Biden Must Purge Military and Law Enforcement of White Nationalists – By Puneet Cheema (Slate) / January 19 2021
Over the final three weeks of the Trump administration, many Americans have started to become accustomed to the reality that Black and Brown people in the United States have been intimately familiar with for far too long—the terrifying threat of violent white nationalists in our midst. It would be comforting to think of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and ongoing threats as an aberration, an isolated series of events caused by a president for whom truth holds little value and who convinced an alarming share of the electorate that, despite all evidence to the contrary, he had won the 2020 presidential election.
If so, these threats might simply end upon Wednesday’s inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden, who has called for unity and decency. But this view ignores our history, and the role played by white supremacists who have increased in number during the Trump administration and hold sensitive roles in our public safety systems. For instance, it was reported just on Tuesday that multiple U.S. Army National Guard members had to be removed from the inauguration security force because of “inappropriate” messages. Indeed, the attack on the Capitol, and the ongoing threats of violence in Washington D.C. and state capitols nationwide, are at least in part a result of law enforcement and policymakers’ refusals to address the threat of white supremacy in our public safety system. This threat was present before the Trump administration began and will not disappear with President Biden in the White House. To prevent this crisis of democracy from metastasizing, there must be urgent and rigorous efforts to address it head-on at every level of government—federal, state, and local.
Federal investigative agencies have long known, yet refused to address, the infiltration of white supremacists in law enforcement agencies. It is then no surprise that law enforcement officers are alleged to have participated in the Jan. 6 violence and are under investigation, or have been criminally charged for their actions during the attack. Leadership within the military, which has also been infiltrated by white nationalists, have at least taken steps this week to screen for members with extremist views before deploying them for inaugural duties, and recognize this problem as a crisis. There has been no system-wide recognition of this crisis amongst the nation’s 18,000+ law enforcement agencies as a whole—whose officers wield enormous power to detain, arrest, and use force, sometimes fatally, against people, often with little or no oversight, and who do so disproportionately against people of color. The U.S. Department of Justice, the nation’s largest and leading law enforcement agency, which has oversight authority over local and state law enforcement agencies, has in the waning days of the Trump administration been entirely silent on this crisis.