Apparently, Robert Pape was surprised.
Notwithstanding earlier research or the alarm raised in this and other forums, Pape, a professor of political science at the University of Chicago, expected, when he began studying the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, to find the rioters acted out of economic anxiety. His anticipation, he told The New York Times recently, was that as he delved into the demographics of 377 people who had been arrested or charged, he would quantify the riot as an aftershock of the 2008 recession.
It didn’t turn out that way.
In his initial findings, detailed in an op-ed for The Washington Post, Pape determined the rioters to be 95 percent white, 85 percent male, middle and upper middle class, and — significantly — to hail mostly from counties where the white population is shrinking fastest and the non-white growing most aggressively. Such counties were six times more likely to produce rioters than counties where demographic change was least dramatic, a disparity that held even when controlled for various variables.
Coincidence? Pape says the chances are less than one in a thousand. So assuming his findings hold, we may conclude that, while there was anxiety here, economics had nothing to do with it. This anxiety was racial.
And another word for anxiety is fear.
We seldom discuss the degree to which that primal emotion has driven U.S. history where race and tribe are concerned. And yet, it has always been there. It ripped the Choctaw, the Cherokee and the Creeks from their ancestral lands. It awakened Jefferson “like a firebell in the night.” It forced George, Noriyuki and Norman out of their homes and into camps ringed by barbed wire. It got Emmett maimed, Sam skinned and Mary hanged upside down and set afire.
Yes, ignorance has its role in all of that. As does greed, as does hatred. But let’s not overlook fear. Fear of pure blood, tainted. Fear of attack. Fear of replacement. And fear of reprisal, fear that, given power, the “minority” will treat the majority as the majority has treated it.