“We must get to the bottom of this. We cannot let white supremacy … dominate the goodness of what this democracy and this Constitution stands for,” she said. “I’m here on the floor to say that we shall not be denied. We are never going to give up our love for democracy, nor its vitality, nor are we going to let this country be dominated by the insurrectionists who came to this place to do nothing but act in a bloodthirsty manner. We are not afraid of you.”
Rep. Dean Phillips—an average-looking white guy from Minnesota—recounted how the Capitol attack made him understand white privilege in a new way. “Recognizing that we were sitting ducks in this room as the chamber was about to be breached, I screamed to my colleagues to follow me. To follow me across the aisle to the Republican side of the chamber, so that we could blend in—so that we could blend in,” he said. “For I felt that the insurrectionists who were trying to break down the doors right here would spare us if they simply mistook us for Republicans.
”But within moments I recognized that blending in was not an option available to my colleagues of color. So I’m here tonight to say to my brothers and sisters in Congress and all around our country. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. For I had never understood—really understood—what privilege really means. It took a violent mob of insurrectionists and a lightning bolt moment in this very room. But now I know. Believe me, I really know.”
Phillips’ emotional apology adds context to the testimony from some of the colleagues he was referring to—people who could not hope to blend in with House Republicans. He described his fear that day, but some of his colleagues have lived with fear like that and experienced the insurrection as too close to what they already knew.
Rep. Cori Bush showed how she became a movement leader with a searing speech tying the experience of being in the Capitol on that day to her experience of protest, saying, “People were calling this a protest. Let me say this: That was not a protest. I’ve been to hundreds of protests in my life. I’ve co-organized, co-led, led, and organized protests.” Sitting in her office, with her staff, watching the attack on the Capitol on television, Bush vowed “If they touch these doors, if they hit these doors the way they hit that door and come anywhere near my staff—and I’m just going to be real honest about it, my thought process was, we bangin’ till the end. I’m not letting them take out my people and you’re not taking me out. We’ve come too far.”
Where Bush emphasized her readiness in that moment to go down fighting—a measure of the level of threat she felt, but also a truly stirring call—Rep. Rashida Tlaib described herself as “paralyzed” by the threats she has received. Sobbing almost from the beginning, she recounted getting her first death threat on the first day of orientation after her election to Congress. “I didn’t even get sworn in yet and someone wanted me dead for just existing,” she said. “More came later, uglier, more violent.” One even mentioned her son by name. Tlaib wasn’t in the Capitol on Jan. 6, but with years of death threats in her experience, the sight traumatized her again.
These are amazing moments and they are profound witness to the horror of Jan. 6—the horror of what Donald Trump spent years laying the groundwork for, months setting the stage for as he tried to overturn the election results, and a morning inciting live and in person. Trump of course had a solid bedrock of U.S. racism to build on, but this specific event was something he really worked for and owns. Republicans want to wish it away to protect their own. That must not happen.
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