Speaker: [Our] evolution as humans requires tearing down monuments to destructive forces and tearing down systems that maintain it.
Jaisal Noor: Amd a tent city protest demanding a $2 billion equity fund has entered its second week. Now joining us to discuss all of this and more is Glen Ford. He’s the executive editor at Black Agenda Report and a frequent contributor here at The Real News. Thank you so much for joining us, Glen.
Glen Ford: Thanks for having me.
Jaisal Noor: I want to get your thoughts on this week of development since Charlottesville. We know Trump defended the attendees of the rally. He said they’re not all bad. They’re not all neo-Nazis. They’re not all white supremacists. A week later tens of thousands showed up in Boston and other cities over the weekend to say that this is not acceptable and to really oppose white nationalism. We know Steve Bannon, one of Trump’s leading … His chief strategist and a leading white nationalist has gone back to Breitbart news just on Friday. Give us your thoughts about these interesting developments happening. It’s all centered around these confederate statues, hundreds of them, which are still up across this country.
Glen Ford: What’s going on is a massive educational exercise, and that’s what happens when you have a real movement or a movement that is in the making, and the nation is having to face because of these dramatic developments, some of them tragic, some of them great celebrations, the nation is having to face the fact that the United States was born as a white settler colony and then as a white settler state. Much of that character continues to be the case for the United States. But there’s another aspect here, another part of the conversation which is rather new, and that is the talk about fascism. I think we’re having that talk about fascism especially because Donald Trump is in office. But this conversation about fascism usually consists more in name calling than in analysis, and I think the education that the United States public, the next part of the curriculum that they’re going to have to be subjected to, is the fact that the United States was a model for European fascists and that forms of fascism in the United States predate the European model, as James Q. Whitman’s recent book Hitler’s Model, explains.
I think we’re going to get deeper into the analysis of the real workings of the U.S. political economy, more than just the discussion of simplistic ideas about white supremacy, as this educational exercise continues.
Jaisal Noor: Speaking of Europe, I saw Ta-Nehisi Coates make this point in the last few days, that in Europe the Nazis were defeated, but they took the statues down of Hitler and of Nazis. The Nazi flag is illegal in Germany. Here there’s hundreds of Confederate statues. The Confederate flag has been a symbol in states’ flags all across the South and only recently being removed. I think in Mississippi it still exists there. That is another comparison to Europe as well.
Glen Ford: Well, in Europe one of the reasons that Nazis in Europe fly the Confederate flag is because they can’t fly the Nazi flag. In Ukraine, for example, that’s a fascist regime that the United States had such a hand in initiating in Ukraine. It’s backers were awash in confederate flags. The Europeans know that the Confederate flag stands for a white supremacist system that is very much like what they understand to be fascism. The U.S. South, after the crushing of reconstruction, with the invention of Jim Crow, created out of whole cloth the modern world’s first totally regimented racial society from the cradle to the grave. That was the model that Hitler so admired, and that society was in full effect for 80 or 90 years, for four or five generations, and the North did not defeat or ostracize that society. It reconciled with it. That was part of the American saga that this Civil War, or War Between Brothers they called it, finally ended with reconciliation among the brothers over the bodies of dead black folks with the crushing of Reconstruction, and after the second Reconstruction, as some people all it.
In the 1960s what did the nation as a whole do? Not just the South, but the entire country, in lightning speed imposed a new regime, a new Jim Crow, of mass black incarceration which tells you that those two halves of the country really had reconciled, and they’d reconciled along the lines of white supremacy.
Jaisal Noor: It’s always important to note when we’re having these discussions that it was during Jim Crow, it was during the Civil Rights Movement, when these Confederate monuments were erected across the country. The vast majority were. They weren’t erected after the Civil War. It’s really hard to argue they’re not symbols of white supremacy. They are, and they’re not symbols of even the war. It’s this lost cause myth. It’s white terror that’s inflicted on the black population of this country that they really represent.
I wanted to take this conversation to today, because white supremacy … You’re talking about the policies that were implemented under Jim Crow and throughout the 20th century. These are things that are still in effect, that especially black people are still feeling the consequences of, especially in Baltimore, and that’s why for the last week there has been a tent city in Baltimore. They have a list of demands for a $2 billion equity fund which include things like money for lead abatement, violence prevention, the end of food deserts, to help eliminate transit and biking deserts, to have job training, job creation, to have homes created and built for populations that have been denied access to housing.
It was actually during the eclipse in Baltimore that I went in front of City Hall to interview some of the people taking part in this homeless encampment. They’ve been there for over a week. Actually I was filming these city employees, these corporate employees in front of City Hall. They had their backs turned to this homeless encampment that has been there for a week. The mayor has already said she’s not going to meet with the people that are camped there. I spoke to a young man named Dominic who is 31 years old. He spent the majority of his adult life either homeless or in prison, and this is what he told me.
Dominic: Dominic. I’ve been out here since July of last year off and on. In January I got into treatment, graduated in June, and ended up back down here because I didn’t want transitional housing. I don’t necessarily want to share no place with nobody or nothing like that, after being displaced and being homeless. I’m dealing with people and stuff, but it’s not too easy to deal with too many people living with people after over the years being locked up back and forth and stuff like that. Yeah, I’ve been down here since July of last year, but since July this year I’ve been sleeping in a tent downtown this summer, and I’ve been here for about a week. I dealt with being homeless ever since I was 19 off and on. I’m 31.
Recently I became homeless because I need a job. I was working a job and come to find out it was a work program, not an actual job. That’s why the demands that we have. We don’t want housing programs. We want housing. We don’t need a program. We need housing. We need jobs.
Jaisal Noor: Glen, essentially what people in Baltimore and across the country are calling for is not just what the liberal media has described. They’re not just calling for the end of these symbols. They’re calling for new policy that replaces the white supremacy that exist in public policy across the country. What’s your response?
Glen Ford: That’s very, very encouraging. This Jim Crow, this white supremacist system, was a full political economy with vast ramifications. I think that the activists today don’t want to find themselves in the same position as the Black Lives Matter young folks and their encounter with Hillary Clinton a couple of years ago, where they had no agenda and asked only that the would-be president feel their pain. Now these activists are going in with a program that addresses real material concerns.
Jaisal Noor: Finally, they’re not also going to Trump, who, I mean, there’s almost no point in making these demands to Trump, but in Baltimore they’re going to what some have described is a neo-liberal mayor. She vetoed the minimum wage, $15 minimum wage here earlier this year. There was a fight over the city council. She wanted to cut after school programs. The city council said, “No, we’re going to cut police overtime to fund these after school programs.” She ran as a progressive and she’s a democrat. She’s African American, as is the majority of the city, as is a good amount of the political leadership here, but the people camped out and their supporters say they’re not representing the interests of the majority of the city here in Baltimore. Your response?
Glen Ford: That’s why we call them the black misleadership class. On a day to day level in most urban centers, the people who opposed black folks’ righteous demands are usually other black people working for the Democratic Party. I want to say this about demands. Demands are not just put forward so that those in power can review them and say yes or no. People put forward demands so that the folks, the masses of folks, can understand what those demands are, ratify them or change them, and make them their own. The real constituency for the demands is certainly not the rulers. It’s the people, and those demands can change as the peoples’ consciousness changes.
Nullius in verba
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