Trump Win Propels White Nationalism and Chauvinism to Center of US Politics
Historian Gerald Horne says social movements will need to adopt an international strategy in order to push back against the coming reign of terror for communities of color
KIM BROWN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Kim Brown in Baltimore. Convicted mass murderer and white supremacist Dylann Roof was found guilty on Thursday of 33 charges related to the killing of nine black church parishioners in Charleston, South Carolina. During the trial, federal prosecutors presented evidence of Roof’s beliefs and racist values, including Confederate and Rhodesian flags found in his possession. Plus, he claimed to have committed the murders to start a race war because, “Black people are killing white people every day. What I did is so miniscule compared to what they do to white people every day.”
Now Dylann Roof’s criminal actions were extreme but his views about black Americans and immigrants are representative of how these ideas are increasingly mainstream, the so-called alt-right. And, of course, we have seen this presented in President-elect Donald Trump, of course, on the campaign trail, his racist and xenophobic rhetoric along with some of this selections to his staff and cabinet have a lot of people concerned. But these are not new attitudes or behaviors in America, but why, in an ever-increasingly browning United States, are these beliefs seemingly on the rise and what are the roots of it?
Well, to discuss this we’re joined today with Dr. Gerald Horne. Dr. Horne holds the John J. and Rebecca Moores Chair of History and African American Studies at the University of Houston. He’s also the author of many books including most recently The Counter-Revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America. Dr. Horne, we appreciate you joining us again. Thank you.
GERALD HORNE: Thank you for inviting me.
KIM BROWN: Well, Dr. Horne, how would you categorize alt-right? Is this same old racism simply repackaged?
GERALD HORNE: I think that’s a fair assessment. The alt-right in many ways is a euphemism, it sounds like a rock band or a punk band. What we’re really talking about is white supremacy, what we’re really talking about is white identity politics, what we’re really talking about is white nationals, what we’re really talking about are descendants of the neo-Nazi movement, descendants of the Ku Klux Klan. We’re talking about racists, we’re talking about misogynists, we’re talking about anti-Semites. This is what we mean when we talk about the alt-right, whether we know it or not.
KIM BROWN: And there has been many expressing alarm that someone has been elected to the White House who is cozy with white supremacists, but surely this is not the first time for this, in the United States.
GERALD HORNE: Well, certainly not. I find it quite instructive that many people have drawn a parallel between the election of Andrew Jackson, a former slave trader who is on your currency in the 1820s, and the election of Donald J. Trump. That is to say that, that is an apt comparison, whether people realize it or not. Because when you elect a slave trader to the highest office in the land, you’re basically suggesting that certain denizens of North America have more(?) rights that the majority are bound to respect. And I’m afraid to say that the election of Donald J. Trump, in some ways, represents the kind of sentiment that led to the election of Andrew Jackson in the 1820s. That is to say, the propelling to the forefront of politics a certain kind of white nationalism, a certain kind of national chauvinism, a certain kind of bigotry.
KIM BROWN: Dr. Horne, how does the alt-right movement — and I’m actually loathe to use that term because it sounds like something, as you mentioned, like a pop band or a rock band, it’s a smoothing over of the terms white nationalists and white supremacists. But how does the 21st century alt-right movement, what characteristics do they share with white supremacist movements of the past?
GERALD HORNE: Well, I think that both movements, that is to say, the past and the present of white supremacy, fundamentally feel that this should be a “white man’s country”. That is to say that, as Arlie Hochschild, the sociologist at Berkeley, puts it in her recent book Strangers in Their Own Land, the common ordinary perception of many Trump voters is that those of us who are not defined as white are somehow getting benefits that we did not deserve — that we’re cutting into to the queue, we’re cutting to the line. Even if we’re working hard and paying our taxes, that we, somehow, do not belong in North America.
Now, sadly, and unfortunately, many of those who are voting for Donald J. Trump may not hold such raw opinions, but the fact of the matter is, that by voting for Donald J. Trump, they’re fundamentally endorsing such raw opinions which means they are complicit in what could turn out to be a massive crime against humanity.
KIM BROWN: The Southern Poverty Law Center has tracked hundreds of hate crime incidents since the election of Donald Trump in November, but we’ve seen throughout history there has been these rise and falls in racism. I guess it’s burned hotter at different points in American history than it has others, and I’m thinking of, you now, in the Civil Rights era there was a visible Klan presence — the Ku Klux Klan was abducting civil rights workers, murdering them — and we had, I want to say a simmering down, but we didn’t see that type of violence towards people of color, let’s say, in the ’70s and ’80s from citizens. I mean, it can be argued that that anger or that violence, you know, transferred to the police force and it was taken out on communities of color in that way. But we seem to see it heating back up again. What does history tell us about these sort of ebbs and flows of how hot racism can burn at different points in time?
