We remember the life of Bob Moses, the civil rights leader who left his job as a New York City high school teacher to register Black voters in Mississippi in the 1960s, facing down horrific violence and intimidation to become one of the icons of the movement. He died Sunday at age 86. Moses spent his later years as an advocate for improved math education, teaching thousands of students across the United States through the Algebra Project, the nonprofit he founded. Moses spoke to Democracy Now! in 2009, on the first day of the Obama presidency, recalling the 1964 fight for Black representation within the Democratic Party, the struggle against Jim Crow in the South and his passion for education. “In our country, I think we run sharecropper education,” Moses said, warning that unequal educational opportunities would continue racial disparities in the country. “We need a constitutional amendment, something which simply says every child in the country is a child of the country and is entitled to a quality public school education.”
“All slaves are free,” Union troops shouted. On June 19, 1865, they read Order No. 3, written by Gen. Gordon Granger to the enslaved people in Galveston, Texas. Cheering crowds followed the soldiers. In the war’s aftermath, ex-Confederates attacked Blacks for celebrating freedom, but joy was stronger than fear. The holiday of Juneteenth began. One hundred and fifty-six years later, Juneteenth — which has for decades been celebrated through family gatherings and grassroots political organizing — has now been designated by the U.S. Senate as the 11th federal holiday, in addition to being observed as a state holiday by 47 states.
Politics & Elections 100+ Democracy Scholars Issue Dire Warning About Threats to Voting Rights in US Racial Justice Robin D.G. Kelley: The Tulsa Race Massacre Went Way Beyond “Black Wall Street” Politics & Elections Democrats Remind Biden That Bipartisanship on Infrastructure Is “Hopeless” Politics & Elections The Fight Against Fascism Isn’t Over Politics & Elections Even With Light at the End of the Pandemic Tunnel, We Mustn’t Be Complacent Environment & Health Here’s How to Fight Climate Destruction and Environmental Racism Simultaneously Athletes around the globe are voicing support for tennis superstar Naomi Osaka, who withdrew from the French Open after being fined and threatened with disqualification for declining to take part in press conferences due to their effect on her mental health. Prominent athletes, from Stephen Curry to Serena Williams, have come forward to support 23-year-old Osaka, who is a four-time Grand Slam tournament winner. The escalating fines and criticism Osaka faced from tennis officials were “a disproportionate response” to her actions, says Amira Rose Davis, an assistant professor of history and women’s, gender and sexuality studies at Penn State and co-host of the sports podcast “Burn It All Down.” She adds that Black women athletes are often subjected to insensitive questioning from the media that can perpetuate racist and sexist narratives. “The media is overwhelmingly white, overwhelmingly older, overwhelmingly male,” Davis says. TRANSCRIPT This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form. AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The Quarantine Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González. Athletes around the globe are voicing support for tennis superstar Naomi Osaka, who withdrew from the French Open Monday after being fined and threatened with disqualification for declining to take part in news conferences due to their effect, she said, on her mental health. In a statement posted on Twitter, the 23-year-old Osaka wrote, quote, “The truth is that I have suffered long bouts of depression since the US Open in 2018 and I have had a really hard time coping with that. Anyone that knows me knows I’m introverted, and anyone that has seen me at the tournaments will notice that I’m often wearing headphones as that helps dull my social anxiety.” Naomi Osaka went on to write, “I am not a natural public speaker and get huge waves of anxiety before I speak to the world’s media. I get rally nervous and find it stressful to always try to engage,” she said. Prominent athletes have come forward to support Naomi, from Steph Curry to Venus and Serena Williams. Tennis legend Billie Jean King wrote on Twitter, “It’s incredibly brave that Naomi Osaka has revealed her truth about her struggle with depression. Right now, the important thing is that we give her the space and time she needs. We wish her well,” she said. Sports researchers estimate one-third of athletes suffer from a mental health crisis at some point in their careers. Osaka, who has a Japanese mother and a Haitian American father, is a four-time winner of Grand Slam tennis tournaments. She drew headlines last year when she wore the names of Black victims of police brutality on her face masks on the sidelines of the U.S. Open. We’re joined by Amira Rose Davis. She’s assistant professor of history and women’s, gender and sexuality studies at Penn State University. She’s currently working on a book entitled Can’t Eat a Medal: The Lives and Labors of Black Women Athletes in the Age of Jim Crow. She’s co-host of the sports podcast Burn It All Down. Amira Rose Davis, welcome back to Democracy Now! AMIRA ROSE DAVIS: Yeah, thank you for having me. AMY GOODMAN: Can you take — it’s great to have you with us. Can you take us through just the chronology of Naomi Osaka saying she didn’t want to participate in these news conferences, that she was suffering from depression, was very nervous about them, and then the response of the opens — it’s the French Open, Australia, etc., all together — at the French Open, saying they might expel her, and they were fining her? AMIRA ROSE DAVIS: Yeah, absolutely. Last week, before the tournament started, Naomi took to social media to issue a statement saying, “Heads up, I won’t be doing the post-game pressers. I don’t want to engage in that way. For mental health concerns, I think it’s best if I don’t do this. I recognize that this comes with a fine. I am prepared to pay this fine. I hope that the Slams use this fine for mental health organizations or for mental health initiatives.” And that was really her statement. She was trying to get ahead of it. The reaction to that on social media was a range of things. But then the Slams, as you pointed to — the French, the Australian, the U.S. and Wimbledon — all came together to issue a joint statement, that the first few lines said, “We hope you’re well. We care about mental health concerns. We want to support you,” and then very quickly said, “But we also want to remind you of the code of conduct, and not only this first $15,000 fine that you got, but we will escalate that fine.” And then they also threatened — they also said that it could elevate to the level of being defaulted from the tournament. And I think that this reaction really was like throwing, you know, a spark on the fire — you know I love fire references because of the podcast. But it really was, because for all of the Slams to come