Dr. Moses serves as a professor of anthropology, associate vice chancellor for diversity, equity and excellence and executive director for conflict resolution at UCR. Her research focuses on the broad question regarding the origins of social inequality in complex societies through the use of comparative ethnographic and survey methods.
Q: The treatment of largely white supremacists by Capitol Hill police stood in stark contrast to the way law enforcement handled protests for Black lives this summer. This mob stormed the Capitol with little to no resistance from police, while some even took selfies with white police officers. How do you react to the stark differences in treatment of peaceful Black protestors and organizers versus the treatment of violent white supremacists who stormed the United States Capitol?
A: 10 years ago, the FBI put out a report that law enforcement in the United States is infiltrated by white supremacists. The question I would ask, is why has there not been a national reckoning around this information? Where is the institutional will to root out white supremacists from law enforcement in this country? There is a long history that supports this behavior. From history we know that law enforcement developed in this country to patrol runaway slaves, the property of white owners. So you might say that white supremacists today are now protecting whiteness, or the power of whiteness to call the political decisions in this country.
Q: This summer, in reference to overwhelming peaceful protestors calling for racial justice, Trump tweeted, “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” In response to violent white supremacists storming the Capitol, Trump told the extremists, “We love you. You’re very special … but you have to go home.” Before the mob stormed the Capitol, he told his supporters to “fight like hell.” How do you respond to the difference in response that President Trump had for Black Lives Matter protestors in comparison to white supremacists storming the United States Capitol?
A: Trump has shown over the past four years, and even before this incident when he said Barack Obama was not a real American, and born in Kenya, that he was a racist and sympathized with white supremacists. He knew that white supremacists supported him, he also knew that there were white supremacists within the police.
Q: The FBI is notorious for surveilling Black activists and protestors, from the Civil Rights Movement to the Black Lives Matter movement. What is your reaction to the FBI’s response to this riot that was planned on many social media platforms very publicly?
A: I believe that there was complicity in the system. Somebody knew that these rioters were coming to the capitol. There is a lot of finger pointing right now, but the FBI is the organization that is supposed to monitor domestic terrorism. It is hard to believe, but there are not even laws on the books to prosecute these people as white supremacist domestic terrorists. That is something that the Biden-Harris administration has to change.
Q: What does the Capitol Police’s handling of the riot say about the police’s ability to de-escalate?
A: The Capitol Police and the Metropolitan police have many black police in their ranks. They have complained in the past about racism in their ranks, and racist treatment by white racist officials’ in the White House and Congress. Look at today how some of the white congress people are refusing to go through the metal detectors. It is no coincidence that the head of the Capitol Police resigned, and officers in the ranks did not know what was going to happen. I believe the chief of the Capitol Police knew what was going to happen, did nothing, and put his officers in harm’s way.
Q: How does the police’s ability to de-escalate situations compare to the brutality that Black and brown folks face at the hands of the police?
A: All police officers in all departments across this nation are not taught de-escalation tactics. We do not know what their training was in the attack on the Capitol. Clearly, they were overwhelmed. There were not enough police officers. That is in stark contrast to the police who were called out by the president to “show force” in those demonstrations around BLM and police brutality this summer that happened across our nation. There is clearly a double standard. Black and brown people and their white supporters are treated like law breaking criminals by peacefully protesting. White mobs are treated with kid gloves. No wonder Black and brown folks are skeptical about the “serve and protect” motto of law enforcement. It appears to be to serve and protect “whiteness.”
Q: Many of those participating in the violent mob are supporters of the police and “blue lives matter.” Despite this, a handful of Capitol Police faced serious injuries at the hands of protestors, and one died. What does this say about how the “Blue Lives Matter” slogan is a rebuke to Black Lives Matter and the oppression Black people face at the hands of police?
A: We all saw the hypocrisy of the Trump supporters when they attacked the Capitol Police and the Metropolitan Police. They did not care about those police officers, for them they represented the government, and they were protecting people that the rioter wanted to get to. Plus, these are people who were doing the president’s bidding. He told them that the election was stolen, and this would be the last opportunity for them “to take their country back.” And my question is taking their country back from whom? There were 7 million more people who voted for Joe Biden than for Trump. Any rational person could see that. But Trump stoked fears that were already there in the minds of these folks, that “their country” is being taken over by people they do not like.
Q: The Capitol Police are one of the most heavily militarized police forces in America. What does it say that this mob of white supremacists were so easily able to infiltrate the Capitol building and met with very little violence or retaliation from police?
A: As I mentioned before, while I think some of the Capitol Police fought valiantly against this mob attack, they were overwhelmed by their sheer numbers. I believe that there were Trump supporters and White Supremacists within the Capitol Police that colluded with officials in the White House and even Congress to plan the storming of the Capitol. The mob knew where to go once they got in.