On May 25, 2020, we watched George Floyd struggle to take his last breath as he called for his mother. His death has sparked what is now the largest civil rights movement in American history and the awakening passion for many to speak up for the everyday injustices Black people face. And while we have seen peaceful protestors met with violence by police as they march for human rights, on Jan. 6, 2021 we watched an army of mainly white, pro-Trump citizens storm the United States Capitol building with barely any aggressive resistance. Many of the same people who thought taking a knee during the national anthem was excessive are now applauding a horde of what can be considered domestic terrorists in their attempt to stage a coup after repeatedly being emboldened by the politician they idolize — President Donald Trump.
Statements that center the attention on the violence that occurs in response to the theft of another Black life are unnecessary and deflective against the real issues protests fight against. They take all the attention away from the majority of protests that remain peaceful, and spin the incorrect narrative that protests are riots in general. In fact, it is mainly police who cause protests to become violent. People come up with any excuse they can in order to justify police violence, but use the example of a few violent protests to discredit an entire movement for racial justice. Your lack of knowledge on the difference between a protest and riot does not get to erase the importance of the cause. Meanwhile there will be those slow to label the siege on the Capitol what it really was – an attempted coup.
Groups bearing symbols associated with largely far-right, racist extremist groups such as the Proud Boys who sieged the U.S. Capitol can not be labeled as a protest. Breaking windows, climbing the walls and threatening the lives of many was not a form of protest. Taking selfies during an unfounded attempt to protect the country's democracy by dismantling one of the most basic legacies of a U.S. presidential election — a peaceful transfer of power between presidents — is not protest. What we saw in those photos and videos was foolishness fueled by a man refusing to relinquish the power he never should have been given in the first place.
There is a stark difference between the Black Lives Matter march in Washington, D.C., which was met with the National Guard on the stairs of the Lincoln Memorial — and the siege we saw recently, for which there was barely any resistance, allowing rioters to enter the Capitol building. This is embarrassing for our country, but not surprising given the legacy of racist police behaviors determined by the color of a person’s skin. A group of peaceful human rights activists would probably be shot dead before they could even reach the doors, meanwhile a group of extremists made it far enough to take photos and leave notes at House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s desk.
There is no form of protest against racism that will be okay to racists. The scope of white supremacy and unconscious racial bias is so deeply rooted in most Americans that they don’t even realize it. We have seen how many people negatively react to kneeling during the national anthem. They say that it is disrespectful and thus inappropriate, but when those same people turn around and are still upset when players wear t-shirts to protest at their games, there is clearly a disconnect here. Black athletes, who make up the majority of players for both the NFL and NBA, make great entertainment until they begin to speak up. It is no one’s place to tell an entire group of people sick of the centuries of injustice that they have faced and continue to face how to feel and react when they are ready to stand up.
There has been a decline in support for the Black Lives Matter movement, as it has left the forefront of our news and social media feeds. While white people get to move on from the trend of caring for Black people, we still have to wake up every day and fight for our lives. There is a horrifying video that has been recently circulating of Lionel Womack, a Black man, getting run over by a Kansas sheriff's deputy in a patrol truck as he ran away from a traffic stop frightened on Aug. 15. The fight is not over. Fighting for Black lives is not a trend. We do not have the same privilege of getting to support the movement only when we want to.
I have not marched like many others who find it to be their preferred method of protesting. I have instead found a different way to express my distaste for the issues that plague me and other BIPOC in the country. As a Black student at the University, I know how my perspective may oppose the legion of typically white, male, conservative students who came before me. I also know that as a writer — and due to my own moral code — I have a responsibility to speak my truth and bring light to the issues that not enough people want to talk about. It is imperative that we all find the mode of protest that works for us so we can continue the fight. Are we still supposed to “forgive” the people who voted for Trump after the actions we saw carried out Jan. 6th? We do not want to see these people met with the same brutality we face – we want to see the lack of force they went through be how we are treated at a protest that is actually peaceful.
Aliyah D. White is an Opinion Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Cavalier Daily. Columns represent the views of the authors alone.