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Whose America?

by MEHREEN ZAKARIA - February 26, 20201 - A look into the events of January 6th, BLM protests, and how they represent the country today.

On Wednesday, January 6th, 2021, the Capitol was stormed by impassioned supporters of President Trump, who outrageously denied his defeat in the 2020 presidential election. Thousands had already begun rioting the morning before, and President Trump only added fuel to the fire, with a tweet stating, “States want to correct their votes, which they now know were based on irregularities and fraud, plus corrupt process never received legislative approval. All Mike Pence has to do is send them back to the States, AND WE WIN. Do it Mike, this is a time for extreme courage!" Although Vice President Pence continued to abide by the Constitution, a multitude of Americans decided on this day that the Constitution, the electoral college, the teachings and ideals that America was built upon, were all suddenly meaningless. And little efforts were put forth to stop them; many policemen could be seen idly standing by, some even taking selfies with the rioters.

A common comparison could be heard from the BLM events. During the summer of 2020, after the death of George Floyd, countless protests took place across the country, demanding that action be taken to combat police brutality and to ensure that innocent black lives could actually start to matter to America. There were peaceful protests, and there were also instances of rioting and looting. Nevertheless, in any BLM protest, one could easily see a countless array of law enforcement. Strict curfews were placed; peaceful protesters were dangerously threatened; racial minority parents were now teaching their kids about how to survive in a country and world where they are constantly threatened solely because of their skin color. Trump even called for a militarized approach to the protests, tweeting statements such as “When the looting starts, the shooting starts,” making the country feel as if it was in a war zone.

In short, it was a simple thing to take a selfie with a police officer during the Capitol Riot. During a BLM protest, one would be lucky to come out of that without significant injuries—or, sadly, possibly alive.

Many Americans have dismissed the comparison between the two events, pointing out how different and unrelated they were. But all those differences showcase why exactly establishing the connection between the two is so important. No, the connection isn’t the police. No, it isn’t Trump. It’s actually privilege.

The Capitol Riot was filled with a majority white crowd, with an overwhelming amount of males as well, which have a glaringly obvious amount of privilege in today’s America. If one were to question this crowd about the BLM protests, many would probably elaborate on how police brutality is just a hoax and that racial minorities need to “get their act together.” But for people who can storm a government building and pose mask-free with officers like it’s just an average Tuesday evening, how qualified are they to speak about America’s persistent racial struggles? Not only do they have the privilege to do such actions, they also have a privilege to—quite easily—forget the past. In 2016, Trump and his officials mocked Hillary Clinton and her Democratic supporters, calling them “sore losers” for being disappointed by the election results. Now, not only are he and his supporters ironically denying the election, but they are even sacrificing their strong, American pride for a formidable “Trump patriotism.”

Well, what if the tables were turned? What if it was Biden who lost the election? One could make the point that Biden supporters could have easily done the same as those seen in the January 6th riot. There’s no denying that something like that could have happened. However, to say that it could have happened just as easily is to say that pigs are finally flying, or that black lives finally matter in America. To have that kind of privilege is something that the average minority in the U.S. really has to sit and think about. As a minority, I’m doing just that right now.

The January 6th riot was both a disappointment and quite a surprise to some. A disappointment to see how many Trump supporters will still follow through and continuously deny the confirmed election results, and a surprise to see just how privileged they were to come back out of it, smiling, empowered, and alive. In our country that is so terribly divided lately, in our country that has truly kept the American dream just a dream, it is painfully clear whose America we are living in.

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