In the aftermath of January 6, most Americans have condemned the violence perpetrated by the insurrectionists in our nation’s capital. Some 57% even blame Trump. But many white Americans seem to feel uneasy about taking a stand against seditious violence by white extremists without also throwing in the violence we saw last year in the events surrounding Black Lives Matter protests and during Trump’s 2017 inauguration. So these conflicted whites must add that they oppose all violence to achieve political ends.
Now, there was violence during the Trump inaugural, in the aftermath of police killings of unarmed Blacks and during the events prompted by Trump’s waving a bible in front of St. John's Episcopal Church on June 1, 2020. Some of the worst was committed by white anti-fascists. The violence during the mostly peaceful protests of police behavior – especially burning down a Minneapolis police station – served no useful purpose and hurt communities that still deserve security. (Two of the four indicted in August for the Minneapolis incident are white.) But the rage expressed by the Black Lives Matter protests must be understood as the pent up reaction to white violence directed at Blacks going back to the days of lynching and often perpetrated or condoned by public officials and police. One can say violence out of even righteous rage is wrong. But it is not in the same category as what happened last week.
There is no equivalency – moral or legal – between any recent past incidents of protest violence and that carried out at the request of the President of the United States against the US Congress. Just saying this should make it clear. After railing against “criminals” including members of Congress, other Republicans, the press and social media that block his dog-whistle tweets – and threatening the Vice President to “do the right thing” – the President of the United States sent white thugs, extremists and fanatics to intimidate the US Congress through what Rudy Giuliani had just called a “trial by combat.” And the white crowd that invaded the Capital targeted the very government that provides them, more than others, their race privilege and economic support.
Yes, political violence in a democracy is always wrong. But there is no way that what happened on January 6 is anything less than treason and the attempted overthrow of the US Constitution. That is in a class by itself and needs to be understood as such without the white caveats.