On CNN Monday, Black Christian historian and author Jemar Tisby tore into Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) following his remarks that he would have only been scared of Capitol rioters if they had been Black Lives Matter activists or antifa members, as opposed to people who "loved this country" — and compared it to former President Donald Trump's infamous order for the far-right Proud Boys to "stand back and stand by."
"What did it feel like to feel that spoken out loud by a U.S. senator?" asked anchor John Berman.
"It's absolutely chilling," said Tisby. "Because there are multiple messages here. So we focused on the racist part. But what is Ron Johnson saying to these white supremacists, extremists willing to break into the Capitol to get their way based on a conspiracy theory about election fraud. It says, to me, the echoes of the 'stand by and stand back' comment. It's a wink and a nod to these forces that says, whatever you do, you will not face strong repercussions, at least from politicians like Johnson and those who agree with him. And then it's chilling because it opens up the pathway for more incidents like we saw on January 6th."
"He said, out loud, that he saw them as people who love this country," said Berman. "I mean, if that's not a permission structure, I don't know what is."
"Exactly right," said Tisby. "I'm not sure that we understand, as everyday Americans, the critical juncture we are at. We are at a crossroads between a multi-racial democracy that attempts to live up to the aspirations of the foundational documents, or an autocratic, authoritarian-style governance that works for a very, very few wealthy and mostly white people. We need to act with urgency right now."