By SUSAN K. SMITH
Crazy Faith Ministries
Eugene Goodman, the Black Capitol Police officer who distracted members of the angry White mob who stormed the United States Capitol on Jan. 6, as reported by The Washington Post, shared a moment in the podcast This American Life where he realized just how bad the situation was.
He was alone, trying his best to push the crowd back, he said, yelling at them to go back, to get out. They ignored him. At one point someone asked him, “Did you vote for Biden?” He says he started not to say anything, but got angry and said, “Yeah, I voted for Biden. And what?” He continued to challenge them, saying that destroying the Capitol building, shooting guns and beating innocent people, including police officers, was not the way to voice opposition to the results of the election.
He was soundly booed, but at one point, he says that a couple of the rioters came up to him, and showed him their badges. They were police officers from somewhere. Goodman looked at the badges, horrified and then more angry than he had been before. They said, “We’re with you, man. We know how it is.” And those comments made him even more angry. He ended up telling them to get out of his face, and they did. They went back to their angry assault on the Capitol and any human who got in the way.
He says he watched people who he knew would have been people who would have said “blue lives matter” in opposition to the Black Lives Matter movement actually beat people – including members of the Capitol Police Force, with pipes, guns and flags – American and Trump flags …and even a flag that said “Blue Lives Matter.”
It was affecting him, but he could not stop to process it. The people kept coming, he said, and he had to continue his job. He says they fought the mob for five hours, with little help. At some points, he says he remembers seeing some law enforcement officers standing by, watching, but not working to save and protect the Capitol Building.
When the situation was brought under control, he says he broke down. He says he “sobbed,” the trauma having been such an assault on his spirit and on some of his core beliefs. Law enforcement was part of the problem, and it caused him deep pain.
That story resonates even as we listen to law enforcement talk now of maybe not arresting some of those who were involved in the insurrection. They say they don’t want to overload the courts or – get this – the prisons. And while that sentiment is not a surprise, it is as painful in its own way too many as was the realization by Officer Goodman that law enforcement was involved in and was a part of the plot to overthrow the government.
Had those mobs been Black, there would have been no concern about overloading the courts or the prisons; while some of the mob have been arrested, many have been released into the custody of their parents or others. But had they been Black, they would have stuffed those people into cells like they were sardines.
A Black woman, talking about the double standard between Whites and Blacks in the practice of policing says she remembers taking part in a Black Lives Matter protest this summer in Wisconsin. It was peaceful; nobody had guns. The group chanted, yelling out their pain at the murder of George Floyd in particular, but also their frustration with the fact that police treat Black and White people differently, disparately and have for decades.
For being a part of that protest, she was arrested. She says the police officer who arrested her threw her to the ground and held her there, his knee on her back.
Republicans are now trying to put a different spin on what happened in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6. They are trying to lessen the blot left by right wing extremists, who do not respect this government – or, apparently, police officers. They only voice concern for police officers when they have been accused of unjustly treating Black people, too often killing them.
The spin will be strong, like a mighty wind, working to keep alive the myth of the heroic police officer that is too often unjustly maligned. What would be great, however, is if police departments all over this country took a good look at their ranks, purging from their departments officers who have racist beliefs and who rejoice at being able to be in a profession which allows them to beat and kill Black people whenever they want.
It would be good if this horrific experience opened the eyes of the many who have kept their eyes squeezed shut, so as to not see the truth. It is a stretch to believe that that will happen; so many people believed that when the masses saw the beating of Rodney King by Los Angeles police officers, that the cry of Black people would finally be heard. It didn’t happen; King’s assailants were acquitted.
Oppressed people lean on God and look for God to do something when their oppression is so great and so debilitating. In Biblical times, Moses talked to God about the state of the Israelites, who were being oppressed by the Egyptians. In Exodus 5:22 it says, “Then Moses turned again to the Lord and said, “O Lord, why did you ever send me? Since I first came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has mistreated this people, and you have done nothing at all to deliver your people.”
As it was Moses’ cry, it will be the cry of many, including those who, like Eugene Goodman, are still stunned in realizing once again that those charged with protecting people are only concerned with protecting some. In the present day, they are not concerned with protecting Black and Brown people, which is not new, but sadly, they are also not concerned with protecting even White people who had the gall to vote for someone other than the man they call “their” president.
What a sad revelation for some that truly is.
Rev. Dr. Susan K. Smith is the founder and director of Crazy Faith Ministries. She is available for speaking. Her latest book, With Liberty and Justice for Some: The Bible, the Constitution, and Racism in America is available at all booksellers. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.