- Patricia Sulbarán Lovera
- BBC World News
In the eyes of American academic and intellectual Eddie S. Glaude Jr., it is almost impossible to think that a scene like Wednesday’s on Capitol Hill could be starred by black protesters.
The author of several titles on the complex dynamics of race in his country maintains that, had that been the case, the police would have attacked with all their might to stop the assault on the headquarters of Congress.
“We would be now talking about more dead and a violent response from the police, “says the also head of the Department of African American Studies at Princeton University.
Glaude, like many other authoritative voices in the country, including that of President-elect Joe Biden himself, question the disparity in the use of force occurred on Wednesday compared to protests against police brutality and racism that took place since last May after the death of George Floyd.
Although the chaos unleashed in Congress ended with four deaths, images of the police taking photos with some of the mutineers or escorting them out of the Capitol have also been highlighted. without stopping them.
Glaude spoke by phone with BBC Mundo about the political and social crisis across the United States. The conversation has been edited for length and understanding.
What reading What about the attack on Congress that happened this week?
It was an insurrection, an obvious demonstration of the breakdown of democratic norms, with Trump somehow attempting to undermine the democratic process. But it was also an extraordinary expression of anger, resentment and fear on the part of white people. This accompanied by Trump’s rather youthful attempt to cling to power.
How do you think the police handled the situation?
Horribly. And it may be due to various reasons. It could be that they were ordered to behave like this. It could also be that they sympathized with the protesters, it could also be the case of poor planning or a combination of all three. But I do know that it was illustrative of how Americans are perceived from different positions in this country.
If those protesters had been black, if they were protesting for a more egalitarian society, now we would be talking about more deaths and a violent response by the police. There is no way that the African-American protesters from the Black Lives Matter movement could have been on the steps of the Capitol, let alone forcing their way into the building.
Why do you say there would be no way for that to happen?
I think we must ask ourselves who has the right to protest in the United States, and what we saw yesterday are these different citizenship registries that exist in the country. There are people, who are white, and who have a robust understanding, an expression of their citizenship. They have the ability to exercise their freedoms and to protest with impunity and without fear of consequences, because they are not afraid of the police.
Others have a kind of attenuated citizenship in the sense that we all have rights, but some of us should be grateful to have them, and we cannot necessarily exercise them. Then, African Americans can be stopped by the police and end up dead. We can walk into our garage from home and end up dead, we can walk into our house and end up dead. Our kids can be playing in the park and end up dead.
But in this Capitol situation, there were people literally defying the police and what was seen was patience, the police giving them the space, the moment to express themselves.
And what did we see last summer during the protests? We saw tear gas, rubber pellets, the militarization of the police because black people represent a threat.
President-elect Joe Biden said Thursday: “Nobody can tell me that, if it had been a group of the movement Black Lives Matter protesting yesterday, they would not have been treated much differently by the mob of thugs that stormed the Capitol. We all know this is so and that is unacceptable. “What do you think of what he said?
I think it is a good step because it is true. And it’s not that I’m promoting that the police treat white people the way they treat black people. I am not suggesting that they are indiscriminately killed or beaten or shot at with rubber bullets.
What I am saying is that we are not treated equally under the law. What I am saying is that, due to this attenuated conception of citizenship, our relationship with the police is very different.
Think about it: On Wednesday there were people on Capitol Hill trying to substitute the American flag for a Trump one. Colin Kaepernick (football player) knelt in protest (during the US anthem ceremony) and was said to have desecrated the flag.
The silent protests by black men were seen as anti-patriotic because we do not have the right to protest and rather we should be grateful.
In fact, I think the country is more comfortable with protests from the right than from the left.
There is a notion, especially from the middle of the 20th century with the black civil movements that defined that period, that this was an anarchic moment, a kind of threat to stability, that these were people who, in some way, were going to undermine American democracy.
Protests from the right, by contrast, are often seen as patriotic. I give you the example of Cliven Bundy (a rancher who was part of a group of militiamen who fought the police in 2014), who along with others defended some land with weapons.
There is a notion that populism on the right has always gained more traction in America, I would say, than populism on the left.
What is the right wing in America?
In the technical sense, almost all Americans are liberal. Usually, the right groups people with a limited vision of government, and generally insist on the importance of local and state government. They are also committed to the free market and are skeptical of social programs.
Within the Republican Party there are several components: the libertarians, who insist on the freedom of each individual and on leaving the government out of individual decisions; then there is the one who is inclined to corporate thinking and cares about creating the conditions under which corporations prosper and the rich get richer; evangelicals, generally conservative, and voters who are white nationalists.
Those nationalist targets have metastasized and are the source of that civil war within the party right now. And Trump is his avatar.
You have mentioned in your most recent book the need for a moral awakening in the country. What do you mean by that?
I would not say that we need one, but that we are living that moment of awakening and that it is about answering the question of who we think we are.
There are conditions right now, a turning point that pushes the nation to confront itself. Those conditions are given by the moment a police officer kills a man, George Floyd, and that causes Americans from all walks of life to risk their lives in the midst of a global pandemic to protest against police brutality.
And it is combined with a way of governing that exploits hatred, stokes fears and resentments, and that each day fails to respond to a pandemic that is killing Americans indiscriminately, especially blacks and other ethnic minorities.
We are in the middle of a storm because the United States is broken, it does not work.
(The assault on Congress) means a corrosion of the idea of the United States as a beacon of democracy in the world. “
¿How can the United States emerge from this crisis??
I have no idea, but our history suggests that we will not do well. I think, however, that there is a great juxtaposition, with what happened in Georgia (in the Senate election results, which favored two Democrats) and with what happened on Capitol Hill.
Politicians inevitably disappoint and I am not investing my hopes in Warnock or Ossoff (the elected candidates); I am more excited to think about how they were elected.
Georgia was a deep red state, it is the state that produced Newt Gingrich, one of the key figures of modern American conservatism. It’s the place where Bill Clinton gave a speech on getting tough on crime with black prisoners lining up in the background, a horrifying thing.
But this week, young people, African Americans, Pacific Islanders, Latinos, they all showed up to vote. That demographic shift in Georgia made itself felt.
What do you think the images from the Capitol capture tell the world about America?
I don’t want to boast that I can speak for the world, but I can say what those images mean to me. Two things: the first, the collapse of the Republican Party as we know it, and the second, the collapse of the United States as a superpower, at least symbolically.
The military and corporate power of the United States cannot simply be despised, but can the country still exercise diplomatic power by proclaiming itself as a beacon of democracy?
Let me clarify, this is not so much a collapse, but rather a corrosion of the idea of America as a beacon of democracy in the world.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.