The police aren’t suddenly a trust-worthy institution just because of January 6th’s insurrection events. Critiquing the white supremacist institution of policing isn’t just for when it’s convenient.
By Gloria Oladipo
On January 6th, a mass of white supremacists broke into Capitol Hill with the intent of avenging Trump’s “stolen” election and killing United States politicians. The attacks have incited a wave of responses from many liberals; while most have denounced the rioters, at the same time, many have called for police involvement to “catch” the white supremacists involved. White women on Tinder are using their profiles to match with Capitol Hill participants and turn them into the police. People on social media are calling for others to turn in rioters to law enforcement, sharing the FBI’s “Wanted” posters and calling for others to help out. Others have been praising them, calling them “heroes” for trying to contain January 6th’s violence.
All this approval from white people is a complete 180° shift from calls throughout the summer of 2020 alleging “ACAB” and “BLM.” The police aren’t suddenly a trust-worthy institution just because of January 6th’s events. Critiquing the institution of policing isn’t just for when it’s convenient.
It’s obvious that policing is a white supremacist institution. First founded as a means to catch runaway slaves, policing has become a more sophisticated way to target and kill Black people. Since Summer 2020 and beyond, we have seen countless examples of police using their power and position to harm Black people and evade consequences. Officers (both formerly on the force and currently serving) and military veterans have also exposed themselves as either sympathizing with or being members of white supremacists organizations. Despite the obvious entanglement of police and white supremacy, people are still using law enforcement as a tool to hold white supremacists responsible.
In fact, the Capitol Hill attacks made law enforcement’s connection to white supremacy more evident. Police all but welcomed rioters to Capitol Hill on the 6th: taking selfies with rioters and helping them exit post-failed coup. Prominent police officers such as Fraternal Order of Police president John Catanzara defended the violence, claiming rioters don’t deserve to be labelled as treasonous as they acted “out of frustration.” A number of military professionals and police officers were a part of the violent riots, including two police officers from Virginia who posted a selfie of themselves in the Capitol.
Despite the links between white supremacy and police, people are still dependent on law enforcement to punish those responsible for January 6th. Why? Because despite witnessing the lengths that police will go to harm Black people, it’s still convenient to buy into the fantasy that police are willing to protect all people, despite that consistently being proven untrue. Law enforcement knew about the January 6th attacks well before rioters stormed the Capitol. Despite being able to identify and arrest Black Lives Matter protestors with ease, the FBI and other agencies have been astoundingly incapable of identifying those involved in the January 6th attacks. It’s becoming increasingly clear that while police officers are capable of arresting and punishing January 6th coup participants, they don’t want to, especially when that would mean holding their own accountable (for once).
Teaming up with police officers with the false hope that they will, one day, wake up and decide to police themselves isn’t only ridiculous but actively dangerous towards Black people and people of color. Any “improvements” made to surveillance will only be used to further surveil and entrap minorities fighting for justice and our own humanity. Hero narratives and a couple snapshots of police officers doing their paid job isn’t worthy of praise; it’s their basic responsibility. Not to mention, the proliferation of pro-police has the specific purpose of trying to paint the police as good people despite their involvement in the January 6th event and the harm they carry out against Black people.
It bears repeating that one or two or even a dozen “good cops” that protect Capitol Hill against angry white supremacists doesn’t exonerate the institution of policing. Calls for collaboration with the police or, worse, more police patrol are harmful and will inevitably impact communities of color. Rather than calling for increases in police involvement, it’s more worthwhile to seriously examine the white supremacist underpinnings of policing. Moreover, why is it that, despite countless examples of police using their power to harm minorities, we as a society are still willing to call upon law enforcement to “save” us.
Gloria Oladipo is a Black woman who is a senior at Cornell University and a permanent resident of Chicago, IL. She enjoys reading and writing on all things race, gender, mental health, and more. You can email her at email@example.com, follow her on Instagram at @glorels, or on Twitter at @gaoladipo.
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