Community members reflect on Capitol riots, acknowledge white supremacy, white privilege


Photo credit: Vaughan Anoa'i

An American flag waves over a car dealership in Los Angeles, California. Amid the insurrection, the American flag was one of the many examples of paraphernalia displayed at the storming of the Capitol. Pro-Trump supporters held up and waived this flag during the “Save America” march, that later turned into a violent rioting event, where the Capitol was ransacked and breached.

By Vaughan Anoa'i and London Sinclair

This past year was one marked by the novel COVID-19 pandemic, civil unrest and political uprisings as the fight against police brutality continued. As we began 2021, the nationwide unrest continued as people across the nation tuned in as a mob of Trump supporters stormed Capitol Hill in an effort to protest President-elect Joe Biden’s win. For what was expected to be a new year, many felt as though their “optimism” and “positivity” were taken for granted as violence struck Jan. 6 at the very heart of the nation’s capitol, according to Ijeoma Nwafor (’24).

“I suspected that everything wasn’t going to be perfect as 2021 hit,” Nwafor said. “We all knew that when Jan. 1 rolls around it was just going to be like any other day.”

As an initial reaction to the insurrection that took place at Capitol Hill, History teacher Beth Gold expressed the “disturbance” and utter “shock” she experienced in response to the rioting events.

“I found the images to be so profoundly shocking and disturbing,” Gold said. “I was not surprised that white supremacy and anti- Semitism exist or were active elements of Trump’s base, but to see a beloved institution of our country pillaged and ransacked in that way shocked me.”

Echoing Gold’s sentiments regarding Trump’s political base and the values he stands for, junior Paola Hoffman, described Trump’s “misuse of presidential power” as well as the white supremacist ideals that continue to “evade America.”

“I’m not surprised that Donald Trump has been a white supremacist and continues to push that kind of rhetoric,” Hoffman said. “I’m not surprised that he promotes these lies that are built upon racism, undermining the foundation of democracy and the honesty of the vote. What has been so surprising for me is how nobody has had the power to stop him.”

Across social media threads and news outlets, comparisons were made juxtaposing the policing at the Capitol to that of the several Black Lives Matter protests that took place over the summer.

What we saw on Wednesday was an expected, yet jarring, escalation.”

— Paola Hoffman '22

“There are so many examples where heavy policing is indiscriminately used and that’s profoundly troubling. It’s just shocking to see some groups getting away with much less supervision and policing than others,” Gold said.

As the “Save America” march, originally organized by Trump, turned to violence and rioting, a feeling of “confusion” and “disbelief” swept across many Americans, including Nwafor and her family, who were observing the unfolding events from home.

“I’m just confused as to how it became so violent. It happened in such little time compared to the other things that have been going on earlier this year and last year,” Nwafor said. “How the police treated these pro-Trump rioters in comparison to all the Black Lives Matter protesters who were actually fighting for racial justice.”

In response to the mob, Trump took to Twitter to encourage his supporters to go home and to act peacefully. As a result of the “incitement of violence,” Trump’s account has now been permanently suspended for the foreseeable future.

“After close review of recent Tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account and the context around them — specifically how they are being received and interpreted on and off Twitter — we have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence,” Twitter wrote in a recent statement.

Commenting on Trump’s actions, Hoffman reiterates the double-standards in America today.

“At a certain point, you start to think, surely there has to be something blocking, somebody stopping him from just posting a video to a group of people who are currently mid-insurrection and telling them, ‘Go home. We love you, you’re special,’” Hoffman said.

In relation to the storming event, Gold commented on the relevancy of white supremacy and white privilege in society today, as these issues have been recognized as frequent topics of discussion or conversation.

“It shows that it is very prevalent, that it is much less beneath the surface than I think people thought it was,” Gold said. “It has been fed and fueled with this administration; it has not been checked like it should’ve been from the highest position in our country.”

Commenting on Trump’s leadership within these last four years, Hoffman noted the importance of holding those in power accountable for their actions, especially in times of crisis. According to Hoffman, the effects of racism and white supremacy left unchecked eventually reach a new level of “bigotry.”

 “It’s dangerous on an individual level, but the moment that that takes hold in the highest position of power, and it becomes clear that none of the surrounding positions are going to do anything, that’s where it crosses the line into just terrifying,” Hoffman said.

Hoffman pointed out times in which the Trump administration has condoned prejudice and violence, while making way for his supporters to continuously negate the issues our country is currently facing today.

“There have been so many times in the Trump administration where groups of people have just been hurt. But it always seems to get smoothed over and I say that with quotations because a lot of times that smoothing over involves brushing it under the rug and pretending that we can just move on,” Hoffman said. “What we saw on Wednesday Jan. 6 was an expected, yet jarring, escalation.”

Looking to the future, Gold urges fellow Americans to take a stand against white supremacy that continuously pervades in our communities, and to practice anti-racist behavior when speaking up.

“It’s something that all Americans really need to stand up for actively,” Gold said. “To voice opposition and create absolutely no question that these ideas are abhorrent and against values of equality and what is right.”