Lost in the news of hate crimes over the past week was a random shooting of two Blacks in Kentucky by a white man. President Trump’s fanning of racial resentment is leading to an atmosphere where such attacks are becoming more and more common, says Prof. Gerald Horne
EDDIE CONWAY: I’m Eddie Conway and this is The Real News Network.
Last week, shortly after service ended, an armed white man tried to enter a predominantly Black church in Jeffersontown, Kentucky. When he failed because the doors were locked, he proceeded to the local supermarket instead and randomly shot and killed a Black Man and a Black Woman. The alleged perpetrator, Gregory Bush, was arraigned last Thursday and held on a five million dollar bail.
SPEAKER: Will you need the services of a public defender?
GREGORY BUSH: I believe a public defender.
SPEAKER: Are you working?
GREGORY BUSH: No.
SPEAKER: Do you have any form of regular income?
GREGORY BUSH: Disability.
SPEAKER: Do you own any property?
GREGORY BUSH: No.
SPEAKER: A public defender will be appointed. The bond is currently set at five million dollars. I set that bond and it’s going to remain the same. I believe you to be a danger. You are to possess no firearms, to have no contact with any of the alleged victims’ families. And a court date for your preliminary hearing will be November the fifth courtroom 302.
EDDIE CONWAY: Bush appears to have a history of mental illness but was also overheard making racist remarks during the shooting. The story got relatively little attention, perhaps because it happened shortly before the shooting in Pittsburgh, where a white supremacist gunman killed 11 worshippers in a synagogue Saturday.
Joining me now to discuss the implications of the Kentucky shooting is Professor Gerald Horne. Gerald holds the John J. and Rebecca Moores Chair of History of African American Studies at the University of Houston. He’s the author of many books, most recently, The Counter-Revolution of 1776. Thanks for joining us today, Gerald.
GERALD HORNE: Thank you for inviting me.
EDDIE CONWAY: What do you make of this incident? Is it a sign of things to come, given the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting and with Trump in the White House?
GERALD HORNE: I’m afraid to say it does not come as a surprise. It does not come as a surprise, not only in light of the attempted bomb assassinations of two former presidents, a former Secretary of State and a number of other leading U.S. politicos that led to the arrest of a man in South Florida just a few days ago, but it also does not come as a surprise in light of what you mentioned in terms of the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre and in light of the shooting that took place under similar circumstances in Charleston, South Carolina, where were worshippers also were slain, this time African-Americans.
I think we need to understand that none of this comes as a particular shock, because to a certain extent, this is the outcome of policies that have been pursued for decades. What I’m referring to is the fact that progressive organizations have been whipsawed by the U.S. ruling elite for decades. Let us think of what has happened to left-wing labor. For example, Harry Bridges, the leader of West Coast Longshore, who was subjected to numerous deportation attempts in light of his being born in Australia, and also in light of the fact that he was very good at negotiating good wages and good working conditions for the stevedores who he represented.
When left-wing labor went off the skids, that obviously opened the door for a fall in working-class conditions and a fall in wages, and also opened the door to a devastation of political education that makes these gunmen more susceptible to the blandishments and the propaganda of the ultra-right. Likewise, we have also witnessed in recent decades the evisceration of progressive Black organizations. You, more than most, are familiar with what befell the Black Panther Party. And that, too, helped to weaken the overall progressive movement and created fertile conditions for the rise of these ultra-rightist tendencies that are now with us as we speak.
EDDIE CONWAY: Do you think the Trump administration officials who are arguing that Obama wasn’t held responsible for the Charleston incident, arguing the fact that Trump shouldn’t be held responsible for these incidents, the one in Kentucky, the mass bombings that have been mailed out, or the synagogue incident … does the Trump administration have any validity in that position?
GERALD HORNE: I’m afraid not. I think that’s sophistry of the highest order. The fact of the matter is, is that Mr. Obama, whatever his flaws, was not fanning the flames of racist or racial resentment like Mr. Trump has done from the day he went down the escalator in Trump Tower in June 2016, when he venomously attacked those of Mexican origin, criminalizing them. That has led to what we have seen in recent days, with Mr. Trump trying to make a campaign issue of thousands of migrants, principally from Honduras, trying to work their way to the U.S. border presumably, although many of them are deciding to stay in Mexico.
