Giving a Police Officer a Medal for Fighting White Supremacy is…White Supremacy
White Supremacist Domestic Terrorists (WSDTs) stormed the US Capitol on January 6th. As the hostages, embedded media, and WSDTs themselves have time to process the events of that day, a narrative is beginning to cement itself in the minds of most rational Americans. Within the Capitol Police force, which has the primary jurisdiction over and responsibility for the security of the Capitol and its workforce, there have emerged (to borrow an incredibly old and incredibly corny line from DJTJ) some heroes and some zeroes.
The zeroes are — obviously — the officers who slid barricades aside, took selfies with insurrectionists, wore MAGA hats, stepped aside to provide unfettered access to the House floor and other acts of cowardice.
The heroes are — obviously — the ones who fought like hell, who gave their lives and bodies to save lawmakers, their staffs, and their family members, many of whom were there because of the historic nature of the day.
One of the heroes of Insurrection Day appears to be Officer Eugene Goodman, an Army veteran who saw ground combat in Iraq. Goodman is the Black man in the widely viewed footage who led a mob of insurrectionists away from the Senate floor and toward reinforcements, likely saving many lives, particularly that of the Vice President who reportedly was in that same space seconds before the mob arrived.
There is a groundswell of support for rewarding Goodman for his act of heroism. Some have suggested he receive the Congressional Gold Medal — the highest honor Congress can award. On a day when so many officers failed to uphold their oaths, Goodman’s bravery stands out from the crowd. It is understandable that a grateful nation would want to recognize Goodman and others that chose the harder — but nobler — option of service and sacrifice.
Awarding a Congressional Gold Medal, however, would demonstrate that those with the power to dismantle the systems of White supremacy that brought us to January 6 are still ignorant of the root causes of the problem or, worse, don’t consider White supremacy to be a problem.
Consider this. The image below represents (in no particular order) the policing professionals charged with the security of Washington, DC on January 6. Take a good look. Aside from the acting chief of the DC Metro Police Force, the security of the nation’s capital is helmed almost exclusively by White men. This…is White supremacy.
This is not to say that any of these accomplished and decorated professionals are White supremacists or hold these views. Rather, White supremacy is embedded and entrenched in our institutions. It is a centuries’ long acceptance of the hegemony of White men at the top. At the top of government, law enforcement, education, corporate America, the military, Wall St. — at the top everywhere that power, wealth, and status are leveraged.
When you take a good look at who is at the top of DCs security institutions, it answers the questions millions had on January 6 and in the days immediately after. How could this happen? Why was there no perimeter? Why weren’t the police in riot gear? Why wasn’t the online chatter taken seriously? What took reinforcements so long to arrive? Why were the insurrectionists allowed to go home? Why was the response so different from the Black Lives Matter protests in the summer?
Look at the image, again.
Can you understand why this group of individuals might see tens of thousands of White people converging on Pennsylvania Ave. as less threatening than tens of thousands of Black people converging? Can you understand why at the end of a night when thousands stormed the Capitol, smeared urine and fecal matter on the walls, ransacked offices, and stole national security secrets, only 13 people were arrested? Can you understand that thousands of these insurrections will never be convicted of any crime because — unlike other protestors and other protests — they were allowed to go home and are even now saying, “yes I was at the Capitol but I was a part of the peaceful protest and did not go onto the grounds or inside the building” and there will be no concrete evidence to prove otherwise?
Can you understand how the preparation, coordination, and response for January 6 would have been drastically different if there had been women or racial, ethnic, and religious minorities in more than just one of these senior policing roles? Can you understand why instances like this — and the million instances not captured on video — make Black people so angry and sad?
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An award for Goodman does nothing to dismantle the systems of White supremacy that allowed January 6 to happen. If it is determined that Goodman’s actions were heroic and brave; that he went beyond the call of duty; that he saved dozens or even hundreds of lives with his quick thinking, the reward for that is a promotion — to a job with the authority and influence to create change within the Capitol police force.
Indeed, the only way to change policing in the nation’s capital and across the country is to change the leadership. The country can not continue to create homogeneous systems of authority in an increasingly heterogeneous world without creating the very blind spots that allow insurrections to be planned, coordinated, financed, and carried out — unabated and uninterrupted — in broad daylight.
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The insurrection was a catastrophic failure for DCs policing establishment. It was an embarrassment of epic proportions. The whole world watched, mocked, and took stock of America’s inability to protect its own government, even as it routinely intervenes in the governmental operations of other nations around the world.
What would be even more embarrassing — at home and abroad — would be to wrap ourselves in the warm and fuzzy White supremacist blanket of medals and awards and commendations (similar to the warm and fuzzy White supremacist blanket of Black Lives Matter murals on streets and walls and businesses and websites) — while installing another panoply of White men atop the policing establishment and doing none of the hard work of dismantling the systems that led us to January 6.