Since the attempted insurrection and coup that occurred in the United States on January 6, 2021, many assessments by law enforcement officials have been released. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and many other agencies have issued reports analyzing their shortcomings much as they did after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. However, the evaluations have so far failed to address the individual and intentional failures from the very top of many agencies that led to the attack.
Whatever the intent, the players who failed to act despite a mountain of warnings from social media companies and law enforcement agencies have yet to be held accountable. None of the reports detail these incidents nor the individuals responsible for turning a blind eye to the evidence. Neither have we seen accountability for the leadership’s lack of action that took place during the attack. The cops who helped the crowd and the delays in deploying security forces should be distressing to every American.
Yet, it doesn’t seem to be.
Another incredibly important aspect the intelligence assessments don’t address is the very public knowledge of the upcoming event. Widespread media reports showed that the rally would be very large, that the then-president indicated it would be “wild,” and the rally intended to focus on the certification of Joe Biden’s victory over Donald Trump. The public’s analysis of what was to occur was actionable enough that even counter-protesters stayed out of the way.
Many assumed that the police and the National Guard would battle it out with the largely white supremacist crowd. The population knew what was to come and intelligence agencies played dumb. Had the crowd been Black or Brown, we’d be discussing the body count instead of whether white people will be held accountable. Had the intelligence reports been about Black Lives Matter, militarized police supported by the National Guard and their copious amount of resources would have been there to exact pain. People would have disappeared.
But since Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were perceived as supporters of Black Lives Matter and proponents of defunding the police (among many other things), and since Mike Pence didn’t take part in Trump’s Big Lie, the authorities took a back seat as the public attempted to take up the slack. The silence by the highest-ranking members of the U.S. law enforcement apparatus is precisely how unchecked rank and file members become extremists and why some took part in the attack. Cops with radical beliefs are clearly more pervasive than Americans care to believe.
The worst of them are in leadership positions.
A recent warning from the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis obtained by ABC News warns of an “increasing but modest level of activity online” by white supremacist extremists calling for violence if Trump is not reinstated as president. A conspiracy theory born of QAnon and the lie perpetrated by many Republicans claiming the election was stolen. The bulletin went on to say, “Some conspiracy theories associated with reinstating former President Trump have included calls for violence if desired outcomes are not realized.”
While DHS claims that they do not have information of an imminent threat, they suggest “As public visibility of the narratives increases, we are concerned about more calls to violence. Reporting indicates that the timing for these activities may occur during August 2021, although we lack information on specific plots or planned actions.” In other words, it can happen at any moment and the likelihood of a domestic terrorist attack grows every day.
Warnings such as these have been issued with increased regularity since Donald Trump took office. As many of those warnings became a reality, the media and the public at large have also been taking more interest in DHS bulletins regarding domestic terrorism. After the mass murder of mostly Latinos in an El Paso Walmart, Asians in Atlanta, and Jews in Philadelphia among so many other attacks, it seemed Americans and the authorities were becoming more aware of how pervasive extremism is in the United States.
The question was, and is, can we get the majority population to care enough to act? We’ve known for decades about hate groups infiltrating law enforcement, a fact that the FBI reminds us of every ten years or so. Yet no tangible actions have taken place to address it. When we see racism or extremism in law enforcement and it goes ignored. This is why we have cops in leadership positions maintaining the culture of violence towards non-white groups. The same culture invites other like-minded extremists to work in various aspects of law enforcement.
The terrorism we’ve seen in the last several years has largely been motivated by racism and bigotry. The connections between police and the groups who perpetrate such acts have always been there. You see it with the treatment of Kyle Rittenhouse; with cops giving Proud Boys rides to the bar; with cops wearing extremist group patches on their uniforms; with cops high-fiving members of hate groups; with the leniency towards the racist terrorists that attacked the Capitol. Without a single person of authority even batting an eye.
So, what does yet another warning matter when so much hate and extremism exist in so many critical aspects of our society and the majority isn’t bothered? Let’s not let the fact that this is largely a white people problem slide. If we’re going to address this as a society, the onus is on white folks in proximity to those who harbor extremist beliefs. They have to confront the idiocy head-on. No, they won’t get them to change their views overnight. But the least they can do is convince them not to act on their hate. It’s not asking much and it’s a great place to start.
There’s plenty of time to tackle their beliefs later.
In 2015, the FBI warned that the white supremacist infiltration of law enforcement was at “epidemic levels” while indicating that far-right “domestic terrorists” were using their connections in law enforcement to gain intelligence, restricted access privileges, and to help them evade capture. In 2019, Reveal found several hundred active duty and retired police officers were members of online forums that promoted racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, neo-Confederate ideologies, and neo-Nazism. To understand this specific issue is to understand how extremists have easily infiltrated federal law enforcement and intelligence services.
While there’s little doubt that we’ll learn more about the actions of that fateful January day, what will we learn about the people responsible? The investigation into what led to an act of terror must focus on those that allowed this to happen at every level. We know who the biggest players are, but we need to know who the proverbial henchmen were. It needs to expose and lead to the prosecution of people who made the decision not to declare Trump’s non-permitted rally and the election certification process as special events requiring added security. We also can’t continue to ignore and be complacent about the rise of domestic extremism within the ranks.
The United States as a civil society must take a proactive approach to the explosion of extremism and hate. Yes, the majority population (read: white people) must make more of an effort to confront the issue, particularly with those closest to them. As uncomfortable as these conversations may be, they need to be had. This won’t end otherwise. If you remain complacent, you’re essentially throwing your hands up and shrugging your shoulders as you surrender to the hate these groups breed. Time will tell us everything we need to know about whether white America is willing to deal with what the investigation into the terrorist attack reveals.
*Originally published in AfroSapiophile on Medium