The recent storming of the Capitol in Washington clearly illustrates the fundamental challenge facing that country’s future viability as a democracy.
The photos and videos of the riots demonstrate that the few Black faces belonged to the Capitol police. Further, the lax approach taken by the authorities to instituting security precautions on this occasion contrasted with the stricter measures adopted during last summer’s peaceful march in support of rights for African Americans which was suppressed on orders of the president.
What this shows is that the greatest challenge facing the U.S. in the coming years is to finally end the Civil War and make black Americans full citizens in every aspect of life.
The Republican party under Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell (leader of the Republicans in the Senate) and Kevin McCarthy (leader in the House of Representatives) has become the defacto political home for supporters of the agenda of white supremacist extremists.
As long as they and people like Senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley remain in Congress, the rights of non-whites in the U.S. will remain compromised.
The late Swedish economist and Noble Prize winner Gunnar Mrydal, in his famous 1944 book “An American Dilemma,” spelled out how Black people were systematically denied equal treatment in every aspect of their lives from education and income, to voting rights and access to justice.
Even with the 1959 Supreme Court decision which outlawed “separate but equal” treatment, progress toward equality has been slow and often reversed by the courts and by other methods from voter suppression to restrictive zoning.
Elliott Currie in his 2020 book “A Peculiar Indifference: The Neglected Toll of Violence on Black America” provides frightening statistics. “About 170,000 Black Americans have died in homicides just since the year 2000. Violence takes more years of life from Black men than cancer, stroke, and diabetes combined; a young Black man in the United States has a 15 times greater chance of dying from violence than his white counterpart. Even Black women suffer violent death at a higher rate than white men, despite homicide’s usual gender patterns.”
Blacks are understandably tired of being treated as second-class citizens. In the wake of the insurrection, Cori Bush, a recently elected representative to Congress in Washington wrote eloquently in the Washington Post:
“Many have said that what transpired on Wednesday was not America. They are wrong. This is the America that Black people know. To declare that this is not America is to deny the reality that Republican members of the U.S. House and Senate incited this coup by treasonously working to overturn the results of the presidential election.
“It’s to deny the fact that one of my senators, Josh Hawley, went out of his way to salute the white supremacists before their attempted coup.
“It’s to deny that he appropriated the sign of Black power, the raised fist, into a white-supremacist salute — a fist he has never raised at a march for Black lives because he has never shown up to one.
“It’s to deny that what my Republican colleagues call ‘fraud’ actually refers to the valid votes of Black, brown and Indigenous voters across this country who, in the midst of a pandemic that disproportionately kills us, overcame voter suppression in all of its forms to deliver an election victory for Joe Biden and Kamala D. Harris.”
Congresswoman Bush continued with a warning: “This is America, and it will continue to be America, until white supremacy is dismantled. Justice starts by removing each and every representative who incited this insurrection. I’ve unveiled my first piece of legislation that would do just that. We cannot denounce white supremacy and allow its endorsers to continue serving in our government.”
The Trump era’s level of legal and illegal discrimination against Black people and other visible minorities will no longer be tolerated under the Biden administration.
We must hope that the shame of more than 144 years of Jim Crow and the continued degradation of Black, brown and Indigenous Americans will finally end in our lifetimes.
It must if the republic hopes to continue, let alone return to its former leadership role in the world.
David Bond is a retired bank economist who lives in Kelowna.