Trump loyalists’ storming of the U.S. Capitol Building was an all-too-familiar example of the license traditionally afforded to violent white mobs under the shield of racism in the U.S. To understand white license requires going beyond the concept of “white privilege”: License protects one from accountability for wrongful actions. White supremacy is a white license.
It’s obvious that the instigators of the attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, which include President Trump, senators such as Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, should be removed from office. We know what would unfold if Black senators had instigated such actions. White license/supremacy affords a lack of accountability.
Think about this: Trump loyalists planted pipe bombs, attacked police, openly declared planning to execute Congresspeople, vandalized the Capitol building, and more, and most of them were able to leave under the protection of the police they were attacking.
#BlackLivesMatter advocates were and continue to be brutalized for speech, assembly, peaceful protest (all supposedly protected rights). Moreover, Black and Indigenous peoples are often brutalized by the police and white so-called civil society simply for appearing in public.
Trump supporters often engage in a narrative of victimization. Those who breached the Capitol claimed that they were being gravely wronged — indeed, that Trump himself was being gravely wronged — by a “fraudulent” election. There’s no doubt that the eventual response by the government to the attack on the Capitol will fuel that narrative. Yet none of the white people who attacked the Capitol were disenfranchised; they were fighting for the continued disenfranchisement of people of color, especially Black people. We live with the continued charade of a “both sides” discourse when all the evidence of an asymmetrical assault on democracy, Black and Indigenous peoples, immigrants of color, and the poor is clear.
White supremacy affords every effort to see the humanity of violent whites. The truth of the matter is that the Trump loyalists want the old game of false democracy, where their votes count more than everyone else’s, where, even when fewer in numbers, they are to count more than the rest of us.
Want a democratic republic? Inaugurate a systematic overhaul of institutions that are premised upon disenfranchising whole groups of people, and radicalize voting and access to other forms of political participation for all.