Many of us have had our eyes glued to the news since January 6th, when urged by the United States President, a group of white supremacist domestic terrorists breached the United States Capitol in an effort to block the certification of the 2020 Presidential Election. In the days since the event, we have seen that the Capitol insurrection was far more serious and violent than what we even previously thought. Further, in stark contrast to the Capitol Police’s physical presence and their harassment and brutality towards Black Lives Matter protesters just this summer, many in the Capitol Police seemed to actively or passively aid domestic terrorists in their attack on the Capitol. These events were certainly unprecedented, but they were also not unexpected. For months, the President and his extremist supporters have been openly planning these events and literally telling us this would happen. In the days leading up to the inauguration, we may see more violence.
As an intersectional, anti-racist, feminist professional organization dedicated to promoting social justice and dismantling intersecting systems of oppression, Sociologists for Women in Society (SWS) adds its voice to the growing number of organizations that strongly condemn the insurrection by white supremacist domestic terrorists last week. We hold the President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, responsible for inciting this atrocity. We call upon our elected officials to hold him accountable for his actions. We support that the 25th Amendment be invoked, or the immediacy of impeachment proceedings. Additionally, we join other organizations in demanding a full investigation and the termination of any Capitol Police involved in aiding the domestic terrorists and the expulsion of any lawmakers who incited this violence through spreading lies/conspiracy theories about the 2020 Election.
However, this only addresses the events that occurred on January 6th. As sociologists, we need to better understand the conditions in which Donald J. Trump came to power and became increasingly fascist. Throughout campaign speeches and rallies since 2016, Trump has openly used ableist, sexist, racist, and/or xenophobic rhetoric to incite his base. And yet, he not only won the 2016 Presidential Election, more than 74 million people in the United States voted for Trump in the 2020 Presidential Election after his “ist” rhetoric had only become more blatant and overt and after he grossly mishandled a global pandemic that has resulted in more than 2.7 million people contracting the virus and the deaths of more than 367,000 people. Brown and Black people in the United States are disproportionately affected by COVID-19. The COVID tracking project and researchers at Boston University report that Black individuals have “died at 1.6 times the rate of white people.” The Black Lives Matter protests of Summer 2020 and the growing documentation of the “Karen phenomenon” in which white women call the police to falsely claim criminal activity of Black people, particularly Black men, highlight a need to better understand deeply seated racism that permeates throughout the United States.
In short, we have been witnessing white supremacy in every layer of our government, in our healthcare system, in our academic institutions, and in our daily interactions. As sociologists, we can certainly increase our understanding of these processes that reproduce inequality, but we can also do more. In recent weeks, we have seen celebrations for the social justice work of Black women, but we have also seen calls from Black women for others to share the burden of this important work. Audre Lorde’s essay “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action” (1977) still inspires us to reflect and to act, particularly the following excerpt:
What are the words you do not yet have? What do you need to say? What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence? Perhaps for some of you here today, I am the face of one of your fears. Because I am woman, because I am Black, because I am lesbian, because I am myself – a Black woman warrior poet doing my work – come to ask you, are you doing yours?
Are we doing our work? We call our members to action, to reflect on these questions, and to get to work because clearly, we have a lot of work to do. We encourage members to attend relevant programming at our upcoming Winter Meeting and to stay tuned for future opportunities and resources for action from SWS.
January 13, 2021