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Zenobia Jeffries Warfield: This Is America

We’re not asking you to shoot them like you shoot us, we’re asking you to NOT shoot us like you don’t shoot them… –Davontae Harris, @wichkid

Some called it a protest.

Some called it a mob. 

Some called it an insurrection. 

But what we witnessed Jan. 6 on full display for the world to see was a demonstration of White supremacy, the belief held by far too many White people in the United States that the country is theirs—solely. That demonstration was not a result of months—or even years—of violent rhetoric as some have said, but centuries of violent rhetoric and actions—and the tolerance for both. 

Some would have us believe that what happened at the U.S. Capitol is a direct result of one lone bad actor—Donald Trump, the current president of the United States. Yes, the election of Donald Trump emboldened the vileness that has been building over the past several years. But if they can allow themselves to finally—and for once—be honest, they will admit that the madness at the Capitol—the thousands of mostly White men and women who “stormed the Capitol” desecrating the building, its halls, offices, and chambers—was actually a result of hundreds of years of making the wrong people the enemy. 

Pro-Trump rioters storm the U.S. Capitol after a rally with the president on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C. Trump supporters had gathered to protest the ratification of President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory over President Trump in the 2020 election. Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images.

White people, and admittedly even some Black and Brown people, have for too long painted the Indigenous peoples of this country and the enslaved Africans and their descendants in this country as the wretched of the earth. As inferior. As having “no rights which a white man is bound to respect.” As animals even, vermin to be exterminated. 

When we ran away to gain our freedom, we were hunted down, beaten, castrated, lynched, and put on display. When we marched and protested for our franchise, we were bullied, threatened, beaten, and lynched. When we marched and protested to have our basic rights, civil rights, human rights acknowledged, respected, we were hosed, attacked and bitten by dogs, billy-clubbed, beaten, jailed, and killed. When we marched and protested against police violence in our communities, we were tased, tear-gassed, beaten, shot, run over with cars, and in some cases killed. 

All of this has been done with the protection of the U.S. executive, judicial, and legislative institutions. 

When we showed up in numbers to demand our rights not only as U.S. citizens, but as humans, these institutions responded with armed guards in military gear—guns pointed at us and our children. When we said take your foot off our neck, a law enforcement officer choked the life out of one of us with his knee. Our children have been shot down—in a park, in a store, on the street, in their own home. Our men and women have been placed in chokeholds and gunned down while driving, eating, sleeping, walking, shopping, standing, existing. 

Pro-Trump rioters enter the U.S. Capitol as tear gas fills the corridor on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C. The mob breached security and entered the Capitol as Congress debated the 2020 presidential election Electoral Vote Certification. Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images.

Again, all of this has been done with the protection of the U.S. executive, judicial, and legislative institutions. 

And with the complicity of the people—White people—all White people

So many were “appalled,” “in disbelief,” “saddened,” by what they saw. I could muster only anger…and fear. Like no other time before, it was proven to me that I am not protected by the institutions that govern the country of my birth. 

That privilege has only been fully afforded White people in this country. The people of this country have reinforced the idea time and again that these United States of America are for White people. 

This is why we hear words like, “protest,” and “insurrection,” and “sedition.” 

This is why D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s request for deployment of the National Guard was initially denied. And why the Capitol police appeared to welcome in the rioters—removing blockades, stepping aside, posing for selfies, and barely using force. 

Members of pro-Trump riots inside the Senate Chamber on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images.

It is why when thousands of White men and women showed up at the Capitol and made their way inside, looting and vandalizing—desecrating what’s been called our symbol of democracy—more than 100 members of Congress can still go along with and politicize baseless claims of election fraud. 

White people are scared. Some are afraid of being the minority. And the others are afraid of those who are afraid of being the minority. 

White Americans talk about bravery and courage but cannot even stand up to their own enemy within. 

I keep hearing, “This is not America.” “This is un-American.” That is not true. This is America. This country was founded on violence and desecration. 

But if you want this to no longer be America, if you want Americans to be “better than this,” then prove it. 

Congress moving forward with the confirmation of the Biden/Harris administration was the democratic thing to do…but is only a start.

A supporter of Donald Trump inside the U.S. Capitol’s rotunda on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C. Rioters breached security and entered the Capitol as Congress debated the 2020 presidential election Electoral Vote Certification. Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images.

Show your courage and bravery now by removing Donald Trump from office—even if for these last two weeks—and removing those members of Congress who participated in and encouraged this “attempted coup.” Find—and it should not be difficult with all of the technology at the disposal of the federal government—every single person who entered that building and bring federal charges against them. 

For those who live in so-called red states and disagree with this demonstration of White supremacy, prove it: organize, mobilize, do not re-elect people who support and uphold White supremacist ideology. (Georgia has given us a blueprint. Follow it.)

It’s one thing to have political difference on policies. 

But when it comes to the very lives of all the people in this country…White leadership in this country must do better. 

Enough is enough. 

ZENOBIA JEFFRIES WARFIELD is the executive editor at YES!, where she directs editorial coverage for YES! Magazine, YES! Media’s editorial partnerships, and serves as chair of the YES! Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee. A Detroit native, Zenobia is an award-winning journalist who joined YES! in 2016 to build and grow YES!’s racial justice beat, and continues to write columns on racial justice. In addition to writing and editing, she has produced, directed, and edited a variety of short documentaries spotlighting community movements to international democracy. Zenobia earned a BA in Mass Communication from Rochester College in Rochester, Michigan, and an MA in Communication with an emphasis in media studies from Wayne State University in Detroit. Zenobia has also taught the college course “The Effects of Media on Social Justice,” as an adjunct professor in Detroit. Zenobia is a member of NABJ, SABJ, SPJ, and the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting. She lives in Seattle, and speaks English and AAVE.

First published in YES! Magazine. Included in Vox Populi under a Creative Commons open license.

4 comments on “Zenobia Jeffries Warfield: This Is America

  1. rosemaryboehm
    January 10, 2021

    Yesss. I am so happy that slowly, slowly black, brown and indigenous voice are beginning to be heard. The storming of the Capitol has scared many enough to revisit their prejudices and preceptions. I think (I hope) it ws a wake-up call. I am white, looking at it from the outside in in more than one ways (German, UK national, Peruvian, living in Peru). But rejecting all injustice is built into my DNA. I think we live in very interesting times indeed, and, perhaps, more than that: in the beginnings of true change.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Vox Populi
      January 10, 2021

      Yes, I feel like an outsider in my own country, so I know what you mean, Rose Mary!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Reese E. Forbes
    January 10, 2021

    It is not a protest if it includes violence (against people or property). I recall during occupy STL (I was one of its treasurers), one of the participants advocated breaking of windows. We made sure he understood the was not allowed, counterproductive, etc. Also, no guns or rifles were allowed.
    We had one man who showed up with a gun in a side holster – we shouted him out. He came back the next day advocating we allow guns and we again refused to allow guns. He was not seen for a month or so, then we saw him in uniform – he was actually a policeman undercover trying to get Occupy to do something which would lead to violence.

    Liked by 1 person

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