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The reckoning of the Capitol riots is up to us

January 12, 2021, 11:56 PM UTC

Of all the horrific details coming to light about the riots in Washington, D.C. last week, two have left me with strange, emotional bruises.

Here’s the first. As the pro-Trump rioters rampaged through the Capitol building forcing lawmakers to rush for safety, a group of young staffers for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had no choice but to take cover in a conference room within her office. They barricaded the door, turned off the lights, and hid under a table—in silence—for two and a half hours and listened to the madness outside. Here’s the part I can’t shake: It was a survival tactic they learned from growing up with active shooter drills in school. 

Here’s the second. 

Footage from inside the Capitol showed a Black Capitol Police officer, later identified by CNN as Eugene Goodman, make a split-second decision to encourage an angry mob to follow him away from the Senate chambers by using himself as bait. Igor Bobic, a politics reporter at Huffington Post, captured the tense moment in a video he posted on Twitter.  In it, you can see Goodman glance quickly to the left at the open door to the Senate floor which had not yet been fully evacuated. He then lightly pushed one of the rioters to get his attention, and taunted them to follow him to the right and up a set of stairs where more police were waiting. He may have saved lives.

Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), chair of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Oversight, made his feelings plain. “As Trump’s fascist mob ransacked the US Capitol, this brave USCP officer kept murderous rioters away from the Senate chamber and saved the lives of those inside. God bless him for his courage,” he tweeted.

Goodman had the benefit of his professional training, of course. But nobody trains you to find a way to do your job as a lone Black man facing down a hate-fueled mob carrying weapons, Confederate flags, and Nazi cosplay gear. 

Well, now that I think about it, America has done a pretty good job reminding Black people that they’re not welcome in their own country, and school kids that there’s nothing to be done about mass violence. We need to start connecting these dots.

Goodman clearly had his hands full on many fronts. Other Black police officers told Buzzfeed News that they had been repeatedly called the N-word while being attacked by well-trained and fully-armed rioters. Some were law enforcement from across the country, flashing their badges and demanding to be admitted. One officer reported a white colleague taking selfies with insurrectionists, who were adorned with white supremacy symbols. “That one hurt me the most because I was on the other side of the Capitol getting my ass kicked,” said the officer.

The aptly named Mr. Goodman and the young staffers who work at the Capitol are the best of us today, people who found a way to do their jobs under unimaginable circumstances. But here’s the thing of it: These circumstances were clearly imaginable and completely preventable. As more violence is planned out in the open, the shrugging and lukewarm calls for unity are a familiar abomination that has allowed racism and violence to continue unabated throughout our history.

The first thing Mr. Goodman and the staffers did right was correctly assess the threat they were facing. If the United States is going to recover, we will need to do the same thing.

Ellen McGirt

On point

FBI report said extremists were coming to the Capital to commit “war” File this under clearly imaginable. The day before the attacks, an FBI office in Virginia issued a report that contained explicit warnings that extremists were coming to Washington, D.C. to commit violence and war. Turns out, they had it exactly right.
Washington Post

Here’s what lawmakers have been told is yet to come There are more riots planned, and one plot included plans to assassinate key targets which include legislators from both parties. The details came as part of a briefing from the Capitol Police. “It was pretty overwhelming,” one Congress member told Huffington Post.
Huffington Post

Capitol police security is typically...different Jamie Davis is a busy mom and disability advocate, who is a veteran at visiting lawmakers and lobbying for civil rights. Her reports of what the experience of entering the Capitol and heading to meetings is like for disabled advocates and families is pretty intense.
Huffington Post

Thousands of their own law school alums and students call for the disbarment of Senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley More than 7,300 have signed on to a petition demanding the two lawmakers be disbarred for their “efforts to undermine the peaceful transition of power after a free and fair election.” The petition was started by two current students of Yale Law School who felt that censure would not be enough. “The senators’ actions to undermine democracy by spreading false claims of voter fraud and inciting insurrection violated the ethical and professional obligations of all members of the bar, and as aspiring lawyers, we thought it was important to speak up,” said Daniel Ki, who spearheaded the movement with student Jenny Choi. Cruz is a graduate of Harvard Law School and Hawley of Yale Law School.
Washington Post

On Background

Here’s what a reckoning on white supremacy would really look like Eddie S. Glaude, is the James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor at Princeton University, and the author of Democracy in Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul. His advice, in this stirring opinion piece: “[T]he bacchanal of grievance and hatred on January 6, 2021 exposed the clear and present danger that Donald Trump represents,” he writes. “The mob made concrete the threat of white nationalism to the nation." Accountability is necessary, but it will only take us so far. He recalls the quest for a reckoning for Klan violence in 1871, and says something similar must happen now. “I believe in January 2021 Congress should hold hearings, covered live on cable news, about the threat of white nationalism to this country,” he says. “America can no longer afford to coddle these organizations and the people who join them.”

Tech has an underdeveloped moral compass This is the charge leveled by Sirish Raghuram, the cofounder and CEO of Platform9, and open-source SAAS company, in this thoughtful opinion piece. He says the rapid pace of technological development has led to an inadequate sense of responsibility for the damage tech can do, all fueled by a lack of moral imagination. Big Tech companies have moved fast and have literally broken things. “[T]he power of the technology industry, and the fact that young engineers do technically brilliant work without fully grappling with the societal and civic implications of that work, are a huge concern,” he writes. “Does a young engineer joining Facebook or Twitter understand how his or her algorithmic expertise in optimizing better-performing content may cause an act of anger by a mob?” 

Let’s all take a break and look at some amazing art El Anatsui is a seventy-six-year-old Ghanaian sculptor based in Nigeria, and has spent his career transforming cathedrals of fine art—London’s Royal Academy, Venice’s Museo Fortuny, and Marrakech’s El Badi Palace—with resplendent metal mosaics, which “[m]useums don them like regalia, as though to signal their graduation into an enlightened cosmopolitan modernity,” says writer Julian Lucas. The materials Anatsui uses are reclaimed trash, draped and sometimes folded into sheets; one described here uses bottle caps crushed and folded linked by copper wire, sometimes it's strips of roofing material, sometimes not. When the writer finally met the artist, a month into lockdown and his studio shuttered, the conversation did not disappoint. Enjoy.
New Yorker

raceAhead is edited by Aric Jenkins.

Today's mood board

Supporters of President Donald Trump held a rally today while waiting for Trump's arrival in McAllen, Texas.Trump is in Texas to tour the border wall.

Photo by Mark Felix/AFP via Getty Images
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