Fred McKinney (opinion): The historical roots of Jan. 6 – Greenwich Time
In this Jan. 6, 2021, file photo, supporters of President Donald Trump gather.
“All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States, nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, or deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” 14th Amendment (Section 1)
“They attempted armed self-defense in Colfax. The result was that on Easter Sunday of 1873, when the sun went down that night, it went down on the corpses of two hundred and eighty negros.” John G. Lewis, legislator, state of Louisiana, testimony at the Congressional Ku Klux Klan hearings of 1871
As Congress and the American people brace themselves for what could be a soul-searching introspective and divisive public hearing on the events of Jan. 6, 2021, it is important to remember that this was not the first time there had been an attempt to overthrow democratic government. Soon after the end of the Civil War and the passage of the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments, there was a period of Reconstruction where with the assistance of federal troops and the efforts of white northern Republicans, democracy became a temporary reality for Black Americans. Blacks were elected to both houses of Congress and mayors of major cities throughout the South. This is not some archaeological artifact.
Unfortunately, this period was short-lived. By the late 1860s. the Ku Klux Klan and White Citizens Councils ushered in a period of racial terrorism that lasted for the next 80 years. In this post-Reconstruction era, Jim Crow laws were passed in all the former Confederate states. These laws were not simply about public accommodation; these laws were designed to relegate former slaves and their descendants to a life of servitude, dependence, poverty and political impotency.
But before Jim Crow laws were enacted, the KKK and their supporters terrorized, murdered and stole the property of the newly freed slaves and their supporters. The 1871 KKK Conspiracy Congressional hearings is a massive volume of nearly 7,000 pages documenting the terror of the KKK throughout the South following the passage of the post-Civil War Amendments; I highly recommend anyone interested in hearing what happened during this time as told by firsthand witnesses and victims read this important historical document. The quote above was from one of the most notorious racial pogroms in American history in Colfax, La.
The KKK Terrorism Act was not effective in eliminating the Klan, but it and the 14th Amendment are important American documents that can provide guidance to Congress and the American people as to what should be done about Jan. 6. The KKK Act speaks directly to the desecrators of the Capitol, and more importantly, the leaders including the former president and others who orchestrated the events of that day and the actions that are being taken across the country to restrict the voting rights of American citizens.
The 14th Amendment clearly states in Section 3: “No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President or hold any office civil or military under the United States or under any State, who having previously taken an oath as a member of Congress or as an officer of the United States as a member of any State legislature or as an executive or judicial officer of any State to support the constitution of the United States shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.”
If the Jan. 6 committee finds that the events of that day were an act of insurrection against the United States Constitution, all of those who participated, planned, inspired, funded and otherwise supported this action could be banned from holding public office.
The case can be made that the attempt of the insurrectionists on Jan. 6 to stop and reverse the duly appointed electors for president and vice president by violently halting the constitutionally defined electoral process is the definition of insurrection. The 14th Amendment advises us on what should be done.
You might ask, what does the KKK Terrorism Act have to do with Jan. 6? The answer to this question is that violent efforts of organizations dedicated to the principles of white supremacy like the Proud Boys, the Three Percenters, and the Oath Keepers were active in this effort to overthrow the duly elected government. One significant image of that horrible day was that of an insurrectionist carrying the Confederate flag through the halls of Congress, something that never happened during the Civil War. It is clear the insurrectionists and their supporters were actively trying to suppress and nullify Black votes in several key cities and states. The insurrectionists of Jan. 6 are the ideological progeny of the KKK. And just as their predecessors attempted to hide their true intentions of white supremacy under the guise of states rights, these modern insurrectionists have the gall to justify their acts of insurrection as expression of election security. Hogwash.
In my dealings with elected officials of all parties, I have found that many of them keep a pocket-sized copy of the United States Constitution and the amendments on their person. For the good of the country, I think we all should read those founding documents, that begin with We the People.
Fred McKinney is the co-founder of BJM Solutions, an economic consulting firm that conducts public and private research since 1999, and is the emeritus director of the Peoples Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Quinnipiac University.