The rioters at the U.S. Capitol may be many things, but oppressed isn't one of them

The attack on the U.S. Capitol is perhaps the most confounding display of entitlement I have ever seen. It is a lot of other things, as well. There is almost nothing you can say about Jan. 6 and not have it hit the mark, but I spent much of the day watching events unfold with a sense of maddening hilarity.

I simply could not contain in my senses that the attackers would take things that far and not once admit that they were already completely and utterly free, and that whatever they thought they were fighting for, they already possessed.

I think about writing a lot. Not the content of my work so much as possessing the basic ability to put pen to page. During slavery, Black people could be killed for anything: looking a white person in the eye, speaking, learning how to read. That didn’t change much well into the 1960s. There are still parts of the country where the needle on perceived Black slight hasn’t moved much, and most Black people could have told you that before Ahmaud Arbery decided to go jogging last February. 

But I think about how what I do here — what I say and how I say it — would have gotten me killed after about two weeks of writing, and how even the existence of this column is a revolutionary act. Even if I wrote food reviews all of this would be true.

But the Republicans who stormed the Capitol don’t have that kind of relationship to history. They come from a long line of people who have always had access to what America has to offer. They may not have come from wealth, but they have descended from trees ripe with the freedom of opportunity. No one ever told anyone in their family that they couldn’t do anything or go anywhere over something as menial as the color of their skin. Their starting gate has always been the starting gate, while everyone else had to start running from the parking lot.

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Trumpers, listen to someone who comes from a family that had to fight for the right to swim in a public pool in his mother’s lifetime: You don’t know what oppression is. And because you don’t know oppression, you also don’t understand freedom when it is in hand. You don’t know what censorship is. You don’t have any equivalent to a Coloreds Only drinking fountain. You have a plane ticket and an expensive gun and hotel money and all of the red, white and blue swag.

You may be many things, but oppressed isn’t one of them.

None of this should come as a surprise when you look at their leadership. Just yesterday at the Capitol, Republican lawmakers were upset that they had to go through metal detectors to enter the building. They were infuriated that they had to wear masks while in session. These are the same measures they send children to school under every day. Any reasonable person would expect that there might be some changes to security less than a week after an attack, and on a site that is essentially an active crime scene. But no, they’d rather yell at the police running the checkpoints and curse about their freedoms being stifled.

These people who have everything would rather fight over nothing just to maintain some sense of control, squeezing every waking moment for its potential power.