January 7, 2021

What do you call it when a person speaks for five minutes with such gravitas and elegance, combined with intellect and righteous-yet-calm outrage, that you're stunned into silence? "Rant" is too out of control to describe it. "Sermon" sounds too judgmental. "Lecture" has an element of passiveness on the part of the listener that Joy Reid refuses to allow, though no small amount of educating happens here.

Many journalists and people on social media noted with justifiable rage the difference between how police treated the MAGA violent seditionists, who literally stormed the U.S. Capitol building in an attempt to stop the peaceful transfer of power mandated in our constitution, and the way police treated Black citizens peacefully protesting police murdering innocent Black people. No one, though, no one, wove the tapestry the way Joy Reid did last night.

She began describing her perspective as an MSNBC reporter on the ground in Baltimore in 2014 during the Freddie Gray protests, and from that point on there was no turning away.

REID: I can go back to 2014 and I would be on Rachel's show as a correspondent at curfew time in Baltimore, when I was covering the Freddie Gray uprisings. These were mass marches in regard to police taking Freddie Gray's body and treating it like a rag doll, and flinging him into the back of a police van, then riding around with him unshackled in that van, until the rag doll broke and he died, and he died alone in the back of a car, being brutalized — for no reason other than making eye contact with police as he rode his bike.

And the uprisings that took place after Freddie Gray brought in a level of policing that I've never witnessed, ever, in life. It looked like a war zone. Police brought in tanks. They brought in body armor. They were wearing full body armor rubber suits, where they almost looked robotic. Full gear. Enormous powerful weaponry, and they were phalanxed out across Baltimore, Penn and North. They were standing menacingly, waiting to brutalize anyone who even looked at them funny. The level of force, the level of indiscriminate rudeness, cruelty, hardness of those police officers and at curfew time, which would be 9:00 and almost every night during that uprising at some point I would go on with you, Rachel, and describe to you what I was seeing and it was terrifying.

And what terrified me in those moments, was not the marchers. I was never afraid among the marchers. The marchers just wanted justice. They just didn't think it was okay to just kill a guy because he looked at the police funny. I wasn't afraid of them. I was afraid of the cops, because they were menacing. They knew those marches were coming every night. They knew there was a curfew every night. The great Elijah Cummings would walk people home and get them to go home, because he didn't want them out after curfew. There would always be some guys who would stay out after curfew and claim the right to be in their streets and I was never afraid of them. I was afraid of the cops.

The reason, as Claire talked about, people were so unafraid of the cops, who were sparsely distributed through our Capitol — that hasn't been breached since 1812, when it was burned — the reason they could easily and casually, with their cameras on, film themselves throwing things through the walls of OUR capitol, OUR property, going inside the capitol, sitting in Speaker Pelosi's office, take pictures of themselves, have that played on Fox News, they know they are not in jeopardy. Because the cops are taking selfies with them, walking down the steps with them to make sure they're not hurt, and taking care with their bodies, not like they treated Freddie Gray's body.

White Americans aren't afraid of the cops. White Americans are never afraid of the cops, even when they are committing insurrection. Even when they're engaged in attempting to occupy our capitol to steal the votes of people who look like me. Because in their minds, they OWN this country, they OWN that capitol. They OWN the cops. The cops work for THEM and people like me have no damn right to try to elect a president. Because we don't get the pick the president. They get to pick the president. They OWN the president. They OWN the White House. They OWN this country. And so when you think you own it, you own the place, you ain't afraid of the police because the police are you and the police reflect back to them, "We're with you. You're good. We're not going to hurt you because you're not them."

Guarantee you if that was a Black Lives Matter protest in D.C., there would be people shackled, arrested, or dead. Shackled, arrested en masse, or dead. Get Brittany Packnett Cunningham on here, she'll tell you how they treated her in Ferguson. Put Alicia Garza on here. She'll tell you how they treated her at every Black Lives Matter march. Get Patrice Cullors on. They will tell you what it feels like to protest peacefully and unarmed, and how the police will treat you if you're Black. That's it. They're not afraid of the cops. They know the cops are cool with it.

That wasn't a Ted Talk. That was a Joy Talk.

Can you help us out?

For 18 years we have been exposing Washington lies and untangling media deceit, but now Facebook is drowning us in an ocean of right wing lies. Please give a one-time or recurring donation, or buy a year's subscription for an ad-free experience. Thank you.


We welcome relevant, respectful comments. Any comments that are sexist or in any other way deemed hateful by our staff will be deleted and constitute grounds for a ban from posting on the site. Please refer to our Terms of Service for information on our posting policy.