How race played a role in the Capitol insurrection

The Jan. 6 committee will hold its next public hearing on Monday morning. And while the panel's focus is on former President Trump and his closest allies, future witnesses are expected to draw a link between the Trump White House and extremist groups. Hakeem Jefferson, a political scientist at Stanford University, joins John Yang to discuss.

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  • John Yang:

    The January 6 committee will hold its next public hearing on Monday morning. And while the panel's focuses on President Trump and his closest allies future, witnesses are expected to draw a link between the Trump White House and extremist groups. Hakeem Jefferson is a political scientist at Stanford University. Mr. Jefferson, thanks for joining us. The Committee is describing President Trump and his false claims about a stolen election as the catalyst for these events. But you see a lot more going on than just unhappiness over the election, is that right?

  • Hakeem Jefferson, Stanford University:

    Oh, well, certainly, I recall very vividly sitting in the same exact spot, having watched the images coming out of D.C. on January 6, 2021. And what was immediately clear to me was that this was about much more than a perception that some election had been stolen. This was a kind of racial backlash, a kind of up uprising in the face of perceptions that white people were losing status that, however, was being taken away from them. And Donald Trump's loss of the 2020 election was, but the biggest sign of that loss of status.

  • John Yang:

    Because you talked about sitting on, watching those pictures. The pictures were also a sea of white faces, is that right?

  • Hakeem Jefferson:

    That wasn't some kind of magic that the faces that we saw on the screens before us, the faces of those who were climbing barricades and attacking police were overwhelmingly white Americans — white Americans whom Donald Trump had told Donald Trump and I say, other Republican elites, both in politics and in the media that told these white Americans, their country had been taken away from them, that they were being replaced.

  • John Yang:

    Do you see evidence of these forces still at work or at work since January 6 than the — in the culture wars, the social divide that we've been having since then?

  • Hakeem Jefferson:

    Almost certainly, you can't understand the movements of American politics, certainly in the spectacular form that it took on January the sixth, but you can't understand state legislatures implementing laws that ban certain kinds of books or that make it illegal to teach certain kinds of lessons about America's racist past, without understanding that a lot of white Americans, not all white Americans, to be sure, feel that their power is being threatened. These battles are not merely battles over what's being taught to children in schools. It's a battle over the power of narrative. And that's the kind of power that white Americans have long wielded.

  • John Yang:

    You mentioned that the racial makeup of the crowd on January 6 was not random. I've also been struck and I'm wonder if, is it random that so many people are apologists for January 6, make comparisons to Black Lives Matter protests?

  • Hakeem Jefferson:

    I mean, this sort of retelling of history, this recreation of narrative is not new in American life, right? There is a retelling of the period of enslavement still, by some so we shouldn't be surprised that in the face of really hard back, facts that are being rendered, again, by way of the committee's primetime hearings that some would tell different stories, but I think the American people, at least many of us are reasonable enough to find the falsehood very present there.

  • John Yang:

    Is there a risk if these factors are overlooked in the analysis or revisiting of January 6?

  • Hakeem Jefferson:

    Race is the central organizing feature of American politics and nothing else comes close and what we lose and not attending to that reality is that we miss the core of what we've seen that these white Americans are merely upset that Donald Trump is not in office. They're upset that his defeat symbolizes a change in the racial order and the racial hierarchy that a multiracial coalition of voters went out to the ballot boxes and elected Joe Biden who said that he was fighting for the soul of a kind of multiracial America. It is that reality, the reality of race and American racism. That is at the core of January the 6 and these other aspects of American politics that we're observing.

  • John Yang:

    Hakeem Jefferson of Stanford University, thank you very much.

  • Hakeem Jefferson:

    My pleasure, thank you.

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