Everyone Has Moved on From January 6. As a Black Woman, I Can't | Opinion

For almost 20 years, I have enjoyed my life in Washington, D.C. I've lived in three different neighborhoods, worked all across the District, traveled the metro to various events, and attended protests at the Supreme Court and rallies on the National Mall. One of my favorite things about Washington is that you never know who you'll see while you are out. I saw CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer while walking through Union Station, exchanged greetings with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at brunch one Saturday, and chatted with Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor in the produce section of my neighborhood grocery store.

But my sense of safety in D.C. changed on January 6 when a mob of insurrectionists overtook the Capitol. As Metropolitan Police cruisers made their way up Pennsylvania Avenue, their deafening sirens could be heard from my house for hours. As I listened to the chaos outside, I also watched, horrified, as the events of the riot unfolded live on TV: Along with the rest of America, I saw the throngs of angry, mostly white, bloodthirsty individuals climbing the walls of one of the most secure buildings in the world, destroying property, taking selfies, calling for the hanging of the vice-president. They terrorized that building and the nation for hours—and then had the privilege to leave.

Somehow, January 7 started out like any other day. I had errands to run just a few blocks from the Capitol: grocery store, gas station, chiropractor. But as I walked out of my home, suddenly I found myself frozen and helpless. Doing any of these ordinary things would place me directly in harm's way. White supremacists were still on the loose and now the National Guard was occupying areas around the city.

Soon metal fencing went up around the Capitol and concrete barriers were erected. Helicopters circled the city. Going out meant passing through military checkpoints, sometimes requiring identification. My husband, who works at a local hospital, came home one day with the news that area hospitals were prepping for a mass casualty event on Inauguration Day. When our dog got sick, an emergency trip to our regular veterinarian meant crossing a police checkpoint and encountering members of the military posted at Union Station who stood guard across the street from the vet's office with assault rifles.

The National Guard left in May; the Capitol fencing came down in July. But the scars remain. It feels impossible to heal from the trauma of that day while so many people are in denial. Republican politicians have spent the last eight months gaslighting the nation, attempting to rewrite the entire event and even calling the insurrectionists "political prisoners."

No one seems to care that increased policing and white domestic terrorism made it terrifying to go outside.

Imagine a terrorist attack happening within a mile of your home and people expect you to move on, or worse, pretend it never happened in the first place.

On August 19, there was a bomb threat at the Library of Congress. It was the first day I'd attempted to take the metro since the pandemic began. I live two stops from the Capitol, and my train was immediately rerouted. I got off the train as soon as I could and walked home in sweltering, 90-degree heat.

ERIC BARADAT/AFP via Getty Images
A supporter of US President Donald Trump display a Confederate flag next to Black Lives Matter Plaza as supporters from around the country rally in the US Capital to protest the upcoming electoral college certification of Joe Biden as President in Washington, DC on January 6, 2021. ERIC BARADAT/AFP via Getty Images

But when I explain what January 6 and the aftermath have been like to people who don't live here, I am met with dismissal. And this despite the fact that I know that Americans are good at remembering and memorializing certain events when they want to. For twenty years, we've been saying "Never Forget" about September 11. And after the Boston marathon bombing, we chanted "Boston Strong!" But in the case of January 6, 2021, most of us seemed determined to forget.

I can't. For me, every time I leave the house is a reminder. I can't forget that I live near the scene of this horrific crime and the aftermath. And now, there's going to be a reprisal: On Saturday, the police will be putting the fence back up for the "Justice for J6" rally in support of the January 6 insurrectionists. The rally is expected to draw thousands.

How is this OK? As a Black woman, I can't forget the images of rioters parading around the Capitol with Confederate flags and nooses and other signs of their hate. I can't normalize this. And neither should you.

Kelly Macías is a consultant and freelance writer. She is a 2017 BlogHer Voices of the Year honoree and her book on Black women using social media for social change is forthcoming.

The views in this article are the writer's own.