Given this country’s racial history, it’s difficult or darn near impossible not to see those decades-deep racial connections. There’s something else, too, though. An abiding dignity in the work the men are doing. An illustration of their importance to the health of this country, just the latest example of how Black Americans remained steadfast throughout our history come what may.
It feels wrong that they had to pick up the pieces from a failed insurrection attempt that, had it been successful, would have disenfranchised millions of voters, particularly those in areas with heavy Black populations. It not only feels wrong but is wrong. It shouldn’t be this way. In the democracy we all supposedly love and cherish, the racial and income and power inequalities evident in that video shouldn’t exist. But they do and always have. Black people have always been forced into a kind of Sophie’s choice, to love a place that has for too long hated us while knowing that’s what’s best for us all, nevertheless.
Despite the chaos, the Black men seen cleaning up remained focused on what they could change, what they could improve. They didn’t get caught up in returning hatred with hatred, anger with bitterness, confrontation with balled fists.
Black people aren’t asking for special treatment or to be given all the power. They are asking not to be unnecessarily killed by armed-agents of the state, better schools for their children, a just justice system and a fairer shot at competing for jobs and careers.
Those men in that video were not only cleaning up after the actions of pro-Trump supporters eager to disenfranchise people who look like them. They were readying the place for leaders who had to flee but needed to return to complete their tasks. They were sweeping up the broken glass inside while the mob was outside praising itself for undermining our democracy — making the US a laughingstock around the globe — and confronting law enforcement officials who had finally begun taking charge.
With each stroke of the broom, they were slowly helping to piece this democracy back together. It’s what Black people have always done, no matter the circumstances, not matter the burden placed upon their backs. I’m just wondering how much more — and how much longer — we have to endure to perfect this democracy.