NAACP cites, racism, discrimination, hate crimes, and weakening of legal recourse for the travel warning. Professor Gerald Horne puts the measure in its contemporary and historical context in Missouri
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SHARMINI PERIES: It’s the Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore. On Wednesday, the NAACP issued its very first travel advisory warning African Americans and people of color to exercise extreme caution when traveling through the state of Missouri. The advisory is attributed to the high number of racist incidents involving the police in Missouri. The main concern NAACP has is that the state legislature is about to pass a law, a state bill number 43, which would make it far more difficult to sue police for harassment and discrimination. Joining us to discuss the NAACP travel advisory is Professor Gerald Horne. He holds the Moores Professorship of History and African American Studies at the University of Houston. He’s the author of many books, most recently The Counter-Revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of American. Gerald, good to have you back. GERALD HORNE: Thank you for inviting me. SHARMINI PERIES: Gerald, we’ve gotten quite accustomed to checking for travel advisories when we’re traveling abroad. These are advisories usually issued by the U.S. State Department to warn U.S. citizens about traveling in dangerous countries, usually due to either natural disaster or political turmoil. What are your thoughts about the NAACP issuing a travel advisory for African Americans and people of color in the state of Missouri right here in the U.S.? GERALD HORNE: Well, I think it’s long overdue. The only problem is that they could’ve issued a similar advisory for a number of different states. But with regard to the state of Missouri, and by the way I was born in the state of Missouri, the fact of the matter is is that a few years ago, you may recall that black teenager Michael Brown was shot dead in Ferguson, Missouri, and then left to roast in the streets for hours on end, leading to civil unrest and marches and protests that have not ended to this point. Subsequent investigations suggested that not only Ferguson, Missouri but a number of other so-called suburbs in the St. Louis area were targeting black motorists for tickets, targeting black pedestrians for jaywalking, and basically feasting on the paychecks of African Americans, turning them into a class wracked with poverty. Given the rampant police brutality, given the fact that Donald J. Trump won the state of Missouri by a whopping 19 points, I think it gives you an indication of why the NAACP made this extraordinary move. SHARMINI PERIES: Gerald, you mentioned the climate we are living in, the political climate specifically, with the ascendancy of Donald Trump to the White House and the likes of Jeff Sessions as the Attorney General, who wants to see greater leniency in this country as far as police forces are concerned, the DOJ is almost hands off as far as protecting civil rights in this country. In this climate, how do you think this is going to fare in the state of Missouri, reminding people about Ferguson particularly, when the world’s attention was held by Ferguson for weeks? GERALD HORNE: Well, I think it’s fair to say that bleak times are ahead. You may recall that the speech Donald J. Trump recently gave to a group of police officers where he suggested that they treat those in their custody with a bit of brutality, to use a euphemism. Fortunately, a number of law enforcement officers objected to this, but others I’m sure will take the cue. Then, there’s the DOJ policy of heightening the policy of civil forfeiture. This allows the authorities to seize your property, hardly with the due process of law, and keep it, and then it’s up to you to try to get it back, be it cash or an SUV or whatever. Things are not looking very good right now in the United States of America on this front, and then the icing on the cake from their point of view is the recently revealed policy of the Department of Justice going after affirmative action, which has been used to help to diversify the student bodies at many colleges and universities. If this policy is done away with, we will be returning to the battle days of Jim Crow. SHARMINI PERIES: Gerald, what effects do you think that this advisory shared by NAACP will have on this particular bill going forward at the state legislature? Do you think this will be pressure for them to reconsider? I’m asking because you’re from the state, and you know how it might behave. GERALD HORNE: Well, speaking optimistically, I would like to think that this travel advisory would have impact, but speaking realistically, as I look at the forces on the battlefield, I think there is good reason for pessimism. That is to say as noted, Donald J. Trump won the state by a whopping margin. The fact of the matter is is that the Trump base has yet to crack, despite all the scandals and damaging revelations that have been revealed about his short, six-month tenure in the White House. Given that, it seems to me that the right wing in the state of Missouri as elsewhere, they’re basically putting their foot down on the accelerator and saying full speed ahead. SHARMINI PERIES: Right. Gerald, the NAACP mentions that SB 43, the bill in the state, harkens back to the Jim Crow era. Another important case that seems to be relevant to this is the 1857 Dred Scott case, which also legalized discrimination. What can you tell us about this particular case and its relevance to today? GERALD HORNE: Well, this is a case from 1857 where the U.S. Supreme Court, under the leadership of Roger Taney, who by the way, hails from the state of Maryland. There’s a controversy in the state of Maryland about statues built in his honor. Under his administration, the U.S. Supreme Court basically said that the United States was not obligated to respect any rights that black people supposedly held. I think that what the NAACP is trying to suggest by issuing this travel advisory is that not only may we be returning to the battle days of Jim Crow and U.S. apartheid, but worse than that, we may be going beyond that period in a backwards fashion to the era of 1857 and Dred Scott. Now you know that the Dred Scott decision was fundamentally overturned by the U.S. Civil War, 1861-1865. Let us hope and let us pray, if you are religious, that it will not take another Civil War to help to resolve this knotty matter. SHARMINI PERIES: All right Gerald, I thank you so much for joining us today. We’ll keep an eye on this and hope to have you back for further comment. Thank you. Thank you for joining us here on the Real News Network.