What is the REAL Symbol of White Supremacy? (2/2)

Eddie Conway and Dr. Gerald Horne discuss media coverage of the Charleston massacre and whether the particular focus on the Confederate flag misses the mark when looking to unpack racist symbolism and its impact on society

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Story Transcript

JARED BALL, PRODUCER, TRNN: What’s up world, and welcome back again to The Real News Network. I’m Jared Ball here in Baltimore.

We’re continuing our conversation with Professor Gerald Horne and Mr. Eddie Conway about the representation or the coverage of the representation of both the Confederate flag and the U.S. flags in the post-South Carolina massacre moment. And I’ve asked, again, where is the critical conversation around the U.S. flag, as opposed to what I’m arguing is a straw argument set up around the Confederate flag as the sole or dominant symbol of white supremacy or anti-blackness in the world.

And Eddie Conway, I’ll start with you again. Because I remember when Bill Cosby’s son was killed some years ago, and Camille Cosby wrote what I thought was a brilliant editorial in USA Today about this country’s iconography contributing to a Russian immigrant being here for five minutes, more or less, and feeling it was okay for him to kill a nigger, as he said in the aftermath of that killing.

And she attributed it not only just to the Confederate south but to the total panoply of symbolism here in the United States, saying that we have George Washington and Abraham Lincoln and James Madison, I believe were some of those that she named who were representing the so-called founding fathers, but all of whom in one way or another either through the direct ownership of enslaved Africans or through the supporting of an anti-black ethic, that is, through Lincoln wanting to export black people. Saying he would say–if he could not free one human being and save the Union, he would have no problem doing that, and being staunchly against intermarriage, et cetera, and so forth. With those kinds of representations of this country.

Are they getting a pass, is basically what I’m asking. Isn’t it so much easier for folks, including on the left, to focus in this aftermath of the South Carolina massacre, on the Southern Confederacy as opposed to the North as being the antithesis of the South when in fact they were comrades in arms, in many cases, up until the forced business relationship had to come to an end with the Civil War. But I’m just wondering what you think about my argument here, that this is, that we’re missing the point here in this country. That there’s a true desire to overcome racism, that we have to look at the established, acceptable leadership as much as we look at those who have been so easily dismissed, as is the case with the Southern Confederacy?

EDDIE CONWAY, FORMER BLACK PANTHER AND TRNN PRODUCER: Yeah. I think you’re right that we need to look at the institutionalized racism in America. We need to look at the policies on the federal government level and we need to look at the economic interests on the world level, and you’ll find out that of course white supremacy and white extremists have always subjugated people of color throughout our history, throughout the history of the United States. Well, throughout our, the recent European rise, history, right.

And it is in that vein that they accept a certain privilege, white-skinned privilege, in which they can kill or do whatever they need to do to all other people on the planet, and take the resources of the people on the planet. That’s not–the Confederate flag is used to symbolize that, but that Confederate flag goes all the way up to the North Pole. And it covers all people, but it doesn’t cover the working people–I make a distinction. Because like, the working class, or the people that own the means of production, that owns the machinery that’s controlling most of the wealth, which is a very small percentage of the population, but a large percentage of them are Europeans, there’s no question about that. But they are using the race card, they’re using the worker card, they’re using the religious cards, they’re using other cards to constantly misdirect us and have us arguing about the Confederate flag in the South.

That Confederate flag is flying over Chicago. Those attitudes are flying in all of Africa, in South America, and everywhere else that you have white supremacy. And so we need to recognize that as a distraction toward who’s really making the gains. Who’s really getting the benefits from this kind of arrangement. And it’s the problem with the social arrangement and economic arrangement that exists.

BALL: You know, Professor Horne, we had been talking off-air about extending Malcolm X’s previous metaphor about the Mason-Dixon line being the Canadian border up and to, as Mr. Conway said, to the Arctic. I’m wondering–you know, again, you have some forthcoming work on Haiti. And again, the Haitian revolution and all the negative policies that have come regarding the United States in Haiti since then was not about the Confederate flag. In other words, the Haitian revolution was not against the Confederacy, it was against Western imperialism and ultimately the United States itself in a later part of that struggle. Could you respond to my, my long introductory question of a moment ago and offer your concluding thoughts on this matter?

DR. GERALD HORNE, CHAIR, HIST. AND AF. AMER. STUDIES, UNIV. OF HOUSTON: I think the underlying subtext of our conversation, including the implicit if not explicit critique of some of our friends on the left, is that there’s a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature and origins of the United States of America. And if you have a misdiagnosis, then obviously it’s very hard to come up with an accurate or adequate prescription.

What I mean is that the founding of the United States was a joint project by slave financing interests north of the Mason-Dixon line, particularly in New York City and Boston, and slave-owning interests south of the Mason-Dixon line, particularly in South Carolina. And the revolt against British rule came not least because there was a perception that London was moving towards abolition of slavery, not least because with regard to its sprawling empire it was becoming much more dependent, just like the Spanish empire, on putting rifles and bayonets into the arms of Africans. Whereas in North America amongst the settlers, they felt that rifles should only be pointed at the backs of Africans to march them into the fields to pick cotton and tobacco.

And because we have this fundamental misunderstanding, because many of our friends on the left continue to feel that the Bill of Rights somehow was designed with us in mind when it was actually designed to suppress us, it becomes very difficult to have an adequate understanding or comprehension of contemporaneous events in South Carolina, or for that matter anywhere else in the world.

And so you are correct to suggest that we need to get to the nub of the question, which is actually the genocidal origin of the United States and how historically in order to beat back that kind of predation and oppression it’s required a movement of global proportions, which is now lacking.

BALL: Well, thank you both for joining us in this segment. It is very much like what the late, great writer John Oliver Killens once said about the fundamental differences in our approach to this country, that for the European descendants the United States of America has always represented freedom, and for those of us of African ancestry it always represented enslavement, and that fundamental contradiction still exists.

Professor Horne, Eddie Conway, thank you both for joining us in this segment.

CONWAY: Thanks for having us.

HORNE: Thank you.

BALL: And thank you for joining us here again at The Real News Network. For all involved, I’m Jared Ball. And as always, peace if you’re willing to fight for it. We’ll catch you in the whirlwind, everybody.

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