During the impeachment hearings in the House of Representatives on Wednesday, Republican Congressperson after Republican Congressperson stood up, puffed with self-righteousness, and without a shred of irony accused their Democratic colleagues of hypocrisy. According to the President’s supporters, the violence on Capitol Hill was comparable to this summer’s Black Lives Matter protests, and they wanted to know what Democrats didn’t condemn violence back then.
Freshman Republican Congresswoman Lauren Boebert asked about “accountability for the left” who have been “normalizing violence.” Rep. Scalise closed his arguments by stating, “I've seen the dark evil of political violence firsthand and it needs to stop, but all of us need to be unequivocal in calling it out every single time we see it, not just when it comes from the other side of the aisle.”
The differences between the Black Lives Matter movement and the #StopTheSteal rally ginned up by President Trump should be obvious. The most important and essential difference is that one is a defense of Black lives in the face of racism and injustice. The other is rooted entirely in white grievance. It’s uncertain if Republicans realize that by continually drawing this false equivalency, they are once again showing their hand and exposing the racism at the heart of their arguments.
There is no question that the Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol were guided and inspired by the President himself, whose rhetoric has long valorized and encouraged violence and vilified Black and brown women with particular ire. Some of Trump’s most pointed racism has been directed at Congresswomen Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna Pressley, all progressive women of color who were thought to be particular targets of the MAGA rioters. Repeatedly, Trump tweeted at these House members to “go back” to their countries, an echo of the Obama birther lie that he spent years pushing.
The racism that undergirds Trump’s speech and policies (such that they are) is the same systemic and cultural racism that led to Jim Crowe, to lynchings, and to the widespread shooting and killing of unarmed Black people by police for generations. It is a right enshrined in the Constitution to rise up in the face of injustice. But this is not the same as the violent insurrection spurred and encouraged by the president’s lies and perpetrated by known white supremacists. To equate the two is to legitimize the cause of white supremacy and provide tacit support.
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Regardless of the fact that the accounts of rioting from Black Lives Matter protesters were vastly exaggerated and often entirely fabricated by the right; that BLM never threatened the lives of lawmakers or tried to overturn an election; or that BLM protests were met with far greater police force and far more arrests than the riots on the Capitol building, the most fundamental thing to bear in mind is that Black Lives Matter’s cause is righteous and the president’s is not.
Prominent among the rioters who besieged the Capitol were leaders of known far-right, neo-Nazi, and white supremacist organizations, including the Proud Boys, the Oathkeepers, and the Three Percenters. One image taken that day shows a white man strolling through the Capitol while bracing a proud Confederate flag on one shoulder. To compare this kind of violence to the collective fury following the death of George Floyd, to say “I condemn violence of all kinds” with reference to Black Lives Matter, is just another way of saying “All Lives Matter.”
Conservatives and Trump supporters throughout this ordeal have coopted the language of democracy and equal justice under the law to further a manifestly undemocratic aim and give cover to white supremacy. In willfully failing to acknowledge that Black lives matter and that Black lives are still under threat, Republicans reveal once again that the only lives they care to protect are the white ones.
Whether or not the demonstrations this summer were violent is irrelevant to the question of Trump’s attempted coup and insurrection. Republicans who think they’ve caught Democrats in a trap by bringing up Black Lives Matter or the Antifa bogeyman have completely lost the plot as their true priorities come into greater focus.
This was most plainly expressed by Freshman Democratic Congresswoman Cori Bush during Wednesday’s debate. “If we fail to remove a white supremacist president, who incited a white supremacist insurrection, it's communities like Missouri's First District that suffer the most,” she said.
But, it would appear, Republicans don’t care.
Watch: Republicans slam House Dems for 'fast-tracking impeachment'