NATIONAL (January 11, 2021) – That this should happen at the Capitol, the People’s House, is a grave desecration of our democracy. Many of us know that the Capitol was built by Black people, both enslaved and free. As Fred Beuttler, former Deputy Historian of the U.S. House of Representatives notes, every step of the building of the Capitol was crafted and laid by Black men, from clearing the land before the cornerstone was laid to quarrying the stone, to forging the Statue of Freedom atop the Capitol dome. In this house that Black Men built, a White man carried a large Confederate flag into the hallways and offices– a symbol of enslavement and White supremacy that never made it into any D.C. federal building during the Civil War from 1860-1865.
Another display of white supremacist iconography among the rioters was a sweatshirt that read, “Camp Auschwitz – Work brings freedom,” which is a rough translation of the German lie inscribed on the gates to Auschwitz during the Holocaust, where 6 million Jews died. And outside the Capitol, gallows were constructed and a noose hung, while the mob called for lynching Vice President Mike Pence.
- The permits to hold the rally that morphed into the mob was given to a predominately White women’s organization, “Women for America First,” the individuals and groups who actually planned and promoted that rally?
- Why did law enforcement ignore the intel available via social media channels, such as “Storm the Capitol” rhetoric?
- There are reports of politicians, including eight Republican state attorney generals, participating in the mob. How will they be held accountable?
- Why were the Capitol police so woefully underprepared? And why were some complicit to the point of taking selfies with the rioters and looters, and removing barricades to let them through instead of holding them back?
- Will politicians who have aided and abetted President Trump’s White supremacist and seditious rhetoric for years be held accountable, including Rudy Giuliani, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO)?
- Will President Trump be held accountable for his words and actions?
There are also deeper questions that we must not shrink from asking as we seek to heal our nation from this trauma. We must look deep into our souls and then we must engage in the kind of action that will lead to long overdue and fundamental changes in our country.
To say that a change is needed in our personal and national perspectives when it comes to the value of human life is an understatement. We must find the courage to act with the truth as a shield and a sword. Regardless of whatever divisions we choose to use that separate us into factions, races, religions, or otherwise, our common human connection surpasses them all by far. It is with one voice that we need to speak in thunderous outrage and not let what is becoming commonplace continue.
Mourning is a natural state when someone is lost. But, action in the aftermath of that loss breeds new meaning into their memory and purpose to be passed to the next generation. This is a path that cannot be walked alone for so much can be accomplished if we do it together.
- How do we begin to address, as a prerequisite to healing, the divisiveness that has been sown over the past four years?
- How do we effectively educate the American people on the connection between the Capitol insurrection and other examples of White rage present in our history, such as the Tulsa riots on Black Wall Street to the so-called Southern Strategy to disenfranchise millions of Black voters?
- Beginning the day after January 20th, how will social justice organizations hold the new administration accountable for actualizing the policies and programs they have pledged to carry out?
- What role must each of us play in what must be a coordinated effort to deal with the pandemic that continues to disproportionately sicken and kill Black people and other people in marginalized communities?
- Most importantly, how will we manage to keep the faith and pray with our feet and as we carry on this struggle for justice and liberation?
I do not know the answers to all of these questions. But I have faith that our Beloved Community—to use that expression made popular by Dr. King, whose birth we celebrate next Monday–our Beloved NCNW Community is capable of all manner of greatness when we are connected, organized, and focused. When we are, there is nothing Black women cannot do.
I also take solace in these words from the Talmud, the primary source of Jewish religious law and theology, which speak to what I believe is the unifying philosophy of all agents of change and goodness in the world, and that I now share with you: