Melissa Harris-Perry: I'm Melissa Harris-Perry and this is The Takeaway. On Tuesday, testimony began before the Congressional select committee convened to investigate the violent mob attack on the US Capitol, January 6. The committee heard from four law enforcement officers on duty that day, One is Pfc. Harry Dunn of the Capitol Police, and warning here, folks, because it is quite shocking. You're going to hear some hard language, including the N-word in this testimony, but don't turn away. Listen.
Pfc. Harry Dunn: More and more insurrectionists were pouring into the area by the speaker's lobby near the rotunda and some wearing MAGA hats and shirts that said, "Trump 2020." I told them to just leave the Capitol and in response, they yelled, "No, man, this is our house. President Trump invited us here. We're here to stop this deal. Joe Biden is not the president. Nobody voted for Joe Biden." I'm a law enforcement officer and I do my best to keep politics out of my job, but in this circumstance, I responded, "I voted for Joe Biden. Is my vote not count? Am I nobody?"
That prompted a torrent of racial epithets. One woman in a pink MAGA shirt yelled, "You hear that guys? This nigger voted for Joe Biden," and the crowd, perhaps around 20 people joined in screaming, "Boo [sound cut] nigger." No one had ever, ever called me a nigger while wearing the uniform of a Capitol Police officer.
Melissa Harris-Perry: There is hard history at the core of Officer Dunn's testimony.
Hasan Kwame Jeffries: That's when it hit me, that the library in which James Madison conceives and conceptualizes the Bill of Rights rests on a foundation of bricks made by the children that he enslaved. This is hard history.
Melissa Harris-Perry: That the voice of Hasan Kwame Jeffries, professor of history at The Ohio State University. You just heard a portion of his TED talk about confronting hard histories. Hard histories were woven into every line of Officer Dunn's testimony. Hard history, the writers refused to leave because they claim the Capitol as their house, but who has a right to lay claim to the Capitol. Construction of the US Capitol began in 1793 with enslaved Black people who were rented out as laborers, their skills profited their enslavers, but they were never paid for their labor.
Still, they're responsible for raising the Capitol at every stage from design to construction, hard history. Officer Dunn recalls asking insurrectionists attempting to nullify the election if they consider him to be nobody. It is in many ways the same question Dred Scott asked in 1857 when he petitioned the supreme court for his freedom. The response came from Justice Roger Taney delivered in the court's opinion. He wrote--
Justice Roger Taney: The question before us is whether the class of persons described in the plea, people of African ancestry, composed a portion of these people and our constituent members of the sovereignty. We think they are not and that they are not included and were not intended to be included under the word citizens in the Constitution and can therefore claim none of the rights and privileges which that instrument provides for and secures to citizens of the United States.
Melissa Harris-Perry: To the court, Dred Scott was indeed nobody, hard history. Officer Dunn asked the mob if his vote even counted, but Black men's votes did not count in 1898 in Wilmington, North Carolina, when another armed mob of white insurrectionists murdered dozens of Black men, destroyed Black property, drove thousands of citizens from their home and overthrew the democratically elected city government. A hard history told in the 2016 film, Wilmington on Fire.
Speaker 1: "It had to be done," said the white people who started it. They loved their town until the Blacks tried to change it. "They took over the city to restore their heritage they said. They were heroes too many who wanted uppity folks dead.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Hard history. Officer Dunn is clearly pained about being called a racial slur while wearing his Capitol Police uniform, but history suggests it's the uniform itself that may have raised the ire of the mob. In the decades following the Civil War and after both world wars, Black veterans wearing their uniforms in public were uniquely vulnerable to white supremacist hostility, mob violence, and lynching. For much of our shared history, a Black man, even one in uniform, even one prepared to give his life to protect democracy was nobody. His vote did not count and he had no home in the Capitol.
Speaker 2: This is hard history.
Melissa Harris-Perry: As I watched, the question I kept asking is this, "Are we ready to begin a new chapter in our history?"
Pfc. Harry Dunn: Everything is different but nothing has changed. Why is telling the truth hard? I guess in this America, it is.
Melissa Harris-Perry: We turn to you, our listeners. We wanted to know if you watched or heard the hearing and how you were feeling. Your response was overwhelming in your gratitude for what the officers did.
Chris: My name is Chris, from [unintelligible 00:06:02], Washington. I thought that testimony was very compelling. My heart went out to the officers who testify to the members of Congress and to all who are affected, which is all of us. I feel a great deal of gratitude to the people who saved the day at the Capitol.
Melissa Harris-Perry: In your empathy for what they experienced.
Nancy: This is Nancy in Berkeley, California. I did not think I couldn't get any more shocked by the events of January 6th. I was so impressed by the officers who testified by their dedication to safeguarding Congress in the democratic process. They were so articulate and honest and, boy, were they mad.
Linda: This is Linda from Vancouver, Washington. I cried when I heard the racist slurs that Officer Harry Dunn had directed at him and other officers as well as listening to all the officers detail their injuries and subsequent trauma. Everyone must be held accountable, including the former president who incited the violence. It's unacceptable to have something like this happen.
Melissa Harris-Perry: In your anger and concerns over the state of our democracy.
Mark Kalmanson: My reaction was anger towards the insurrectionists, fear about the possible loss of our democracy, and disgust with the Republicans who have lost all reason any ability to engage in critical thinking. Mark Kalmanson, Keystone Heights, Florida.
Jeremy Larson: This is Jeremy Larson from Dallas, Texas. I am stunned that lawmakers from the right aren't being more forceful about this tyranny. It is a danger to our democracy regardless from which side it comes.
John: My name is John. I'm calling from West Palm Beach. My reaction is that it's hard to believe. Even though we all saw what happened on January 6th, so many elected officials, they want this country to be an autocratic country. It's so treasonous.
Peter: This is Peter from Novato, California. This morning, I was curious and read the opening remarks of the two conservative Republicans on the committee. I thought they struck the right tone of patriotism and realism about the events of the day. This is their time to shine. I hope they can keep their heads up under the withering pressure they must be facing. My hats are off to them.
Keith: I was quite emotional when they spoke about being more afraid at the Capitol than they had been in Iraq. It was very touching and meaningful. I think this is the very crux of what we're facing now in America. This is Keith from Dallas.
Melissa Harris-Perry: In your definition of the attack.
Paul Shaughnessy: My name is Paul Shaughnessy. The officers' testimonies really had brought tears to my eyes and my wife too. We're both veterans. I tell you what happened to those gentlemen and almost happened to our country is criminal. They call them terrorists and that is a very good description of the people that did this. Being former military, we would call them domestic terrorists.
Speaker 3: My hope is that the testimony today will have some legal repercussions that will expel people from Congress and hold other people accountable, maybe bring some people to jail for inciting this terrorist attack.
Alejandro: I'm Alejandro from Denton. I was really happy during the hearing to hear the officers refer to the mob as terrorists, which is exactly what they are. It's a great way to make everybody realize the difference in the justice systems that exist in America.
Charice: My name is Charice and I'm calling from Hollywood, Florida. I listened to Tuesday's testimonies from members of the Capitol Police force and I found those statements to be not only compelling but chilling, is very disturbing. They need to all be held in the highest esteem for their efforts in dealing with the terrorists who stormed the Capitol and yes, I believe them to be terrorists.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Thanks to everyone who called in and who texted. We value your insights and we always want to hear from you. The number to call is 877-869-8253 or send a voice memo to email@example.com. This is The Takeaway.
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