The George Floyd uprisings revealed the inadequacies of both Biden and Trump, argues professor Gerald Horne.


Story Transcript

This is a rush transcript and may contain errors. It will be updated.

Speaker 1: It’s the whole entire system in itself, the police department, the government, all of those racists that are in those positions of power, putting us down as a community. We just want to come out here and show them that we have the numbers. We have the strength.

Jaisal Noor: Welcome to The Real News. I’m Jaisal Noor. The United States has erupted in protest over the police killing of George Floyd with hundreds of thousands taking to the streets for a second week, despite the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, defined curfews, and violent police repression. Thousands have been jailed and scores of journalists have been targeted by police. President Donald Trump has sent troops to Washington and threatened to use them to suppress the protests. On Wednesday, June 3rd, all four Minneapolis police officers involved in Floyd’s death were charged over his killing and Derek Chauvin, who was seen kneeling on Floyd’s neck, now faces second degree murder charges.

Yet protests are continuing to demand justice for all victims of police brutality and to fundamentally alter the balance of power between the community and law enforcement. Now joining us to discuss this is Dr. Gerald Horne. He holds the John J. and Rebecca Moores Chair of History and African American Studies at the University of Houston, author of a number of books, and one of them which we’ll touch upon is The Counter-Revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origin of the United States. But first Dr. Horne, your reaction to the news that all four officers involved in George Floyd’s death will be charged. This came after more than a week of sustained historic nationwide protests that took place in every state of the country and defied curfews, defied violent repression, and real bloody protests that culminated in this moment today.

Dr. Gerald Horn…: Well, thank you. And I should also add that the protests were global, taking place in London today, periodically in Sydney, Australia, Auckland, New Zealand, Berlin, Germany. The fact that the high level of delegation from the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia called in the US representative for urgent consultations on this matter is quite profound and significant. And that’s something we can not ignore. And we also should not ignore that these charges against all four officers comes after pressure leads to Attorney General Keith Ellison, a former member of the US Congressional Black Caucus and a man who happens to be Muslim, was appointed to oversee this case.

At his press conference today, he asks for a bit of reticence on the part of protesters because he says there’s an ongoing investigation. Keep in mind that since the officer in question, Derek Chauvin, and Mr. Floyd once worked at this same nightclub. It’s that they might’ve crossed paths before. It’s possible they may have had some confrontation before, which would then bring in the requisite premeditation that would mandate a charge of first degree murder, for example. So in any case, this latest charge that Ellison has brought is quite significant, and certainly it should energize protesters further.

Jaisal Noor: So Donald Trump, he’s threatened to sick dogs on protesters. His administration teargassed protesters to help stage up photo-op. He’s threatened to deploy the military against protesters. He signed an executive order calling Antifa a terrorist organization. You know, some are warning that this ongoing repression, this criminalization of dissent, calling in the military, this could be a trial run, potentially in November or in the future, if Donald Trump loses an election. First of all, can you reflect on the moves he’s taken? And is this something that you are concerned about?

Dr. Gerald Horn…: Well, obviously Don the Con has been shaken, not least by the protests a few days ago when the White House was surrounded and the Secret Service, according to press reports, feared that security with the breached, which is why they took him down to the bunker. Now bunker boy on Twitter is trending. And I think that that kind of embarrassment has shaken the 45th US president, the Oaf the Oval Office. And he has responded like you would expect a bully and a coward to respond, that is seeking to up the ante.
Whether or not upping the ante will amount to trying to cancel the election is a separate question, but certainly there are ominous signals. Ominous signals being number one, his attempt to cripple the post office, which would make problematic at best the attempt to have mail-in ballots for the November 2020 election. And we already know about his ongoing attempt to engage in voter suppression. Certainly we must take quite seriously the charge made by Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, in light of that photo-op staged in front of a church across from the White House, that Mr. Trump has been engaged in what Senator Wyden called quote “fascist” unquote like tactics. If Senator Wyden is accurate, and I dare say that he is, certainly that means we should keep our powder dry, metaphorically speaking, and not rule out any possibilities with regard to this November 2020 election.

Jaisal Noor: So I spoke to protesters that marched in Baltimore on Monday. It was a massive protest, estimates as high as 15,000 people took to the streets and I talked to a number of protesters. Many of them were dissatisfied with Joe Biden’s response. And here’s a clip that recently went viral.

Joe Biden: The idea that instead of standing there and teaching a cop when there’s an unarmed person coming at him with a knife or something, shoot him in the leg instead of in the heart. This is a very different thing. There’s a lot of different things that can change.

Jaisal Noor: So in that clip, we heard Joe Biden say that police should shoot unarmed people in the leg. So on one hand you have Joe Biden saying stuff like this. On the other hand you have Amy Klobuchar who is considered, or at least was considered, a possibility to be a vice presidential nominee and she was a prosecutor in Minneapolis and declined to prosecute this corrupt police department, which is now facing a civil rights investigation. It’s under scrutiny now, but it was her job to prosecute these cops and she often declined to do so. What does this mean for Democrats? What does this moment mean?

