New Research States the Obvious: White Racist Fears, Not Economic Anxiety, Likely Drove the Capitol Insurrection

Illustration for article titled New Research States the Obvious: White Racist Fears, Not Economic Anxiety, Likely Drove the Capitol Insurrection
Photo: Samuel Corum (Getty Images)

Some mainstream (re: white) writers and thinkers have instinctually sought to find a way to point to “economic anxiety” as an explanation for why hundreds of mostly white Trump supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol in January. Now, at least one expert is conceding the obvious: It was the racism.


We previously LOL’d at a Washington Post suggestion that the largely middle-class, gainfully employed members of the Jan. 6 MAGA mob were driven to storm the Capitol because they are victims of economic anxiety.

But Robert A. Pape, a professor of political science at the University of Chicago and head of the Chicago Project on Security and Threats, has amassed and analyzed demographic data on the Capitol insurrectionists that he says show a curious commonality in their background.

The Capitol mob, made up almost 95% of white people, had a significant percentage of people who “typically hail from places where non-White populations are growing fastest,” the researcher wrote in an op-ed published in the Washington Post on Tuesday.

The study’s findings were based on the CPOST’s evaluation of the profiles of 377 of the Capitol insurrectionists, said Pape, who added that the collection of people came from all over the country—most notably from counties whose electorates are diversifying and going blue.

From the Washington Post:

By far the most interesting characteristic common to the insurrectionists’ backgrounds has to do with changes in their local demographics: Counties with the most significant declines in the non-Hispanic White population are the most likely to produce insurrectionists who now face charges.

For example, Texas is the home of 36 of the 377 charged or arrested nationwide. The majority of the state’s alleged insurrectionists — 20 of 36 — live in six quickly diversifying blue counties such as Dallas and Harris (Houston). In fact, all 36 of Texas’s rioters come from just 17 counties, each of which lost White population over the past five years. Three of those arrested or charged hail from Collin County north of Dallas, which has lost White population at the very brisk rate of 4.3 percent since 2015.


National demographers have already said the rate of white population growth in America is being outstripped by that of people of color—Hispanic and Latino people and Asian people specifically.

Speaking with the New York Times about the CPOST study, Pape said his initial expectation going into the study was that leftover pain from the 2008 recession would emerge as a motivator of the Capitol attack. But then he explained that additional analysis of the data shows that what really drove the insurrectionists’ violence is the age-old racist idea that white people not having societal dominance—or the impression of dominance—justifies them violently lashing out so as to hold onto power.


From the New York Times:

In the shorter term, he added, the study would appear to connect Jan. 6 not only to the once-fringe right-wing theory called the Great Replacement, which holds that minorities and immigrants are seeking to take over the country, but also to events like the far-right rally in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017 where crowds of white men marched with torches chanting, “Jews will not replace us!”

“If you look back in history, there has always been a series of far-right extremist movements responding to new waves of immigration to the United States or to movements for civil rights by minority groups,” Mr. Pape said. “You see a common pattern in the Capitol insurrectionists. They are mainly middle-class to upper-middle-class whites who are worried that, as social changes occur around them, they will see a decline in their status in the future.”


Look, I appreciate Pape’s science chops—but I’d wager that the average Black person could have told him this to begin with, or at the very least something close to it. Or, he could have referenced the excellent work of Michael Harriot, The Root’s resident expert at placing issues in their appropriate historical contexts. By mid-January, Michael had already outlined what history shows: that the Capitol insurrection is one in a long line of racist, terroristic actions by white Americans.


But then again, the mainstream (read: white people) aren’t known for taking Black people at our word—especially when it comes to calling out the predictability of whiteness—so shout out to Pape for backing up what we already clocked.

What’s especially notable about the researcher’s announcement of the official findings, though, is the dire warning he says it presents.


“We cannot presume it will blow over,” Pape said. “The ingredients exist for future waves of political violence, from lone-wolf attacks to all-out assaults on democracy, surrounding the 2022 midterm elections.”

Though ‘woke’ is now the pejorative of choice of conservatives, I’m going to use the word anyway to advise you to do what you must, in order to make it through this period of American history: stay woke.

Writer, speaker, finesser, and a fly dresser. Jamaican-American currently chilling in Chicago.



Studies like this are worse than complete BS. They minimize they the reality of actual racism. Like Mike Rowe’s new show proves, if you look hard enough you can tie anything to something else. And that is exactly what this kind of study is doing — it is reaching hard and finding the conclusion it really wants.

It would be easier to find other, easier to reach conclusions. Trump supporters didn’t want to see Trump out of office. Republican’s refused to see a Democrat in office. Whack jobs found a leader who told them what they wanted to hear.