“They Want What They Lost: The Right to Own Other Humans”
A conversation sparked by RefuseFascism.org’s forum: “Why Did 74 Million People Vote for Trump?”
I want to share an interesting conversation I had with a caller on my radio show. The call followed my broadcast of the presentations from Michael Coard, Chrissy Stroop, and Andy Zee from the RefuseFascism.org forum exploring the question: “Why did 74 million people vote for Trump?”* The caller began by saying the speakers were phenomenal. She then explained that she is on the board of a slave museum in the DC area and asked: How do we get this message out to schools—to middle school and high school?—because young people all need to know about this. My sense was that she was referring particularly to the connection between the history of slavery and the Confederacy and Trump and his supporters today, which both Andy Zee and Michael Coard had touched on in different ways. She indicated that we have to invite white people and Black people to learn about this in ways that they don’t feel attacked, but they do need to know and deal with it. This was large-minded and generous, but also truthful. I appreciated her question, but posed it back to her, asking if she had many young people at her museum and how she talks with them and what she has learned. She described bringing young people through the museum’s slave cabin and their slave ship that has portions that are life-size so you can experience a sense of how humans were treated as cargo and really think about what that meant. She said they also have a Door of No Return (the doorway that led from the dungeons that held captured Africans to the slave ships which carried them across the ocean into slavery, never to return). But she emphasized that not nearly enough young people come through, and she wants to reach more.
I told her that I appreciated the distinction she was making between people and the system. People are born into the system that they didn’t create, and people can change, so they should be struggled with to change. But then, if they choose to support that system and its barbarity—which is what Trump’s supporters have done—then they are part of the problem. She agreed with both parts, in her own way, saying it is the system not people but also that the Trump voters absolutely break her heart because they want to protect the system and want to protect what they lost, which is owning other humans. She emphasized, this (owning other humans) is what they want back, and they know what they are doing. She added that they don’t even get anything from it because Trump doesn’t even really like them, unless they are rich themselves.
At one point she stressed that the history surrounding Black people and white people (she called them European-Americans) is at the core of everything in this country. She gave the example of how even some Native Americans owned slaves. I pointed to the way that, after the Civil War, some Black former Union soldiers became Buffalo Soldiers who helped carry out the extermination of Native peoples. I brought this up to point to the need for everyone to look at the SYSTEM that underlies this, that pits different oppressed people against each other and is against the interests of humanity as a whole. I pointed her and other listeners to revcom.us and the piece by Bob Avakian called, Racial Oppression Can Be Ended—But Not Under This System.
She mentioned that in Lynchburg, Virginia, where her parents live, it is getting worse and worse. In the city, it is not as bad, but if you leave the core of the city, it is becoming like Sundown Towns again. She mentioned that Jerry Falwell and his fundamentalist school in the area is part of the problem.
She said she teaches reconciliation, but people have to look at racism. It is like an onion, it has many layers built up over many years it will be a process to peel it all back.
I thanked her for what she’d shared and said I’d love to come visit her museum some day. In reflecting on this further, I thought it would be worthwhile to write this up and share it both because of the insights she offered and as a prompt to spur others to watch and share the forum from RefuseFascism.org. The caller was right, that forum really was “phenomenal”—and many more people need to learn from it and contribute their understanding to the problem it is leading us to confront and work to transform: a country filled with fascists.
*The forum was co-sponsored by RefuseFascism.org and the The Revolution, Nothing Less Show. Its full title: “Why did 74 million people vote for Trump? What is the danger, and what to do about it?” [back]