On Jan. 6, a mass of armed kooks, nuts and conspiracy theorists stormed Capitol Hill while Congress was inside, paraded around vandalizing offices and hallways and delayed the certification of a presidential election.
Usually, I would be all too happy to point the finger at the man who brought democracy to its knees in record time, but the blame for this act of terrorism does not lie with him alone. It lies with the Republicans who showed loyalty to the president for political benefit. It lies with the tech companies that allowed incendiary conspiracy theories to fester on their sites because it was good for business. It lies with the right-wing faux-news organizations that indulged the president’s destructive whims for higher ratings. It lies with the corporate donors that contributed to the Trump campaign to hold on to their tax cuts and disgusting amounts of wealth.
The blame lies with anyone and everyone who entertained this psychopath because they believed their personal gain was more important than upholding democratic principles. The fire you thought you could control is now burning the nation down.
And to white liberals — including many Yale students, faculty and alumni — you are not absolved from your role in this mess.
In 2016, when Barack Obama was ready to leave office, white Democrats had become comfortable in their delusion of a post-racial utopia — forgetting the inextricable ties between race and American politics, ties their party had a history of manipulating to win elections. So when a demagogue brazen enough to stoke the flames of racial animosity decided to run for office, white Democrats underestimated the ability of voters to build a political coalition based on racial grievances instead of class interests.
Over the next four years, white supremacists disguised as conservatives emerged from the shadows in full force, emboldened by their new strongman leader. They incited violence, encouraged racist government policies and left white liberals utterly flabbergasted. What Black people knew to be true about America, white liberals were just beginning to learn.
Black Lives Matter and other social justice movements finally gained credence in the eyes of the white liberals. Soon thereafter, systemic racism entered the general lexicon. White people strove to be allies, big corporations launched diversity programs and celebrities rushed to speak out against racism. This was an attempt to destroy the monster white people themselves had created. But racism had already proven a viable political strategy, and key players on the right were only getting more extreme.
What we saw on Capitol Hill was simply a manifestation of what has always been the true character of this nation. We have always been a nation of hate and violence. We have always been a nation obsessed with power and dominance. We have always been a nation with a dark heart and a rotting soul.
As a Black American, I am left with a simultaneous feeling of indifference and despair. On the one hand, I am unmoved by the assault on a government that was designed to exclude and oppress me. The feud between two parties that both have a history of exploiting my people — over an institution that has enacted laws discriminating against my people — makes me roll my eyes. But I am also deeply disturbed by the attack on a country I cannot help but call home. My ancestors helped build this country; I have no motherland to return to, no place to call my own except for this one, and so I wince at its destruction.
The riots at the Capitol have undeniably marked the emergence of a new political era rooted in extreme lies and seething rage. Thus, I am concerned for the fate of our nation. Will American democracy still exist in the near future, and will that even matter to the people who look like me, the people whom this nation has never served?
We are at an inflection point in American history. Democrats now have control of the executive and legislative branches, offering white liberals a chance to put into practice all they have learned over the past four years. We are long overdue for a collective political rebirth, one in which white Americans sacrifice their devotion to an oppressive conception of order and normalcy and work to establish positive peace. Sorry, but going back to brunch is not an option.
The future is largely uncertain, but one thing is clear: White people’s commitment to progressive change will determine if this nation will ever be able to make amends for its troubled history, divorce itself from its worst tendencies and finally live up to its founding ideals of truth, justice and equality.
CALEB DUNSON is a first year in Saybrook College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.