The Unsung Hero of January 6th

Officer Eugene Goodman fending off an angry mob. Photo taken by Ashley Gilbertson.

Now and then, everyday people become real-life heroes emerging from despicable circumstances,  heroes that would otherwise go unnoticed even for their bravery.

On January 6th, 2021, a mob of Trump supporters stormed the United States Capitol, making their way inside to wreak havoc, some with violent intentions. However, not all of the stories that came out of the invasion are so dire. 

Noticing that a mob was attempting to enter the United States Capitol Chamber, Officer Eugene Goodman is seen in the video using himself as bait, putting his life on the line. Knowing the rioters would chase him, he led them away from the entrance into the Chamber, allowing for the evacuation of United States Congresspeople.

Due to the acts of heroism that Goodman displayed, United States Congress members have written a bipartisan bill to award Officer Goodman with the United States Congressional Gold Medal for his service. The medal which is one of the highest civilian awards in the United States is given to a civilian who has achieved something exceptional or contributed to the nation.

The bill was created with both Democrats and Republicans compromising and coming together to award Goodman, despite their disagreements and differences.

In a press release, Democratic Representative Emanuel Cleaver II of Missouri said of Goodman, “If not for the quick, decisive, and heroic actions from Officer Goodman.” “the tragedy of last week’s insurrection could have multiplied in magnitude to levels never before seen in American history. With this prestigious award, we can show our gratitude to Officer Goodman for saving countless lives and defending our democracy.”

Was this all performative activism in praising him as a token gesture or is the United States Congress taking acts like his seriously? Right now it looks like they are taking this act seriously and if this says anything about people of colour being recognized then they’re taking a step in the right direction.

Goodman should be praised for his heroism. It is about time that people recognize and put the spotlight on a person of colour for contributing to a part of history.

The public and police responses to the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020 were much different than the responses on January 6th at Capitol Hill. These differences caused a lot of people to start comparing police brutality between the two different historical events. While one was peacefully protesting for civil rights, the other was an angry mob rioting because who they voted for lost the election. 

There was more violence from police at the Black Lives Matter protests but when the mob attacked Capitol Hill, they all seemingly forgot about their authority and where their handcuffs were and were the ones getting attacked.

People of colour often have their actions, points of view and lives erased or silenced when they should not be. We should be focusing on and listening to the voices that are not being heard, instead of erasing them or whitewashing them, so we can understand and learn from different perspectives.

For example, Breonna Taylor, who was murdered by police on Friday March 13th 2020 was suspected of drug possession in her house and the media specifically highlighted that part of the story above anything else. It was only when they started listening to her story that they began to portray her as the Emergency Medical Technician she was in her community.  

Even the works chosen for education, like ‘To Kill  Mockingbird,’ which was written from the perspective of a white character and by a white author, illustrate how society drowns out the perspectives and authenticity of emotions from black characters. 

Whitewashing also happens all the time in television and film but especially in how history is remembered. In the historical accounts and films depicting the past, Indigenous peoples who were trying to reclaim their stolen land were seen as the “bad guys”,  while the white cowboys were the “good guys” who were trying to stop them. When in reality it’s the reverse, the cowboys were claiming land that they stole from those first on the land.

As a person of colour myself it is relieving to see an act of bravery of another minority being recognized and praised. It makes me feel validated even though I’m not Black. I  know that what is being put out by the media about Goodman has not been edited, and they have not gone and changed the narrative, which is common in news and media today,  because multiple trusted news websites like CNN have reported on his bravery.  

Knowing that Goodman is receiving the recognition that reflects his bravery, humanity and service is satisfying for me to see because too often people of colour are overlooked for their achievements.

While there is there is still much work to do in fighting racism and allowing marginalized voices to be  heard, highlighting a valiant act of service, giving a person of colour their deserved recognition is one way that we as people can take a step towards creating a future where all the characters in the book are authentic, and all their voices and perspectives are being heard.

I’m hoping that this situation is not a one-and-done type of thing where because one person of colour did something good we’re going to praise them for it as a token gesture and think that a “quota” has been met. If we want change in our system, then we need to amplify the voices of people of colour so that such acts become the new normal and not seen as performative activism or token of gestures.

Featured image taken by Ashley Gilbertson.

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