Department of African American Studies Statement on U.S. Capitol Storming

A statement on the need for democracy in America

The Department of African American Studies condemns the invasion of the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. That morning, pro-Trump white supremacist groups and individuals gathered in Washington, D.C. to reject the certification of votes for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris and to promote the big lie that Donald Trump won the presidential election. After speeches by Trump and other Republican leaders -- the largely white mob waving American flags, carrying MAGA signs, and representing racist groups such as Oath Keepers, Q-Anon, Proud Boys, neo-Nazis, neo-confederates, and militia groups -- thousands of Trump supporters stormed the capitol and overwhelmed police.

Vice President Pence and members of Congress were taken to safe and secret locations. The mob occupied the U.S. Capitol. Some people died and more were injured. Hours later, Biden and Harris were confirmed as the future president and vice president of the United States.

What lessons can be learned from this insurrection? There are many, but three stand out. White supremacy is alive and well in America. The Trump presidency has made plain that important American institutions, policies, and political philosophies are based on white racism and lead many white Americans to view Black people and Black voters as not only illegitimate but as enemies. There is an urgent need for an education plan to inoculate Americans against white supremacy and racial hatred.

The unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the election of November 2020 should lead first to accountability for those who created and participated in sedition and treason and then to the democratization of American politics. Among the many critical changes needed, the Electoral College should be abolished and replaced by the free, fair, and direct election of the president and vice president by the American people.

Finally, the irony has not been lost on our friends and neighbors, that the chaos and confusion of the attempted coup are similar to the death and destruction caused by violent U.S. interventions abroad. The American Government must stop assassinating foreign leaders, plotting to destabilize and overthrow sovereign governments, and intervening militarily in the affairs of other countries.

We will not be able to create the democratic, just, and peaceful country we want until we acknowledge and eliminate the racist ethos and anti-democratic practices of yesterday and today.

Additional resources

  • Statement on the Capitol riots by the Office of the President
  • Statement on the Capitol riots by the President's Commission on the Status of Women
  • The Rise of Afro-Brazilian Women in Politics
  • Black/Radical/Subversive: On the Anticommunist Politics of U.S. Racial Capitalism
  • Capitol Riots Mental Health Resources
  • Teaching Resources to Help Students Make Sense of the Rampage at the Capitol
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