The D.C. Capitol Building at night time.

We Should Not Be Surprised

In the aftermath of insurrection in Washington D.C., reflections from Barr’s president on what enabled yesterday’s violence and what it demands of each of us.

On this morning after the seat of our nation’s government was attacked by domestic terrorists, these are among the truths that are self-evident:

  • Language matters here: these were not protesters exercising their first amendment rights. This was a treasonous mob attempting a coup.
  • Had this been a group of Black and Brown people, the response by law enforcement and the number of deaths and arrests would have been very different.
  • White privilege was on display yesterday, plain and simple.
  • If we continue to ignore the structural racism that normalizes yesterday’s actions, we do so at our peril, and we undermine what our country stands for.

Language matters here: these were not protesters exercising their first amendment rights. This was a treasonous mob attempting a coup.

On a day that also represented a shift in power in the United States Senate, we can look to a new day ahead. And yes, we must turn the page on this ugly and destructive chapter in our nation’s history, fomented and fueled by a self-absorbed demagogue. As our President-Elect has said, it is indeed a time for rebuilding, restoring and reuniting.

At the same time, we can neither ignore nor forget how we got to what we witnessed yesterday: this violence was incited by our own elected leaders. It was enabled by those whose own thirst for power and cowardice kept them from holding our president accountable. In pretending they could downplay or ignore his actions, they justified and amplified dangerous, undemocratic words and actions. In doing so, they made it evident that white supremacy still reigns in America.

Our work must begin by acknowledging these realities, by determining the role each of us needs to play to contribute to a new and different future, and by holding our leadership—and ourselves—accountable. It is these points that especially deserve our attention as we talk about “turning the page.”

One may wonder why a nonprofit, philanthropic institution such as the Barr Foundation should issue any statement. We do so not out of any sense of self-importance nor to imply any specialized knowledge of how we got here and what the solutions should be.

Rather we add our voice to the chorus of those speaking up because we must speak out. January 6, 2021 will forever be a date etched in our memories, and when we look back, it is our hope at Barr that we do so with abject horror at what occurred and a sense of pride that this served as the moment that we spoke out, stood up, and acted to counter everything that was so wrong and so antithetical to our country’s beliefs, and yet so indicative of our country today.

One image from yesterday still stands out for me: the workers in our nation’s Capitol cleaning up so our lawmakers could resume the work of our democracy.

Three men sweeping and vacuuming a hallway in the US Capital in the aftermath of destruction by treasonous mob.

Image Credit: Daniella Diaz. Original Tweet:(@daniellamicaela)

It is not lost that the workers in this image are all people of color, and they are cleaning up the mess left by an almost entirely white mob waving confederate flags, by rioters who would disenfranchise them of their rights, and by fellow citizens who bear animus toward them. Looking at this image, we must recognize that it has ever been thus.

The work to form a more perfect union will never be complete, and we have so much further to go. We will remain allies, champions and advocates in this work, motivated by the spirit that better days lie ahead. They must.

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