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We all saw what happened on January 6th. The question on everyone’s mind is whether we should’ve seen that coming. To that I say, absolutely. Maya Angelou once said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” There are many people in this country who have consistently shown us who they are and what they stand for, so when the world wants to know if the insurrection at the Capitol could have been stopped, I think of the history of the United States.

It has been said a lot that former president Donald Trump’s strong words fueled with racism were the reason that this country became so divided. However, Donald Trump is not the cause of such division and hatred. Trump is merely a symptom of a legacy that dates back to the very beginning of the United States’ history. The U.S. is rooted in prosperity at the expense of marginalized communities. The idea that some groups are inferior due to the color of their skin, the religion they practice, the people they love, or perhaps the gender they identify with, is certainly not new. These thoughts and beliefs have been ingrained into our culture–they are secure in our institutions. The harsh reality is that for every defeated Donald Trump, there are 10 more waiting to take his place. 

We are a country so deeply divided because we refuse to accept the atrocities of our past. Instead, we idolize the people who committed these atrocities by erecting statues of them or hanging their pictures up as if they were heroes. Historical figures like Andrew Jackson and Christopher Columbus belong in history books to remind us of how evil can so easily be ignored. Monumentalizing these figures only allows for people like Donald Trump to legitimize their actions. When we turn a blind eye after continuous racism and sexism is displayed by the President of the United States, we let it be known that actions do not, in fact, have consequences. Until people like Donald Trump are held accountable for their role in stoking the fire of hatred, we will never be able to move forward. There is no value in pretending. We need to stop pretending that it is perfectly acceptable for a current member of Congress to say that the country is under an “islamic invasion”. We need to stop pretending that it is absolutely normal for members of neo-nazi groups to be working in civil service positions. What has become our new normal should have never been normalized.

So while the current slate of politicians and pundits may not be the direct cause of the split in the country, they certainly aren’t the solution. Accountability must come before unity. This means not only fixing the symptoms but also addressing the root causes of the problem. Systemic injustices must be tackled. The racist institutions that uphold the belief system must be dismantled. Reformation, restruction, and abolition are necessary steps to ensure equity and repair what has been broken for the last 400 years. When we look back at what happened on January 6th, we should remember it as the day when we were reminded that symptoms don’t go away if the problem has never been fixed in the first place.

Saanya Advani is a senior at Michigan State University studying Criminal Justice with a minor in Women's and Gender Studies. Her passions include music, a good bowl of noodles, and protesting unjust institutional systems.
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