Similar to his peers, LeBron James was outraged at the actions of terrorists who stormed the United States Capitol and are responsible for five deaths, stolen laptops, and a swath of physical destruction. As horrific an event as it was, the lingering anger on both sides of the political aisle revolves around policing. Exactly, where were the police?
The Capitol Police isn’t a small force. There are more police for the United States Capitol than in the city of Minneapolis, twice as many, 2400. But on Tuesday they seemed lost, or invisible. Or disappeared. Furthermore, the ones that were seen on video were either helpless or sympathizers. Naturally, the Chief of Police resigned. In situations like these that are so public someone has to be held accountable. Someone has to take the fall. Even as Donald Trump egged on the terrorists, there were systems in place to hold the line. Right?
Or does it just seem that those systems are only in place for African American protestors? Many, including LeBron James and Doc Rivers, imagined what would have happened if the protestors had been black. They imagined it would have been a very different outcome. In fact, video of praying black religious folk kneeling in the Capitol Rotunda on July 18th and then being arrested even though they were peaceful and non-threatening surfaced on various social media and cable news platforms as evidence of the inconsistency. One of those praying and later arrested was the incoming Senator from Georgia Raphael Warnock.
Warnock was adamant that the Affordable Care Act continue and not be repealed as Donald Trump and many in the GOP desired. Accompanying him in his peaceful protest was Congressman Hank Johnson, and pastor Cynthia L. Hale. He said of his arrest that it was “a small price to pay. As a pastor, I believe the national budget is not just a fiscal document but a moral document. It reflects what we believe and who are for one another.”
He wasn’t praying because there were two Americas. He was praying because the one America failed to pay its debts and was passive and biased about its credits.
When African Americans gather for protests like Black Lives Matter or when they gather in the park for ribs and dominoes they are viewed as a collective threat. In large groups they trigger white discomfort and because of white fragility they must be patrolled, militarized, or become submissive. Black people are not equal and the lack of equity trickles down like a leaky faucet into policing.
Rarely, are black people given the benefit of the doubt in white spaces. The assumption is one of troublemaking. A violent black person is representative of his group while a violent white person is an exception to his group.
The Capitol Police in trying to defend their behavior justified part of their strategy. Their officers were on the side of the Capitol where the politicians entered and exited. But it was the reasoning that was specious. They said the other side of the Capitol was a 1st Amendment demonstration. Ahh. There it is. Because the crowd was white folk, they assumed democratic and non-threatening behavior when on message boards, chat rooms, social media posts violence was talked about for weeks. Donald Trump egged his followers to march to the Capitol and fight for him. What is passive about that?
If it had been a Black Lives Matter demonstration the Capitol Police would have been on the same side as the demonstrators because of logic. Black people have never harmed politicians. Politicians have been our allies, the ones who fight for us in legislative bodies. We torch symbols of pain and destruction, not institutions that right wrongs. We have warriors in the Capitol who are on our side, live our lives, cry our tears. The last thing we would do is try to blow them up. The gathered police would have kept us from the doors by any means necessary, rubber bullets, tear gas, vicious dogs. But they wouldn’t have to worry about political terrorism.
Those looking at the surface of things latch on to the inherently different consequences and grab the low hanging fruit of two Americas. African Americans built this country, toiled beneath the hot sun, paid a traumatic price for the monetization of crops, endured rape and the babies that came with it, watched men march into prisons and white juries march into prejudice. LeBron James talked about a “slap in the face.” Yes. There have been a lot of slaps in the face particularly when it comes to justice. When it comes to policing. When it comes to housing. When it comes to education. When it comes to health care.
LeBron James is an inconsistent messenger, not because he doesn’t suffer the plight of every black man in America but because he also reaps the privilege of every white millionaire in America. So, on the one hand, he is victimized by systemic racism and on the other hand, he is bestowed generational wealth. His “slap in the face” comment is true and yet for him singularly it is not. LBJ has done well for himself and his family and can enter spaces the average black man cannot. The same two Americas he talks about has given him a very generous salary and an enviable lifestyle. Yes, he suffers racial bias while he cashes huge checks. But he has the buffer of privilege the rest of us are only mildly acquainted with and he minimizes this double identity, black but wealthy.
One of the things I have noticed about the wealthy black people I know (none as rich as LeBron James I must say) is that they have this false assumption that because they have achieved at the highest level and are handsomely rewarded they are somehow immune to what the rest of us have to deal with. Their success should be uniformly appreciated. It ticks them off, more so than the average black person who expects to be profiled, judged, harassed, and bullied. Money isn’t an equalizer. As long as you’re black there will be bias. It doesn’t matter if you went to Harvard, if you are in the NBA, if you are the former President of the United States.
It’s not fair at all. But the capitalism LeBron James benefits from is a system that institutionalizes biases, racial bias being its most traumatic form of inequity. It’s is more involved than the police not stopping white terrorists. It’s redlining. It’s suspension rates in schools. It’s carceral solutions for institutionalized problems. It’s black women dying in childbirth and black men dying of COVID. I wish there were two Americas. Then we could stay put in our America and thrive just with us. But there is one America and that America often shuts the door on black and brown, and opens the door on white and angry.
Similar to the Capitol Police.