While immense turbulence marked 2020 and 2021, Republicans and Democrats have agreed on one thing: America is in peril.
For conservatives who idolize Donald Trump, they fear “losing” America; for Democrats, the country appears to be edging toward authoritarianism.
Trump’s supporters put him on a pedestal, which fans the fire of unrest and violence.
In Trump’s Jan. 6 insurrection speech that rallied the attack on the capitol, he says the election was stolen from him, and leveraged conspiracy theories that Biden plotted the assasination of a Navy SEAL team. Not only has Trump refused to denounce QAnon, but he has even retweeted the group’s post about the conspiracy.
By refusing to condemn groups such as QAnon and sharing their conspiracies with tens of millions of his followers, Trump uses fear to reinforce the illusion of himself as America’s “savior.”
His supporters rose on Jan. 6, fueled by fear, which they addressed with their entitlement, demanding Trump remain in office. They shouted “Fight for Trump” while storming the United States Capitol.
This event raises the question: who owns America? These Trump supporters are fighting for the America that was built for the white conservatives. Our country, work force and class structure are founded on colonialism and racism, and persist within our system and industries
Conservatives galvanized by Trump’s Jan. 6 speech, believe the country has been taken away from them. From their perspective, America historically met their demands with the privileges that the constitution promised. They experienced politics, protests, upward social mobility, opportunities and policing much differently than people of color.
To these vengeful Trump supporters, they were taking back what was theirs with the Jan. 6 insurrection. This notion is made evident when the rioters repeat, “our house,” after breaching the capitol’s barriers, as they storm the building.
Ironically, many conservatives complained that Black Lives Matter should “protest peacefully.” Those are the same people who met BLM with the countermovement Blue Lives Matter. Their violence against officers at the capitol shows these Americans did not truly believe in peaceful protests nor did they value the lives of officers. Over 140 officers suffered injuries, according to the Police Union. They just didn’t want others to have the same freedoms they feel entitled to.
Trump addressed the Capitol building breach with a Tweet that encouraged his followers to forever remember when the capitol was stormed in response to the election results.
Racism in the U.S. is seen through forms of voter suppression, as well as more blatantly, like the lynching device brought to the capitol riot.
It is imperative that we address the racism that persists in society.
For those of us who are fighting for racial justice, issues of racism and inequities continue to hold the U.S. back.
Republican-run states are enacting laws that make voting more difficult. This includes laws that make it harder to vote by mail and with absentee ballots. Keeping disenfranchised groups from casting votes has been a prominent barrier that bars marginalized groups from a seat at the table and having a voice as an American citizen to enact change. During the first few months of 2021, 14 states enacted 22 new laws that restrict voting access, with more bills moving through state legislatures.
The GOP’s latest voter restrictions represent a long-standing history of voter suppression. From the “grandfather clause,” aimed to suppress the Black male vote, to voter ID laws, which disqualifies around 21 million U.S. citizens who don’t have access to ID cards. Black voters have made a splash in recent Democratic wins, for example, around 87% of Black voters voted for Biden, according to a New York Times Exit Poll.
In May, Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill that restricts absentee voting. During the pandemic, absentee ballots allowed disenfranchised groups including the elderly and disabled Americans to cast their ballots. Restricting this option makes it more difficult for these groups to cast their votes. Everyday Americans cannot be expected to fight endlessly for basic constitutional rights, especially those in the working class, or those struggling with various disabilities.
Voters, especially the most vulnerable, need to be prioritized.
There have always been two versions of America. One version belongs to America’s most privileged: the white and often conservative individuals for whom the U.S. was built to sustain and serve. The other version consists of marginalized groups who continue fighting for basic rights and equalities.
For the country to improve, presidents and political leaders cannot be idolized, and instead, must be held accountable. Citizens that feel more entitled to rights and privileges than others should seek out opportunities to learn about and acknowledge the needs of other Americans, especially people of color and people with disabilities; introspection and understanding will be essential.
Supporting the voices of disenfranchised groups will make for a more equitable society.
Issues of deep-rooted racism need to be addressed as well. This will require the acknowledgment of racism in American sectors and making moves towards racial equity. It will take a lot of deconstruction and rebuilding to confront these issues.
This story was reported and written through a journalism course on opinion writing and edited by USC Annenberg Associate Professor Alan Mittelstaedt. Annenberg Media student editors reviewed the story and published it per newsroom guidelines.
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