On this one-year anniversary of the insurrection, I thought about reminding you of the hordes who gathered that day and why, who set a noose up on the lawn and crawled their bodies up the hallowed edifice like vermin, and broke windows and seized offices and set fires, who trod with their weaponized whiteness and confederate flags through the halls of Congress giving fist bumps to some law enforcement officers and taking selfies with others, and leaving their own urine and feces behind.
Instead, I'm choosing this space and day to honor Officer Eugene Goodman, a member of the Capitol Hill Police and an Iraq war veteran, who by all accounts thwarted the mob's intentions by misdirecting them for 85 seconds, and saved lives and even perhaps Democracy itself that day, such that even the bitterly divided Senate managed to come together, all 100 of them if you can believe it, to award Eugene Goodman a Congressional Gold Medal, one of the highest awards an American civilian can receive.
Call Officer Goodman's feat what it was. Bravery! Guts! Quick thinking! Damn foolishness, I imagine his family members may have said, while I imagine he'd quietly say, "I was just doing my job." (He has refused most interviews.) Just a Black man doing his job to protect a Republic that still has not kept its promise to be a place where all persons regardless of background, ancestry, and identity can experience liberty and justice. That a Black man saved America from a coup doesn't get any more poetic. Doesn't get more American!
Here's Officer Goodman looking regal at the Inauguration of President Biden, where he was given a position of honor in the ceremony.
You can read more about what Officer Goodman did a year ago today, and his background, here and here. And yes, other Capitol Police Officers bravely served that day, too. Officer Goodman has become the face of the effort which is why I'm centering him on this anniversary day; but let's certainly honor all who put country over self that day and prevented further harm. (Let's also not forget that other law enforcement officers were complicit in the insurrection, truly a sad and scary state of affairs.)
If you watch the brief footage of Officer Goodman with the mob, at the very end you'll hear one or more of the insurrectionists say to him "This is OUR America" which is the heart of what's the matter. Like many, I'm worried and I've been worried for well more than a decade that we are experiencing the slow boil of a very violent ideology–white supremacy–which is based on the belief that White Aryan folk rightfully belong here in the United States of America and the rest of us do not. (I've written about this.)
When we hear the phrase white supremacy, we tend to think of the KKK and the Proud Boys, and white hoods and crosses burning, and little Black girls bombed in Black churches, and hoses and attack dogs turned on peaceful marchers. But white supremacy also flashes its teeth with a confident smile and casually says what it believes. It shows up, for example, in the millions of instances when people of color get told that that we're not "Real Americans" because of what we look like, and we're asked where we're "from," and told to "go back where you came from" as if we're not from right damn here.
In 2017, when I went on book tour for Real American, my memoir about experiencing things like this, and other microaggressions, and outright racism, my publisher made these adorable tiny buttons to pass out as swag. I have some left over, and in honor of Eugene Goodman Day I want to give them away. So, if you've ever been told that you're not a "real American" or that you should "go back to where you came from," I want you to have a set of these buttons as a little gift from me. Just DM me, or email me (email@example.com), with the phrase "Happy Eugene Goodman Day" and include your name and address. (Note, if you're a White person who wants some buttons because you want to be an ally around this, I appreciate you, yet please take into account that when a White person wears such a phrase on their body it could/may/will signal that you are part of the white-supremacy problem, instead of being part of the solution (even though I know you WANT to be part of the solution); that said, if you have use for them, by all means ask for a set! (Perhaps you'll add an "Everyone is" to yours. Maybe I should make that button myself. Maybe I will!)) In the meantime, these buttons are free for the asking, including shipping, while supplies last. You can specify the colors you want, and I'll honor that while supplies last, too.
Officer Eugene Goodman is a hero. But he's also simply a real American, no less and no more so than you, or me, or any of us. America is not an any-particular-type-of-person country. And that's what gives it the potential to be the most inclusive and beautiful country on Earth.
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Cover Photo Credit: Ashley Gilbertson/Redux
Photo of Officer Goodman Credit: Getty Images News/Pool
Photo of Real American Buttons: Me
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