Political Violence Is No Anomaly in American History

Georgia made history this week: The state elected a black senator for the first time on Tuesday. Rev. Raphael Warnock, a Morehouse graduate who serves as the senior pastor of the famous Ebenezer Baptist Church, once founded by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Georgia will represent Georgia in the Senate once the results are confirmed. Coupled with the victory of his Georgian compatriot Jon Ossoff, the Senate, as well as the House and Presidency, will be in democratic hands.

Unfortunately, a different type of story was also written this week when an angry, violent crowd of mostly white Trump supporters broke into the Capitol, breaking windows, demolishing private offices and violating public spaces. With the encouragement of the man who held the highest office in the country, the mob forced our elected officials to flee the House and Senate as they carried out the constitutionally required certification of the 2020 presidential election. The people who carried out this attack on our democracy were fueled by misinformation, largely from the President himself: the dead had voted, the voting machines had somehow changed votes, the elections were rigged, and the widespread fraud had transferred the presidency to Biden . But they also acted on a different kind of misinformation, a different kind of lie – a lie that obliterates the genius and contributions of blacks, a lie that ignores the fact that it was black hands that made America what it is, this unpaid black work built the very buildings that serve as the seat of our democracy. They have been fueled by the lie that is white supremacy.

If we are to move beyond the deadlock that has been our political destiny for years, we must face this lie that is deeply ingrained in all of our public life. On this week’s show, your hosts Melissa Harris-Perry and Dorian Warren are conducting a systems audit of the fundamentals of our policy.

Our guest and guide this week is Hasan Kwame Jeffries, Associate Professor of History at Ohio State University, where he teaches courses on Civil Rights and Black Power Movements. He reminds us that the violence we saw at the Capitol this week is not an anomaly – in fact, political violence gave birth to this nation. The American Revolution, the Civil War, the brutal suppression of the reconstruction and the strong resistance to the civil rights movement and political violence have long been used to maintain white supremacy in this country. And too often black freedom of choice and emancipation were exchanged in order to avoid further political violence. But Jeffries points us to a way to hold the people – whether they are the people who stormed the Capitol or the politicians who inspired them – accountable for their political violence and recognize the full contributions of black Americans and to be honored in our republic.


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