We’ve heard an awful lot of false equivalency when it comes to the Trump-inspired riot on Jan. 6, which was the subject of the recent impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate. Trump’s apologists have suggested, among other things, that the assault on the Capitol was somehow in-kind with the rioting that followed in the wake of the death of George Floyd. Both did involve violence and destruction of property— and that’s where the similarity ends.
The unrest in the wake of the death of George Floyd was a spontaneous response to a real and gut-wrenching reality. We all saw the video as Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin casually snuffed the life out of a person whom he had sworn to protect and serve. Even in a nation that has watched white police officers kill black men with virtual impunity for decades, the killing of George Floyd was symbolically unique. The knee to the back of the neck of the struggling black man, represented, for many, generations of white violence against blacks in America. If you need refreshing on the grotesque injustice that black Americans have faced in this country from white Americans, read “The Warmth of Other Suns,” a powerful story of the migration of black Americans from the Jim Crow South by Pulitzer Prize winner Isabel Wilkerson. That is the context, the real experience and reality, that fueled the anger and protest that followed in the wake of George Floyd’s killing. It certainly doesn’t excuse violence or destruction of property, but it provides an understanding of the deep sense of injustice that fuels such protest. Slavery was one of America’s original sins, but the injustices against people of color continue right up through today. For them, a sense of grievance is well earned.
Contrast that to the riot at the Capitol, which was a response not to a real event, or a history of injustice, but to a vicious lie perpetrated by a deeply disturbed president who hoped to use a mindless mob he incited to hold onto power that the American people said he no longer deserved. It was his last desperate act after some Republicans, thankfully with conscience, opted to uphold their oaths and refused his entreaties to steal the election in his favor. There was nothing spontaneous about the attack on the Capitol. It was orchestrated, planned, and carried out for a purpose— to overturn a legitimate presidential election. More than 140 police officers were injured in the fracas, many severely. Many black officers reported they were subjected to the n-word multiple times during that afternoon, as if they needed any reminding that the desire to oppress black people is still alive and well in Trump world. The Jan. 6 riot, more than anything, was white privilege run amok.
Closer to home, we have been disappointed at the extent to which some in our region have failed to recognize such compelling distinctions or recognize the obligation we all have as Minnesotans to help Minneapolis rebuild. We know that many of the actual perpetrators of the destruction that devastated parts of Minneapolis came from outside the Twin Cities. Two of the four men who have since pled guilty to fire-bombing the Third Precinct police headquarters in Minneapolis, are from the Brainerd area. We’ve previously reported on arson-related charges against right-wing extremists, who came to Minneapolis from around the country in hopes of sparking a race war.
There is no one or simple story when it comes to the George Floyd protests. We do know, however, that the vast majority of the protest was peaceful. A relative handful of extremists, many without any clear political motivation, contributed to the violence. Among the politically motivated individuals who sought to benefit from the unrest was then-President Donald Trump, who did more than any person to fan the flames and fuel division as a tool for his re-election campaign. Minneapolis fell victim to a political storm, generations in the making, and just as we all contribute to recovery efforts when a flood or a tornado strikes, Minnesotans have an obligation to rebuild communities devastated by this political upheaval.
Suggesting otherwise reflects an astonishing blindness to the realities of funding in Minnesota, and the degree to which rural Minnesota, including our region, benefits significantly from the economic vitality of Minneapolis and the surrounding metro. Taxes generated in the Twin Cities pay the bulk of the cost of operating our schools. They pay for the broadband grants our communities all seek. And they’re paying for the bonds that built the new Hwy. 53 bridge, so the Iron Range can continue to dig iron ore.
Those who wish to divide, always push a message of us versus them, and excuse themselves with tales of false equivalency. Let’s not fall for it yet again.