Opinion: Two Americas

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By McKenzie Kemper: Freelance Writer

I am the whitest kid you will ever meet. It is a running joke among my friends that if the power goes out that you can use my legs as a flashlight to get around. I have grown up in a lifetime of privilege. My parents’ version of scraping by and other peoples’ version of scraping by mean vastly different things. 

My privilege extends far beyond my bank account, or the money in my parents’ accounts. It is in everything I do because I am white woman and it doesn’t matter if I am destitute financially or a millionaire investing in stocks with insider knowledge (looking at you Kelly Loeffler). 

I can’t say I have been cognizant of my privilege for a long time, truthfully it took some life experience for me to understand that the color of my skin worked to my advantage. 2020 has demonstrated my privilege to me time and time again, and today in the early days of 2021 my privilege was driven home to me as I watched domestic terrorists whose skin looks just like mine scale the walls of the Capital and put the very fiber of our nation- which is already on the brink of destruction- through a cheese grater. I also watched as Capital Police took selfies with domestic terrorists, talked and joked with them, and in a truly astonishing video (seen on Twitter via Anthony Davis @theanthonydavis) actively allowed domestic terrorists onto the Capital grounds and moved the barricades out of the way. 

It wasn’t hard to harken back to images of Black Lives Matter protests over the summer, across the country, after George Floyd was tragically murdered in May by Minneapolis Police. It was NOT hard to immediately discern the difference between the events of today and the events of protests that took place to call into question the tactics of police that have killed far too many persons of color in situations that white people typically walk away from. 

The media is calling these domestic terrorists, “rioters”, and “agitators” rather than what they actually are- insurrectionists inspired to attempt a coup by the Orange Man they all kowtow to. Many of the people who violated the sanctity of the Capitol grounds today walked away, are on their way home and will carry on with their lives knowing that they stole the Podium of the House Speaker, or put their feet on the desk of Nancy Pelosi and tried to shatter an already tenuous transition of power. 

If the people who stormed the Capital today had been persons of color or Black Lives Matter protestors the halls of our Capital building would be stained with blood, federal holding cells would be overflowing and the Capital that has resumed business as of an hour ago would still be in a state of high alert, locked down. The media would be referring to the rioters in derogatory terms and rolling consequences across the country would be implemented much like September 11. 

We live in two different Americas- the one for the white people, and the one for Persons of Color. It is my hope, it is my mission to work towards the reconciliation of these two countries; To find a path uniting these many states and create a country better than we have ever been. I am learning what I am capable of, how to use my privilege to impact change, and betting on the color of my skin to fight for the lives of Persons of Color. 

It is my fervent hope that today will be a turning point in our country, that in a year we will look back and be able to say how far we have come rather than getting trapped in the same cycle of slapping band- aids on systemic problems. The work will be long, and arduous but for our country to move forward it must be done. 

McKenzie Kemper is a Kentucky-born writer. She is an UpTake freelance journalist-in-training and a proud fan of the Kentucky Wildcats.

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