Protesting is not an American freedom, it’s a white one


Earlier today thousands of President Donald Trump’s supporters encroached upon the U.S. Capitol building in coherence with what has been their clear rhetoric and mission to invalidate the democratic electoral process and to lobby for Trump to be reinstated as president come inauguration day.

Now, if you’re anything like me, maybe your mind is going to the same place mine did. Weren’t Trump supporters among the most prominent to denounce the Black Lives Matter movement entirely because of individual instances of violence and rioting? Yes, they were. And aren’t these same people now attempting to achieve what they think is their fundamental freedom through means of violence and rioting? Also, yes. Though, there are quite a few distinguishable differences between the so-called protests you are seeing outside the Capitol and the ones that took place over the course of the summer.

First and foremost, the Black Lives Matter movement never functioned as violent or encouraged people to be. Any instances of violence were a product of human autonomy. People engaged in violence by product of their own decision making, of their individual prerogative. The Black Lives Matter movement itself never incited violent reactions.

In a statement provided by Executive Director Amika Tendaji of Black Lives Matter Chicago, Tendaji told the Chicago Tribune that “organizationally, we certainly don’t have anything to do with–– or condone–– illegal activity that, you know, really frightens and, quite frankly, pisses off a lot of Black folks.” Despite the organization’s initiatives being labeled as a symbol of hate by Trump and earning similar adjectives from many of his supporters and colleagues, the function of the Black Lives Matter movement is to further the equality of Black Americans through peaceful actions.

The same, however, cannot be said of Trump and those who support him. The president himself has many times emboldened his supporters to take to the street and protest what policies and rulings do not coincide with his and their agenda. This has been true for how the president has handled the election results, following his loss in trying to secure a second term in office. In a recent tweet from Jan. 5, President Trump stated that senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue would aid his administration to “fight the Electoral College Certification of Biden,” as the numbers have been “proven to be wrong and, in many cases, fraudulent.” This has been the president’s repeated rhetoric ever since his defeat for re-election. The Trump Administration has filed several lawsuits against states calling for recount after recount and has overloaded its platforms with false and dangerous propaganda about voter fraud, encouraging its supporters to defend and save America.

Now, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. These absurd tweets from the president and posts disguised as patriotic calls to action displayed on his social media pages are things that unfortunately don’t strike many of us as revolutionary anymore. We’ve seen this kind of stuff before from Trump, but now he and his supporters are acting well within the guidelines of fascism. They reject honest democracy, instead promoting a bigoted and extremist version of nationalism. They perceive rebelling against any action or person that does not fit with their political agenda as one of their fundamental freedoms as an American.

What was most upsetting to many about this violation of the Capitol, though, was the lack of force it was met with. Pictures were captured of many climbing the wall of the building, past security, in an attempt to enter it after it had been put on lockdown. Others were armed with guns and were instigating police from outside. Despite all of this, officers in uniform allowed the insurrectionists to continue to incite baseless chaos for hours without resistance.

Though women and POC made up part of the crowd protesting, the majority of those decked out in MAGA gear and with signs were white men, causing some of the millions at home, hovered around their phones and TVs, to point out the disparities in how white male insurrectionists are met with law enforcement vs. how POC are.

“When Black folks are protesting and progressives are protesting peacefully, they were tear-gassed, they were arrested, they were shot with rubber bullets. They were shot with real bullets,” uttered president of the national NAACP Derrick Johnson. Representative Marcia Fudge from Ohio added, “There is a double standard.” Twitter user Brett Hartl said amongst many others, “If you ever wondered what white privilege is, this is it in a nutshell.”

The events that have transpired as of today, Jan. 6, 2021, have affirmed many of the things most of us have known to be true of the president and his supporters, but what has been a devastating truth to swallow is that protesting is not an American freedom –– it’s a white one. 

When Black Americans took to the streets peacefully to protest for the validity of their own humanity, as human beings deserving of love and of a future, they were met with violence, with tear gas, with handcuffs, with sheer human indecency, and with the very real possibility that they could be killed at any given moment by the hands men and women whose job it was to protect them. When white men break into the Capitol building, intimidate police officers, incite violence and fear, shout for the results of a fair and free election to be overturned, and hold high in their hands a Confederate flag, they are dismissed by police. They are free to terrorize the city, to minimize and to degrade all that this country is supposed to stand for in the name of democracy.

When people march to be treated equally, they are called domestic terrorists and extreme radicals – but insurrectionists in pursuit of a fascist America are protesters; they are human beings, and patriotic ones, too. And so, I reiterate my point. Protesting is not a right guaranteed to all Americans, because if you’re Black and you’re protesting you are anti-American. If you’re Black and you’re protesting, you should leave the country because you dislike it so much. If you’re Black and you’re protesting, you’re not protesting at all, you’re rioting, you’re looting, you’re disrespecting a country that has done everything for you, and you’re engaging in acts of domestic terrorism. That’s the precedent that Trump has set. It’s disheartening, disgusting, and outright illogical, but we cannot allow ourselves to fall into a position of complacency here. Though the pursuit of justice has never come easily, days like Jan. 6 will only repeat themselves if we give up on it. It is imperative that upon the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, that our nation begins to restore these American freedoms of democracy, of liberty, and of protest as for all Americans.