The Capitol riot and the danger of depicting rural America as only right-wing

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Jessica DuLong

Published February 8, 2021

The January 6 invasion of the US Capitol laid bare many uncomfortable truths about American society.

Consider law enforcement’s differential treatment of armed insurrectionists compared with demonstrators calling for racial equity and the end of police brutality. Take note of the race and class divisions at the heart of the rioters’ discontent. The unchecked violence, looting and destruction during the siege exposed unhealed wounds that date back to the founding of the United States.

Lest we miss out on this chance for what Isabel Wilkerson, author of the international bestseller “Caste,” calls “true reconciliation,” it’s critical not to let stereotypes about “hillbilly malignancy” or economic anxiety blind us to the role that “respectable people” — business owners, CEOs and real estate brokers; at least 19 state and local officials; and law enforcement and service members — played in the siege that left five dead and scores of police officers injured.

Elizabeth Catte and Leah Hampton are both well versed in the dangers posed by classist depictions of America’s rural denizens as a monolithic body of right-wing White racists.