GERALD HORNE: Well, I think, one factor that we all need to focus on is the international situation. The international climate. What I mean is that in the 1960s, United States was on the defensive because it was in the midst of the Cold War where it was seeking to point the finger of accusation at the socialist camp, charging that camp with human rights violations and, in return, the socialist camp pointed the finger of accusation back at the United States, charging the United States with human rights violations because of treatment of peoples of color.
Now, with the dissolution of the socialist camp, that kind of international pressure has basically dissolved. And surprise, surprise, with the dissolution of that international pressure, once again you see the resurgence, you see the propelling of this ultra-right movement that is putting many of us in jeopardy.
KIM BROWN: So let’s talk about how this pertains to the potentially incoming administration of Donald Trump, his selection to head the Department of Justice, his pick for Attorney General, is Senator Jeff Sessions, a Republican from Alabama, who has a long history of fighting against civil rights, not only in his own state but doing so from the senate, as well. What does this speak to you about what people can expect in terms of racial justice from this administration?
GERALD HORNE: Well, unfortunately, it’s not just Steve Bannon of Breitbart News who is the chief political strategist of Donald J. Trump now ensconced in the White House — or soon to be ensconced in the White House. Of course, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, is also the US Supreme Court. You know, I’m sure, that the Republican Majority in the Senate stonewalled President Obama’s attempt to appoint Merrick Garland to the seat vacated by Justice Antonin Scalia when he passed away in February 2016. The perspective nominees from Donald J. Trump, I think it’s fair to say, will continue the dirty work of Antonin Scalia, which in the first place, means gutting further of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, it means turning a blind eye to police terrorism. It means, basically, putting the stamp of approval on a kind of reign of terror that will be inflicted upon our community. That’s what’s in store for 2017 going forward.
KIM BROWN: So let’s look at that from the other side of the coin, Dr. Horne. How, historically, have communities of color responded to inflamed periods of racism? And what should, if you have any advice for communities of color, what should they do in the era Donald Trump?
GERALD HORNE: Well, some things that we’ve been doing, we need to continue doing. I’m speaking of the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement and the rise of mass protests in the streets, but I think what’s missing from our movement now is an international outreach. That is to say, taking our case, taking our concerns to the United Nations in New York, to the Organization of American States in Washington, DC, where it’s headquartered.
We know that President-elect Trump will seek to deport many people, particularly those of Mexican origin. We have a common concern with the Mexican government and certainly we need to be sending delegations to Mexico City to help to bolster our international effort. We also know that Donald J. Trump will be seeking to escalate tensions with China. I dare say that China will be seeking to reach out to Mexico because both governments will be in the crosshairs. We need to reach out similarly. I think that’s what’s missing from the recipe that has been concocted by our movement thus far.
KIM BROWN: And, Dr. Horne, just to go back for a moment because you reference the election of Andrew Jackson as an example of a white supremacist being elected to the White House in the 1800s. In the past century, have we seen a comparable white supremacist be elected? Because a lot of, you know, conservatives or white supremacists would say that, you know, racism went away after the Civil War and it’s been hundreds of years since black people were free, or freed out of bondage. But, in the last century or so, who have we seen that could qualify as a white supremacist be elected to the White House?
GERALD HORNE: Well, I would point to Woodrow Wilson who, even though he was Governor of New Jersey and President of Princeton University before entering the White House, was actually Virginia-born, and actually was a scholar who wrote some of the most racist histories that this racist country has seen thus far. Recall that it was Woodrow Wilson who screened in the White House, one of the first Hollywood blockbusters, I’m speaking of Birth of a Nation, the film produced and directed by D.W. Griffith which portrays the Ku Klux Klan as heroes who redeemed the so-called “white self”. I mean, the sad and tragic part is that Woodrow Wilson is not necessarily unique or sui generis — he represent a decided strain in terms of the occupants of the White House, not only with regard to the 19th century but, I’m afraid, with regard the 20th century, as well.
KIM BROWN: Indeed. Well, we’ve been speaking with Dr. Gerald Horne from the University of Houston. He’s the author of the most recent book titled, The Counter-Revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America. Dr. Horne, we appreciate your insight today. Thank you very much.
GERALD HORNE: Thank you for inviting me.
KIM BROWN: And thanks for watching The Real News Network.