Why people of color should care about the Jan. 6 hearings

Cassidy Hutchinson, former aide to Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, exits the hearing room as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol holds a hearing at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, June 28, 2022. (Sean Thew/Pool via AP)

The last few weeks of Jan. 6 hearings have provided a water hose of information about the extent of former President Trump’s involvement and responsibility for the attack on the Capitol. Damning testimony from former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson revealed that Trump made desperate attempts to join the violent mob as they forcefully invaded the U.S. Capitol. 

The information, images, and video footage weighs heavily on all Americans, but in communities of color that know all too well the heavy hand of enforcement — from stop and frisk policies and show me your papers laws to excessive use of force and detention without due process — the resounding sentiment has been, “if that was us, we would be dead.” Prosecution of Trump and the host of characters who planned and provoked the rioters that day would be the minimum way in which justice could be served, and the latest Yahoo/YouGov poll shows growing support for such action, with 52 percent of Americans believing Trump should be prosecuted even before the Hutchinson testimony.

But there is more at stake than justice for a crime committed.  

The last half century has been marked by communities of color, who have been marginalized and disenfranchised, fighting for a seat at the table in American politics: From Black civil rights leaders marching on Washington, to Asian Americans fighting for acknowledgement after being interned during World War II, and Latinos advocating for immigration policies that reflect not only the needs of the receiving country, but the values and rights of immigrants themselves.  

But as the Jan. 6 hearings have revealed, the game being played by President Trump and those he represents is not aimed at merely limiting or excluding groups from participation in the American table, but to burn the entire table down. With bombshell after bombshell of shocking testimony on how former president Donald Trump actively tried to incite violence and overturn the outcome of the election on Jan. 6, one thing has become clear: American democracy is in peril.

At the heart of any democracy is the maintenance of free and fair elections. Rule of law, a value once deeply held by the Republican Party, is essential to free and fair elections. In 2000, when the Supreme Court reversed an order by the Florida Supreme Court for a recount of the presidential election in the case of Bush v. Gore, the decision was ultimately accepted by the people. Gore supporters didn’t riot, hang nooses, or bring an armed mob to attack the court and seek out the justices. As the testimony has revealed, Trump not only attempted to pressure Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to overturn the Georgia election outcome with math magic, and activate a mob on Jan. 6, but he continues the onslaught by bullying local election officials — career professionals like Wandrea “Shaye” Moss, an election worker who received death threats and had to go into hiding after Trump and his allies spread false accusations about her.

As people of color, it’s easy to look at American politics today and see a dysfunctional system that isn’t working. A quick glance over the last few years and we will be reminded of police abuses that run rampant, children locked in cages at the U.S. Mexico border, and scapegoating of the Asian American community for a global pandemic. It might be tempting to turn away from the Jan. 6 hearings as just one more example of disheartening news that is trivial to our everyday lives. But the institutional foundations of our democracy are at stake. As the late civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) told us in his departing letter, “Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part.” 

Over the last several years, we have witnessed a flurry of organizing and civic engagement, from protesting in the streets to the highest record turnout in history. Now is not the time to turn away from the challenges our nation faces, but to stay engaged and make our voices heard. Our democracy depends on it.

Sara Sadhwani is Assistant Professor of Politics at Pomona College.

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