In a blistering Independence Day weekend interview with PBS’s Bill Moyers, historian Khalil Gibran Muhammad dissected the contradictions between the American belief in equality and freedom and its actual treatment of its own citizens.
Muhammad, who is the head of the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, told Moyers, “History is all around us. … People’s ideas about the past … shape their own sense of identity and shape how they imagine the world should be. … History is the building block of all knowledge in our society, and it is the most important part of the most significant tradition that human beings have, which is story-telling.”
He spoke in particular of the role of the founding fathers in perpetuating slavery, saying “they had a great responsibility for building what would become American democracy, and in that regard they failed miserably.”
“We were never taught,” Moyers commented. “that these men actually created a government, a constitution designed to protect the further acquisition of property for the privileged classes.”
Muhammad agreed, noting that Thomas Jefferson, who wrote in the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal,” was one of the first to argue on scientific grounds that black people could be treated differently because they were biologically inferior.
He noted, however, that when he was a kid in Chicago, black people celebrated the Fourth of July just like white people, with fireworks and barbecue and with no concern for the historical problems. “That’s one of the other amazing contradictions in Americans,” he explained. “Americans — black, white, Asian-American, Latino-American — want to believe in this experiment, want to participate in this experiment, don’t want to carry the baggage of the past. They don’t want to live it, they don’t want to breathe it — it’s depressing.”
Muhammad also emphasized the position of Native Americans, saying that the immigrant experience of the 19th century “was built on the backs of land owned, in the Indian sense, by many tribes indigenous to this country. … Just starting with the question of what happened to black people is not sufficient to understanding that at the end of the day, the very notion of settlement in this country was about procuring resources for the purposes of wealth accumulation.”
“Why do politicians whitewash history?” Moyers asked.
“Because it helps them get elected,” Muhammad laughed. “Why else to politicians do what they do? … People want to be happy. People want to celebrate. People want to feel a sense of belonging, and so when politicians craft stories that remove the ugly aspects of the past … they are feeding that desire, that sense of belonging, that sense that we are a good people by nature.”
A full transcript of this program is available here.
This video is from Moyers & company, June 29, 2012.
Defense secretary throws Trump under the bus: ‘I do not support invoking the Insurrection Act’
Secretary of Defense Mark Esper on Wednesday seemed to be at odds with President Donald Trump when it comes to invoking the Insurrection Act to quell protests over the killing of George Floyd.
Esper explained at a press conference that members of the National Guard had been deployed to keep order "in support of local law enforcement."
"The option to use active duty forces should only be used as a matter of last resort and only in the most urgent and dire of situations," he explained. "We are not in one of those situations now."
"I do not support invoking the Insurrection Act," Esper insisted, referencing Trump's threat to use the law against protesters.
Trump claims he was rushed to White House bunker only for ‘inspection’ — not fear of protesters
President Donald Trump on Wednesday insisted that fear of protesters did not prompt him to be ushered into a White House bunker. Instead, the president said that he visited the facility for an "inspection."
During a Fox News radio interview with host Brian Kilmeade, Trump again threatened to use military forces against protesters.
“If they don’t get their act straightened out I will solve it. I’ll solve it fast,” he said.
The president also pushed back against the narrative that he was "hiding in a White House bunker" as protesters demonstrated outside.
"They said it would be a good time to go down and take a look because maybe sometime you’re going to need it," the president said, adding that the visit was more of an "inspection."
William Barr personally gave order to disperse protesters ahead of Trump photo op, DOJ confirms
The Attorney General of the United States personally issued an order for peaceful protesters to be moved ahead of President Donald Trump's recent walk outside the White House grounds, a report said on Tuesday.
A Justice Department official confirmed to The Washington Post that Attorney General William Barr gave the order when he was seen outside the White House prior to the president's walk to St. John's Episcopal Church.
But on Monday, a White House spokesperson had denied that the protesters were moved to accommodate the president.