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As the nation anticipates the last lap of the Select Committee Hearings On January 6th this Fall, one existential question hangs in the air like a sulfuric gas. Having seen enough, America now knows that Donald Trump attempted to overthrow the American government and install himself as its dictator. The question is this: Will he be held accountable?
Five people died. Approximately 800 people have been arrested. The Capitol was ransacked to the tune of 1.5 million dollars in felony property damage. All of this and Trump is still tanning in Mar-a-Lago.
Five people died and he is still tanning.
I think of the swarms of police breaking down Black and Brown men’s doors because they were caught selling a dime-bag of weed to white boys from the burbs. The burb boys lay back on their plaid-covered pillows; blowing wafts of smoke into stale bedroom air as booked Black and Brown boys move deeper and deeper into captivity with each clang of the cage doors behind them.
This is American “justice.”
What will it take for America to indict Trump for his crimes against this nation—for his crimes against Americans? It will require a reckoning. America must reckon with its dehumanization of blackness and brownness. And we must face our deification of white manhood.
Humanity is not meant to live inside of cages. Humans are not meant to be controlled, fettered, cooped up on a steel cot in roach-infested pens. Humans were created by God to walk on grass and sand and dirt, surrounded by clean air and family and community, and working toward the good of all. Humans exercise agency. That’s just what humans do.
Yet, one in three black men in the U.S. will be fettered, controlled, and couped up in a cage within his lifetime. Only one in seventeen men of European descent will ever be dragged from the grass, sand, or dirt.
Lanisha Bratcher was indicted on two felony charges in North Carolina because she mistakenly voted while on probation. Crystal Mason was indicted, convicted and sentenced to five years in prison for voting with a provisional ballot that was never counted in the wrong place in Texas. Meanwhile, Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows was simultaneously registered to vote in three different states at the same time and remains unindicted.
Black young people only make up 14% of youth in the U.S., but account for 47% of juveniles transferred into adult prisons and jails. Black young people are tried as adults. White adults are rarely tried.
Black people see the insides of prison cells for small infractions. Trump is tanning in Mara Logo after his actions led to the deaths of five people.
In 1939, under the hegemony of the Supreme Court’s 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson ruling, American sociologist and criminologist, Edwin Sutherland, penned the term “White-collar Crime.” The ancient European idea that royalty could do no wrong had been racialized in Sutherland’s American context. While contemporary sociologists and lawyers understood embezzling millions from a corporation or price-gouging at the gas pump or top-tier tax-evasion as administrative, civil infractions, Sutherland called them crimes—white-collar crimes. The idea that rich White men could be criminals was a progressive one in Sutherland’s era. Eighty-seven years later, it seems the concept still reveals the unconscious racial biases beneath the surface of our national discourse.
There is a single straight line that connects Trump’s coordination and execution of the attempted insurrection on January 6, 2020, his dereliction of duty, and the slaughter of the five Capitol police officers who died that day. Yet, America does not know if Trump will be indicted. And if he is indicted, we do not know if he will be convicted. And if he is convicted, we do not know if he will serve one day in prison. Why? Because he is a White man with money in America. That is it. That is all.
Five people are dead and Trump is still tanning in Mar-a-Lago.
Rich White maleness is the axis around which justice revolves in America. What would happen if we replaced that axis with biblical justice—justice that protects the orphan, the widow, the poor and the immigrant?
What would happen if we removed rich, White maleness from the center of our national concern and replaced it with concern for the truth and integrity of God’s commands: Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not covet. Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not bear false witness. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Then we might find ourselves saying what Attorney General Merrick Garland said to a doubter recently: “No person is above the law.”
If no person is above the law and the rule of law is to survive this moment, then the avalanche of evidence unearthed by the Select Committee on January 6th demands that Donald J. Trump be held accountable. Trump must be indicted on five counts of second and/or third-degree murder, felony property damage, reckless endangerment, dereliction of duty and sedition. All of it.
Lisa Sharon Harper is author of critically acclaimed book, Fortune: How Race Broke My Family And The World—And How To Repair It All.