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.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez chokes up responding to Trump: ‘Time to move on from his conception of America’
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) on Monday fired back at President Donald Trump after he told her to "go back" to her country of origin -- even though she was born in the U.S.
"It's unfortunate that he feels the way he feels about people of color," Ocasio-Cortez explained to NBC News. "It's unfortunate the way he feels about immigrants, naturalized citizens or not."
"What I would tell him is that it's time to move on from him," she continued as she seemed to choke up. "And it's time to move on from his conception of an America that we tried to move past for a long time."
Schumer: If Trump can’t handle a little criticism from Fox News then ‘he doesn’t deserve to be president’
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on Tuesday suggested that Donald Trump "doesn't deserve to be president" if he can't handle criticism from Fox News.
In a speech on the Senate floor, Schumer noted that Trump recently lashed out at Fox News soon after the conservative network aired World Cup viewers chanting "f*ck Trump."
"I just felt it was important to point President Trump amazingly attacked Fox News in the last few days in a series of Tweets for coverage he viewed as unfavorable to his administration," Schumer said. "This is Fox News, a news outlet that frankly is 90% or more on the president’s side. Their most popular shows seem to just be cheerleaders for President Trump."
Marine Corps band forced to perform in pouring rain before sparse crowd prior to Trump’s July 4th party
In a video posted to Twitter several hours before Donald Trump is scheduled to launch his "Salute to America" Fourth of July party, the Marine Corps band was compelled to perform in the pouring rain before a sparse crowd of early attendees and media awaiting the main event.
According to Jim Spellman of CTGN, the sky opened with a deluge of rain that had people running for cover -- only for the military musicians to be paraded out for either a rehearsal or a time-consuming filler until the big show begins.
Earlier in the day, the National Park Service warned that the event could be rained out, with thundershowers moving swiftly into the area.