence: Lynching.

In the deep Southern states after the Civil War through the 1960s, Black people were lynched by white people for various reasons, both real and invented. Most lynching victims were accused of murder or rape. Most lynchings for rape involved white women falsely accusing Black men of sexual assault.

 Lynching was also punishment for failure to observe segregation laws, like being in a “whites only” establishment.

The overriding reason for lynchings was to keep Black people in their “place,” to frighten them against even thinking about obtaining higher education, well-appointed homes, businesses, or registering to vote – anything where they could become equal to whites.  Lynchings  were meant to enforce white supremacy through terror.

There were some lynchings which took place outside of the deep Southern states. In the Midwest, white mobs attacked Black people who had fled the South for a hoped-for better life without racist brutality and segregation.

Lynchings constituted social events for whites. They were part of community picnics;  lynchings were the “entertainment.” Onlookers watched as Black men, and sometimes Black women, were shot then hanged, hanged then ripped open with a knife, hanged then burned to a crisp over an open fire on a spit.  The victims were photographed. There were children in the mobs, watching.  Some observers cut off toes, ears, fingers, and other appendages from the lynching victims’ bodies for “souvenirs.”

Yes America, this is who you are.

. . . .
Armed National Guards and African American men standing on a sidewalk during the race riots in Chicago, Illinois, 1919. Jun Fujita/Courtesy of the Chicago History Museum

There was the 1919 “Red Summer”.  Whites rioted, torching Black people’s homes and businesses, and burning alive Black men, women, and children.

Yes America, this is who you are.

And now, in the 21st Century, white police are shooting and killing unarmed Black people in figures higher than their percentage of the U.S. population. Those shootings often involve more than one policeman. Shouldn’t that be considered “mob violence”?

Yes America, this is who you are.

Democracy hasn’t meant much to Black people who were barred from participating in it. Black people fought for everything that was supposed to be theirs by right as Americans. The way the U.S. Capitol mob was treated by the Capitol police – the invaders could simply go home – underscores the continuing racial inequality, still maintained  by white mob violence.

Yes America, this is EXACTLY who you are!

Margaret Summers has worked as a print and radio news reporter and a media relations professional. She lives in Washington, D.C.

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