As I have said many times over the years, race or racism is a factor in many, if not most major American events or issues. This was true of the insurrection on January 6, 2021.
Racism was at play in two ways. First, the “taking back their country” mantra of the mob was white supremacists pushing back against their perceived takeover of the country by “these nonwhite people.”
The second way race was involved is the police reaction to the attack on the Capitol building. As we watched the insurrection on television on January 6, I was livid about how law enforcement treated the first charge of the Capitol assault with kid gloves.
At the time, I wrote about how law enforcement treated this white treasonous mob so differently from how law enforcement treated the Black Lives Matter protesters just a few months earlier. I used some of the words of television host Joy Reid that day, who, among other statements, said the following.
White Americans are never afraid of the cops, even when they are committing insurrection . . . When you think you own a place, you are not scared of the police. The police reflect back to them; we are with you; you are good. We are not going to hurt you because you are not them . . . If this were a Black Lives Matter protest, people would already be shackled, arrested, or dead.
Even after learning about the heroism of some of the officers at the Capitol, I could never shake the feeling that something was wrong–and racist—about their actions–or, more correctly, the relative inactions of the police.
Now I am incensed again as we see the possible smoking gun of the meek reaction to the attack on the Capitol. It comes in the form of a memo from a current or former member of the FBI to Paul Abbate, the FBI’s second-in-command. (The name of the sender was redacted.) The memo, obtained under a FOIA request, was sent on January 13, 2021, one week after the attack on the Capitol. The message warned Abbate that many bureau employees were sympathetic to Capitol rioters who threatened lawmakers’ lives. The memo stated:
[F]rom my first-hand and second-hand information from conversations since January 6, there is, at best, a sizable percentage of the employee population that felt sympathetic to the group that stormed the Capitol and said it was no different than the BLM protests of last summer. Several also lamented that the only reason this violent activity is getting more attention is because of “political correctness.” Here’s a sampling of what is happening across multiple field offices:
- I literally had to explain to an agent from a “blue state” office the difference between opportunists burning & looting during protests that stemmed [from] legitimate grievance to police brutality vs. an insurgent mob whose purpose was to prevent the execution of democratic processes at the behest of a sitting president. One is a smattering of criminals. The other is an organized group of domestic terrorists.
- . . .I have spoken to multiple African American agents who have turned down asks to join SWAT because they do not trust that every member of their office’s SWAT team would protect them in an armed conflict.
- A senior analyst from my first unit who retired less than 2 years ago has a Facebook page full of #StoptheSteal content.
The[s]e are not one-off events – they represent a larger group within the organization.
What goes around comes around. Political historians remind us that the U.S. Supreme Court has been conservative and reactionary for most of its existence. After a short period between WWII and the war in Iraq, when the Court issued some liberal rulings, the Court returned to its old ways.
We can say the same about the FBI, which was almost as antagonistic to the push for civil rights as the Ku Klux Klan. J. Edgar Hoover often called Martin Luther King “the most dangerous man in America.” And there are reasons to believe that the FBI was involved in the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X.
Many law enforcement officers and the FBI are showing some of their old “colors.”