They’re fleeing a U.S. backed government in Honduras that has exploited them shamelessly and has imposed hunger throughout the land. Now, Mr. Trump, I think it’s fair to say, has some complicity with regard to these massacres, with regard to these episodes that we’re discussing. And he cannot escape blame, no matter how hard he tries.
EDDIE CONWAY: So, earlier you said there was a history of this stuff. I mean, there’s a relationship between the hate crimes, the rise of hate crimes, and the rise in anti-immigration and, in fact, the kind of rhetoric that he’s putting out in relationship even to Muslims, even though you don’t have any Muslim incidents. This has been going on throughout history and you mentioned earlier that it’s in a particular interest to promote this. Can you talk about that a little more?
GERALD HORNE: Well, look at the origins of these United States of America, despite the propaganda that I’m afraid to say is oftentimes co-signed by our liberal friends. As I showed in my book that you so kindly and graciously mentioned at the top of this interview, the revolt against British rule in 1776 was driven largely and substantially by the attempt to escape the snare of abolitionism in London which threatened to jeopardize the fortunes of folks like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison and other major slave owners.
And rather than run that risk, as exemplified by Somerset’s case in 1772 in London which abolished slavery in England, they decided to rebel, not unlike what happened in November 1965 in what is now Zimbabwe, when British nationals there rebelled because they thought London was moving towards African majority rule and jeopardizing the life of the settlers in Zimbabwe. Likewise, the settlers in 1776 rebelled because they felt that per the Royal Proclamation of 1762-63, that London would stop funding the movement west to route the Native Americans and seize their land and turn it over to the likes of real estate speculator number one, speaking of George Washington.
Therefore, when the Constitution was framed in the late 1780s, interestingly enough, the Second Amendment, the Amendment that is now used to bolster these massacres by making for the promiscuous use and sale of weapons, the second amendment was designed to develop and instigate militias that would be used to squash slave revolts and Native American uprisings. Given this rather odious, despicable history, only the naive should be surprised by the fact that this country is awash in weapons, perhaps having more weapons on this land than there are individuals. And inevitably, these weapons are used, such as what happened in Pittsburgh and such as what happened in Kentucky.
EDDIE CONWAY: As you were saying that, I was thinking that throughout history, we have been in predicaments like this before, whether it was at the beginning of WWI with the massive crackdown on the antiwar movement and so on, or whether it was the labor movement in the 40s and the 50s and the McCarthy era. Obviously, we went through a similar kind of period with the Black Panthers and so on. But is the climate in America now even more dangerous for People of Color, minorities, poor people in general, or is this just another phase in America’s growth that continues to happen throughout our history?
GERALD HORNE: I find the former argument more persuasive. One difference between the current era and the preceding era, speaking of the Cold War period, was that at that particular point, there were progressive international gusts that were blowing through the United States of America. I’m speaking of national liberation movements in both Latin America and the Caribbean and Africa. Washington found it difficult to point the finger of accusation for human rights violations in Moscow as long as Jim Crow and U.S. apartheid stalked the land. That created favorable and objective conditions for the retreat of Jim Crow, and indeed, the rise of groups like the Black Panther Party.
But now, we do not have such a situation that is facing us. Not only that, but I’m afraid to say that our movement has been suffering as well. I mean, for example, just a few weeks ago, President Erdogan of Turkey came to New York for the United Nations General Assembly. He came to New York in the wake of Turkey renaming the avenue that will now border the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey after Malcolm X. While he was in New York, he met with the daughters of Malcolm X. Mr. Erdogan, whenever he comes to the United States, makes a point to meet with African American Muslim groups.
However, this kind of news and this kind of information is not necessarily widely known or even considered to be important by many of our leaders and many of our organizations. And therefore, they are not in an advantageous position to capitalize on international developments, unlike the situation in the previous epic, the Cold War period, when you had, for example, many Black Panther delegations in and out of Havana, Cuba, for example, with many Black liberation movement activists finding sanctuary in Havana, Cuba. I’m afraid to say that that kind of internationalism has dissipated, to our detriment.
EDDIE CONWAY: On that note, thank you, Dr. Horne.
GERALD HORNE: Thank you for inviting me.
EDDIE CONWAY: I was speaking to Gerald Horne, Professor of History of African American Studies at the University of Houston. And thank you for joining The Real News.