The Double Standard of Policing and What to Do About It

What the Capitol Hill riot proved about racism in the United States


Alicia Hamm

Black and white Americans are held to different standards by law enforcement.

January 6, 2021 was a day that highlighted the unacceptable racism that plagues American society. When a majority-white mob broke into the Capitol Building, it was met with little opposition. But when Black Lives Matter protesters defended their rights this summer, they faced tear gas and rubber bullets.

The Capitol Building is the embodiment of democracy. It is one of the most secure buildings in the entire nation. So how did so many people gain unrestricted access?

The answer is simple: white privilege.

For hours, rioters faced little resistance from the outnumbered police force. The majority-white crowd roamed freely, wreaking havoc and violating the building. Only 26 arrests were made on Capitol grounds, although later arrests did occur. After hours of silence, President Trump addressed the incident with a one-minute-long video posted to Twitter, which has since been removed. This initial response to the act of terrorism was a message of sympathy toward the rioters: it spoke of them as if they were the ones who had been wronged.

The reaction of law enforcement to the majority-white mob compared to Black Lives Matter protests is unacceptable in a nation where everyone is supposedly granted equal rights and protection under the law. When Black Lives Matter protests occurred after the murder of George Floyd, President Trump disparaged the movement, calling it a threat and demanding top-notch security to counter it. At the height of the protests, the Capitol was heavily protected by the National Guard. Police officers acted violently toward peaceful protesters, sparking further discontent over police brutality.

Despite the harsh treatment of demonstrators by police, around 93% of all Black Lives Matter protests were peaceful. On the contrary, what happened on January 6 was in no way peaceful. It was an attack on democracy by people who were unhappy with the results of an election that was repeatedly proven to be lawful and true. Black Lives Matter protesters, in standing up for their rights when they were violated, faced much more police resistance than Capitol rioters, who committed an outright crime.

How is it that Black citizens cannot stand up for their rights without resistance, yet white citizens can break into a government building almost unopposed? Law enforcement is far more lenient toward white Americans than Black Americans.

The double standard of policing will never be addressed until we acknowledge it and face it as what it is. So what can you do about it?

Raise awareness. Talk about it. Spread the word. Even though we are up against a centuries-old system of racism, we can have a major impact if we all work together. Once enough people are having conversations about the double standard of policing, our leaders will no longer have the choice to ignore it. So start talking, and be the change that you want to see.