As I watched the madness unfold at our nation’s Capitol on Wednesday, along with millions of other Americans, I must confess I wasn’t among those who considered themselves to be shocked by what I was witnessing. To be honest, I wasn’t even surprised. Like most Black people, I have been a witness to the excesses of white supremacy, white privilege and white entitlement my entire life, and I have been at the sharp end of each more times than I care to count.
Plus I saw the preview. And so did everyone else in Detroit.
Wayne County Executive Warren C. Evans has had a long career in public service and law enforcement.
In November, approximately one month before President Donald Trump encouraged his followers to meet him in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, promising them “It’s going to be wild,” hundreds of like-minded insurgents stormed the TCF Center in downtown Detroit, trying to push their way into the building so that they could force their twisted version of reality on the rest of Michigan’s voters who didn’t vote the same way. Someone had convinced these people that magic tricks were real, and that if you just screamed and shouted loud and long enough, bang on windows and make angry faces like toddlers whose lollipops just got stolen, then you really could bend the fabric of reality to make it your own.
What was evident at that disturbance was the misguided sense of entitlement that permeated the predominantly white crowd. No one was worried about being tear-gassed. No one was worried that they might be attacked and violently disbursed by crowds of police officers wearing riot gear, shoving them back with shields and beating them with batons. Because that’s not the kind of thing that happens to people like them. Being brutalized because of their race – and because they are viewed as less than equal and less than human – is an experience that they know they will never experience.
And as someone who has been a public servant for more than 40 years, many of those years spent in law enforcement, it is a painful and difficult reality that I am more familiar with than I would like to be. I know how tough it is to be in law enforcement at every level, from the beat cop on the street all the way up to the top level of administration. But I also know that when it comes to justice, too often, certain communities are treated more equal than others.
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This level of entitlement is something that the Black and brown community has lived with since forever, but it is something that most in the white community not only aren’t familiar with, but often refuse to even consider as the truth. White privilege and racism are topics that are often improperly translated to mean Black folks complaining too much. That sort of intentional cultural misinterpretation is a luxury inherited by those who can afford a level of faith that such messy inconveniences will never affect them and theirs.
It was already clear that President-elect Biden was on track to win the election in Michigan. These deranged devotees making a ruckus were followers of a cult leader who will likely go down in history as the worst and most corrupt president in the history of the United States. They were following orders from their leader to inflict maximum chaos and disorder on what was intended to be an orderly and legal process of counting votes. Comically, many of them were pounding on the windows and shouting “Stop the steal!” while trying to steal an election at the direction of the President of the United States who refused to believe he could actually lose.
But they say God works in mysterious ways, because what we all witnessed then —as well as Wednesday — cannot be denied. Cannot be edited out. There is no magic eraser for this. A woman was killed. It was an attempted coup by thousands of armed mostly white thugs and insurgents, intent on overthrowing the government. They were encouraged throughout by the President of the United States of America. They stormed the Capitol. They invaded the Senate and forced the temporary shutdown of government business. They did all of this practically untouched and unhindered by law enforcement for nearly four hours.
And nobody can say they didn’t see this coming because in Detroit — and in Michigan — we have been broadcasting the previews for months. Not only last November when angry white mobs stormed the TCF Center, but remember when that angry white well-armed mob stormed the state Capitol in Lansing last April, some of them waving Confederate flags? Or how about the plot to kidnap and abduct — and possibly kill — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer last October? All because they didn’t feel like she had the right to keep the population safe? Seriously?
What happened Wednesday should never, ever have happened. And if the threat of an insurrection led by armed white supremacists and domestic terrorists had been taken as seriously as a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion.