It’s safe to say that 2020 has been an unstable year in the social and political fronts, and this is most easily seen in the handling of various protests throughout the year. As the Black Lives Matter movement came back into major prevalence in March 2020 following the death of George Floyd, there’s been a tug-of-war between BLM protests and the mainstream public, especially the police. The treatment of protestors and people of color spawned another movement advocating for the defunding of the police in protest of the brutality and inequitable force used in the arrests of minorities versus that of their white counterparts. In response to these movements, those supporting the police coined the term, “Blue Lives Matter” as a rebuttal in support of the police and claiming that those who choose to work in law enforcement should be granted special protections above innate qualities like race or gender, that systemic racism is nothing more than unruly citizens not following the rules. This reasoning is why it was so shocking to see how the “pro-police” protestors treated the police treated the raid of the capitol building on Jan. 6 when it was them on the other side of the barrier.
Although the capitol raid is generally seen as a bad thing by the public and elected officials on both sides, a significant aspect of the outrage was more so around the lack of police response comparatively to that of the force used in the BLM protests. There were no rubber bullets and very little of the general chaos that the protestors for racial inequity have experienced. In fact, there wasn’t much of anything while selfies were taken, podiums were stolen, and the American flag was thrown on the ground and replaced with a Trump flag. The confederate flag made it into the capitol for the first time in American history- this wasn’t a protest, it was a coup. And the defense given by those who were in support? The riot was mostly peaceful protestors. After all, you can’t base an event solely on a few bad actors, right? The irony is palpable. Had the capitol raid been the work of BLM, the reaction by not just the police but as well as the general public would’ve been vastly different, and yet that hasn’t stopped the defenders of this raid attempting to rationalize it by comparing it to these protests is ignorant at best and intellectually dishonest at worst. Of course, looting is wrong, but the issue with this comparison is that in the BLM protests, storming and looting buildings was a byproduct, whereas the storm on the capital had the sole purpose of looting and storming buildings, to disrupt constitutional process.
What gets conveniently forgotten is that the violence at the BLM protests was almost exclusively reactionary, non-violent gatherings turned violent because of police response. There is a significant difference between protesting peacefully against the police system and responding violently when provoked with excessive force, and that of breaking into a government property because your ideal political candidate didn’t win. In fact, the fact that so many of the capitol rioters walked away unscathed with the exception of four is a glaring example of the reality of the existence of systemic racism itself.
When the George Floyds and Breonna Taylors of the world are killed unjustly, there is outrage at their defense, when the rioters that storm the capitol are justly shot-there is outrage that the police dared to shoot “one of the good patriots”. The fact that so many angry citizens were able to simply walk in, take selfies with the police, climb walls, and steal podiums with so few deaths should be a brick to the face to those who think racial privilege is a myth.