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What Can We Learn From the History of Struggle Against White Supremacy?

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MARC STEINER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Marc Steiner. Good to have you all with us.

The terrorist attack on a Walmart in El Paso has brought the rise and danger of white supremacist nationalism into full focus and is part of all of our conversations. The right-wing violence that has become an all too common occurrence in our nation are not mere aberrations. Sure, it's about Trump, 4chan, 8chan and the deeply racist nature of our society and world, but it just didn't pop out of thin air. These movements and attacks are not new, but are embedded in our society from our past in the very founding of this nation, and in the words of our guest, made up of the revolutions and counter revolutions that make up our American history. What does our American history tell us about this moment, about the time that we're in?

What can we learn from it, and what does it say about our future and the future possibilities and the strategies for us to consider as we face this white nationalist movement? We are joined by Dr. Gerald Horne who holds the John J. and Rebecca Moores Chair of History and African American Studies at the University of Houston. He's written numerous books. His latest books are Storming the Heavens and most recently, The Apocalypse of Settler Colonialism. Gerald Horne, welcome. Good to have you with us here at The Real News. Glad you could be with us in Baltimore.

GERALD HORNE: Thank you for inviting me.

MARC STEINER: Yes. I like this interaction much better than the distance. This is good. As we were talking about in the introduction, I think that what we're facing now with this white supremacist, alt-right, however people want to describe this nationalist movement, white nationalist movement, it has deep roots in our country. This is not something that just popped up out of nowhere, right? You're one of our great historians. Let's begin at the beginning, and I understand you've been working on 15th century ideas, so give us a sense of what the roots of this are for our country.

GERALD HORNE: I'm doing a book on the 1500s.

MARC STEINER: 1500s. [crosstalk]

GERALD HORNE: 16th century and it helps to shed light on how Spain lost its first movers' advantage. After all, they commissioned Columbus, they established footholds in Santo Domingo, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and even St. Augustine, Florida. By 1565, despite all of this talk about 1619 being the date when Africans arrived, the Spanish had brought Africans from their perch in Santo Domingo to St. Augustine, Florida, where they had settled as early as 1565 and in fact had brought Africans to what is now South Carolina as early as the 1520s, but the Africans rebelled and joined the Indigenous side and wounded the Spanish severely, which created an opening for the English to arrive, which was one of the reasons we're sitting here speaking

MARC STEINER: English and not Spanish.

GERALD HORNE: " English today. In terms of the English triumphing over the Spanish, they unleashed a tidal wave of propaganda against the Spanish. It reminds me of the propaganda and unleashed against Japan before 1945, portraying them as evil, devious, sneaky, diabolical, bloodthirsty, et cetera. As well, this helps to set up this in the context of this religious conflict, Protestant London versus Catholic Spain. I don't think you can begin to understand the kind of violence that's been unleashed against people of Mexican origin without understanding this religious background and the settler colonial background.

In any case, the Spanish, really privileged religion. They would send priests to the docks at St. Augustine to make sure that settlers were religiously correct, for example. The scrappy underdogs, the English, in order to outflank the Spanish, they moved I would say rather cynically and wisely to a Pan-European project. Welcoming settlers of, as they said in London, pure European descent, which broadened the base for settler colonialism, created a larger population base for London to challenge Madrid as well, and then that wins the day.

MARC STEINER: This is a conscious policy, right?

GERALD HORNE: Oh, yeah. Well, it's events impelling a policy I would say.

MARC STEINER: Okay. Right, right. All right.

GERALD HORNE: Then of course, if you look at Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin, who becomes squatters in north Mexico, although they say that they were invited in the 1820s. What happens is that in the 1820s, coincidentally enough, Mexico moves towards abolishing slavery. Austin and Houston were major slave owners as well as the other so-called Anglo settlers. This leads to the secession from Mexico in 1836, the setting up the so-called Republic of Texas, which becomes a major slave trading power. That brings it into further conflict with Mexico, which had moved oppressively towards abolition of slavery under a president of African descent 180 years before Barack Obama. I'm speaking of Vincent Guerrero, the 1820s.

Then independent Texas could not take the pressure from abolitionist Britain and revolutionary Haiti, so they crawl into the Union in 1845 where they've been ever since, but that's not the end of conflict. In fact, some of the bloodiest conflict directed, bloodiest attacks directed at people of Mexican origin comes in about a hundred years ago during their Mexican Revolutionary period, 1910 to 1920. The kind of bloodshed you saw in El Paso just a few days ago, during that decade, that was a regular occurrence not only on the part of so-called Anglo settlers directing the attack, but the Texas Rangers would not be an exaggeration to suggest they're kind of stormtroopers for the state of Texas.

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