Dr. Gerald Horn…: Well, let’s hope that it means that we can rule out Amy Klobuchar, who was part of the problem, as a potential democratic party nominee for vice president. Certainly I think that we should take quite seriously what Vice President Biden said. On the one hand, it’s no secret that he doesn’t have the gift of gab, that he’s a gaffe machine, as one of his supporters, Congressman Clyburn of South Carolina put it. On the other hand, we should take quite seriously the distinction he tried to draw because we’re often told about not opting for the lesser of the two evils. And certainly, I guess he illustrated that because Republicans would say, “Shoot us in the head.” And he says, “Shoot us in the leg.” Maybe we should be thankful for small favors, but on the other hand, I think we can do better and we should be better.

Jaisal Noor: And another point I wanted to raise with you is that this isn’t America’s first police shooting. We saw uprisings against police violence in places like Ferguson, right here in Baltimore, and a lot of reforms were proposed and enacted. Yet people on the streets say nothing fundamentally has changed. And I wanted to ask you whether part of the reason for this is that America hasn’t grappled with its founding sin. What you write about in your book The Counter-Revolution of 1776, common wisdom states that America rebelled for freedom which led to emancipation and the Civil War. Your book presents a very different narrative of the founding of this country. Can you explain that and why that’s significant in this current moment when we’re discussing reforming police and law enforcement and the relationship between African Americans and the state?

Dr. Gerald Horn…: Well, given this bloodstained history with regard to people of African descent in particular, it’s no accident that you’ve seen black men in particular being targeted, particularly murdered on tape in a kind of pornography of violence. Point number one is that the founders of the United States were mostly slave owners or lawyers for slave owners in the case of John Adams, the second US president. And London was moving towards abolition of slavery as represented by Somerset’s case in 1772. And rather than accede to that decision that could have jeopardized their fortunes, they rebelled against London’s rule and kicked out London.

Which leads to whammy number two, which is that the African population by several orders of magnitude did not side with the settlers in revolting against British rule. And since that time we’ve been treated as a threat to the status quo. In a sense we are, since we’re pushing for justice and the country was not founded on justice. And we’ve been treated as if we’re criminals in waiting because supposedly we’re a threat to the status quo. And that is what led to the killing of Philando. Castile in Minnesota a few years ago and the killing of George Floyd just about eight or nine days ago. And until we interrogate this very difficult and problematic history, I’m afraid to say we’re going to be facing other examples like George Floyd in the very near future. But I’m hopeful that we have begun to interrogate that difficult and troublesome history.

Jaisal Noor: And finally, when we’re talking about the founding of this country, we’re talking about enslavement, that’s a debt that was never paid. Do you think that that is a conversation… Again, that’s being raised in these protests. And so along with the idea of reparations, along with the idea of defunding police, America spends more on police than most countries, especially compared to social services. When we’re having these conversations do you think it’s important to also talk about the issue of reparations?

Dr. Gerald Horn…: Well, certainly. And interestingly enough, setting the pace to a degree is Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, which is part of a major transnational corporation, Unilever. On a statement posted to their website just the other day, they came out four square in favor of H.R. 40, which calls upon Congress to do a study of the idea of reparations. And they indicated in their statement that they feel that reparations should be pursued. It seems to me if corporations, even if it’s Ben & Jerry’s, can call for reparations, certainly trade unions can and should, certainly student groups can and should, certainly environmentalists can and should. And so my question is what are we waiting for?

Jaisal Noor: Well, Dr. Gerald Horne, thank you so much for joining us. And we understand you have a new book coming out just in a couple of days. Can you tell us a little about it?

Dr. Gerald Horn…: The Dawning of the Apocalypse: The Roots of Slavery, White Supremacy, Settler Colonialism, and Capitalism in the Long Sixteenth Century. When you go to a doctor, oftentimes the doctor takes your medical history so they can figure out what’s wrong with you today. This is a deep dive into the history of what eventuated in the United States of America. And I think it will be quite useful for activists in particular to peruse these pages.

Jaisal Noor: All right, Dr. Gerald Horne, it’s always a pleasure. Thank you so much for joining us.

Dr. Gerald Horn…: Thank you for inviting me.

Jaisal Noor: And thank you for joining us at The Real News Network.

Jaisal Noor

General Assignment Reporter

Jaisal is a host, producer, and reporter for TRNN. With his expertise in education policy and systemic inequity, he focuses on Baltimore, Maryland. He mainly grew up in the Baltimore area and studied modern history at the University of Maryland, College Park. Before joining TRNN, he contributed print, radio, and TV reports to Free Speech Radio NewsDemocracy Now! and The Indypendent.

Jaisal's mother has taught in the Baltimore City Public School system for the past 25 years.