Chris Rock once told a joke in his old stand-up special from 2004, Never Scared, about the trained tiger that attacked Vegas performers Siegfried and Roy during a performance back in 2003. Rock said, “Everybody was talking about ‘the tiger went crazy’. That tiger ain’t go crazy, that tiger went TIGER!”
When I saw the footage of the right-wing mob storming the Capitol building in D.C. on Wednesday, I thought this was another case of the “tiger going tiger”.
During the frenzy, President-elect Joe Biden made a public statement, saying that the actions of those individuals didn’t reflect the “true America”. Biden is a man more than twice my age, and even I knew that he wasn’t telling the truth in that moment.
Perhaps Biden should reflect on how the United States was founded. Better yet, think of who founded it. Think about those original 13 colonies. Who were the colonizers who created the colonies? Who did they take the land from? How did they take it? How did they maintain power on land that they took? How was the wealth of a settler-colonist nation established to begin with?
We can’t separate this country and it’s principles from white supremacist rage & violence because they are some of it’s foundational concepts. A country that has historically used violence, both domestically and abroad, to protect and consolidate White political, economic and social power will always witness acts of rage from those in fear of losing that power.
This has always been who the United States of America is, whether we want to admit it or not.
Yes, Donald Trump may have galvanized a great deal of White supremacists in recent years but this whole thing is bigger than Trump. Trump is just a son of America; He’s a symptom, not the disease. These people existed before him and will exist after him.
They existed in the Obama era within the Tea Party and Birther movement, they existed under George W. Bush in the anti-immigrant, anti-Arab and Islamophobic rhetoric of the post-9/11 era. They existed under Clinton, Bush, Reagan and so on.
Some would argue that those right wing protestors aren’t your typical US citizens and that they are merely ignorant fringe extremists who, as Biden said, make up a “small number” of dissidents. Yet, it’s slightly disingenuous when we simply categorize and write these people off as simply being “extremists” as if they don’t come from the same society as us.
They may be extreme, but these are US citizens.
These are doctors, lawyers, politicians, students, teachers, business owners, clergy, and, you guessed it… law enforcement. And these people dont just come from the South, they come from the East Coast, the West, the Midwest, the city, the suburbs and everywhere else.
Malcolm X once challenged the practice of compartmentalizing racial violence in the US, he said, “It isn’t actually Mississippi; it’s America. America is Mississippi. There’s no such thing as a Mason-Dixon Line — it’s America. There’s no such thing as the South — it’s America.”
The question is, what kind of America do we want to live in?