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Why Trump’s attacks against Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss feel so familiar

It’s been a historical truth for Black people in America that, sooner or later, a homicidal white mob is coming. A racist, bigoted, xenophobic mob, ignorant of the truth, seeking out those guilty only of trying to enjoy their God-given freedoms and confident that its murderous actions won’t be punished.

It’s been a historical truth for Black people in America that sooner or later, a homicidal white mob is coming.

This is why so many African Americans were seething as they watched Wandrea “Shaye” Moss and her mother, Ruby Freeman, testify to the Jan. 6 House committee Tuesday. The two Black election workers in Georgia, acting out of a sense of service to their community and with the knowledge that African Americans’ safe access to the ballot goes back only a few decades, were falsely accused and vilified by former President Donald Trump of helping steal the election from Trump in Georgia.

And a mob sought them out.

Referring to her grandmother, who had nothing to do with the election, Moss told the committee,

“She called me screaming at the top of her lungs, like, “Shaye, Shaye, oh my gosh, Shaye,”… And they just started pushing their way through, claiming that they were coming in to make a citizen’s arrest. They needed to find me and my mom. They knew we were there. And she was just, like, screaming and didn’t know what to do.”

Republicans have characterized the Jan. 6 committee hearings as nothing more than a partisan exercise from Democrats looking for a political advantage. But the testimony from Moss and Freeman is a reminder that Trump sought to invalidate votes in Black communities and then made villains out of Black women who were there to help their neighbors vote.

This is bigger than gamesmanship between Democrats and Republicans, between liberals and conservatives. This boils down to: Are we as Black people Americans or not? Do we not deserve the same “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” as white Americans?

Two Black women who did nothing wrong, who were working for the continuation of this government that self-identified patriots claim to love, were forced to flee their homes in the face of a falsely informed, possibly murderous white mob in part because the FBI, which reportedly didn’t even call local law enforcement on their behalf, said it couldn’t protect them.

“It was horrible. I felt homeless. I felt, you know, I can’t believe — I can’t believe this person has caused this much damage to me and my family. To have to leave my home that I’ve lived there for 21 years,” Freeman said in her video testimony to the committee. “And, you know, I’m having to have my neighbors watch out for me. You know, and I have to go and stay with somebody. It was hard. It was horrible.”

You have to be stone-hearted to listen to her 911 call on Dec. 6, 2020 and not be enraged at what Trump supporters did to Freeman.

Freeman: Oh, they screaming. They still bamming on the door.

911 Dispatcher: OK.

Freeman: They still bamming on the door. Lord Jesus, where’s the police?

911 Dispatcher: They are on their way, ma’am.

Freeman: Oh, God.

This is a tale Black Americans, but especially Black Southerners, know well. There are so many of us with tales of fathers, mothers, grandmothers, grandfathers, cousins and uncles who were told to flee for their lives from the racist mobs … and with tales of those who didn’t get the warning before the mob showed up.

You have to be stone-hearted to listen to her 911 call and not be enraged at what Trump supporters did to Freeman.

Though the Supreme Court, conservatives and even some liberals tell us that we no longer live in a world where white men intimidate, scheme and murder their way to power or seek to rile up racist, sexist and homophobic crowds to gain votes; though we’re told that there’s no longer a need for voting rights acts or anti-lynching legislation because white America has changed, we know better. And those who didn’t already know better should know after seeing Tuesday’s testimony from Moss and Freeman.

Moss described the threats she’s been getting since Joe Biden fairly won the state of Georgia in 2020: “A lot of threats wishing death upon me, telling me that, you know, I’m — I’ll be in jail with my mother, and saying things like, ‘Be glad it’s 2020 and not 1920.’”

Threats from white Americans are not something that Black Americans, especially not Black Southerners, shake off easily.

More than anyone else, minorities in the United States know that racial violence is not a hypothetical argument. Intolerance is not a theoretical paradigm. Political violence and intimidation in the name of white superiority is not a speculative construct for us.

From the colonization of these shores to the Civil War to Reconstruction to the Civil Rights movement and beyond, Black and brown people have had to continually remind the majority population that we are deserving of the same protections and rights they jealously guard for themselves.

Moss and Freeman deserved protection. More than that, they deserved a president who didn’t put their lives in danger with his racist lies that African Americans in general and Moss and Freeman in particular were responsible for his losing in Georgia.

We saw the Jan. 6 images of a mob, hopped up on Trump’s lies, invading the Capitol. But that mob was one of many that was willing to run over anybody who refused to lie for Trump. And the virtual mob targeting Moss and sending her threats, she says, didn’t mind her thinking that it yearned for a past where they could drag her out, find a tree, and after their deed was done, go home and plan the next one, knowing there’d be no consequences for her murder.

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