together to do this statement, when they’re often quiet on other things — like right now there’s literally somebody who is on trial for domestic abuse, right? — we don’t get the same — like, this was a disproportionate response. And that compelled — it shifted the conversation to mental health concerns in a particular way, that only was solidified when Naomi put out a second statement at the beginning of this week that said, “I didn’t want to be a distraction. This has now blown up. And I think the best thing for me to do is withdraw completely from this tournament.” She didn’t end there, however. She went on to say she followed up privately with the Slams to talk about this more. But beyond that, she wanted to have further conversations to ensure that there was more awareness and more support for mental health concerns around athletes. And that was her statement on Monday. And then, since then, we’ve had a variety of conversations around the subject. JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Professor, I wanted to ask you about the response. There’s been sort of a disconnect from the response of other tennis players versus other athletes. Could you talk about how fellow athletes have responded, both within the tennis world and outside? AMIRA ROSE DAVIS: Yeah, I think many athletes have come out and applauded her, have wished her well, have talked about their own mental health struggles. Tennis players on the circuit have now been getting these questions. You saw how Venus Williams chose to answer it yesterday by saying, “You know, listen. We’re all dealing with it in certain ways. The way I deal with it is that I know that the press can’t play as well as I can. Nobody’s going to hold a candle to me. And that’s how I deal with it. But we all have our ways of coping.” Serena said, “I just want to give her a hug.” So, I think that within tennis you have seen support, and outside of tennis you’ve seen support. I actually feel like the disconnect is happening because there’s like three strands of conversation happening. I think that, one, athletes are having a conversation about mental health. Specifically Black athletes are having a conversation about, you know, what their role is as professional athletes. And then journalists are having a conversation about the — you know, do these pressers matter? What does it look like to be in a changing landscape of their field? And that has been a central kind of conversation, as well. And then lay fans have either said she needs to go play, or she needs to buckle up, and this is entitlement. And there’s a lot of people who also have recognized a strength in this and appreciate moving the needle on mental health. So I think we’re seeing multiple conversations happening, overlapping, of course, on social media. But the support from athletes has really been to talk about their own struggles or say, “Oh, it hits close to home,” or offer support. JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And to what degree do you think that these — because this is something now that’s pretty prevalent in all sports, these televised press conferences right after games or matches. It’s almost as if it’s more of an entertainment value than a real news value. And it’s more of an attempt to promote a particular sport economically rather than actually journalists ferreting out critical information. To what degree are the journalists playing into this situation of looking always for conflict or for a dramatic narrative that they can push a story, and, of course, then having to even hone in more on these athletes with tough questions? AMIRA ROSE DAVIS: Yeah, absolutely. And I think this is a really key question. Historically, these pressers have absolutely been to grow the league, to get interest, to have partnerships with sponsors. And that’s the function they’ve served, particularly growing leagues. Women’s leagues have used this access in really important ways in terms of growth. One of the conversations that has been happening is, is that — has it outlived its function? Because many people feel like it’s redundant questions, it’s poking, it’s prodding. I talked to my co-host Jessica Luther and many journalists who were wrestling with this in other ways, because I think that they see a possibility in these pressers, where there’s access, where there’s not prescribed questions, where there is a chance to actually perhaps hold people accountable or ask questions that might have been otherwise pushed aside by handlers. And I think that that is really valid, but also an idealized way of how these pressers actually function. To your point, the media is overwhelmingly white, overwhelmingly older, overwhelmingly male. There’s a fight for marginalized sports reporters to even get in those rooms. And I think that the dynamic within those spaces doesn’t live up to this kind of ideal of accountability and access, and oftentimes becomes about quickly churning out and perpetuating narratives, asking the same question. And then it sticks, and it’s there. One of the things Naomi said was, “I’ve been battling depression since the U.S. Open in 2018” — right? — which was when she faced Serena and launched onto the scene, won her — won that Slam. But, of course, there was a narrative about Serena’s actions during the match. She was crying. Fans were booing her. And every time they play, every time she’s back at the U.S. Open, this gets regurgitated. There’s questions about it. And I think it’s very telling that she pointed that out, because it points to this point about how these narratives — right? — continue and continue and continue, with very little stopping to consider what harm or what cost to the athlete. AMY GOODMAN: And yet it was Serena who was among the superstars who came out in support of Naomi Osaka. This is what she said. SERENA WILLIAMS: The only thing I feel is that I feel for Naomi. I feel like I wish I could give her a hug, because I know what it’s like. Like I said, I’ve been in those positions. We have different personalities, and people are different. Not everyone is the same. I’m thick. You know, other people are thin. So, everyone is different, and everyone handles things differently. So, you know, you just have to let her handle it the way she wants to, in the best way that she thinks she can. And that’s the only thing I can say. I think she’s doing the best that she can. AMY GOODMAN: So, that’s Serena Williams. And, of course, the Williams sisters really helping, among a few other African Americans in tennis, to break the color barrier in what was a really white sport. And the significance, Professor, of Naomi Osaka, a descendant of — well, her mother is Japanese, her father, Haitian American. She is a Black woman who is breaking so many barriers. I think she’s the highest-paid woman athlete in the world right now. What this means, the kind of pressure being brought on her? And if young African American women see even her, she gets fined — she even said, on those fines that the French Open applied to her, she asked that they be given to mental health organizations, the money they made off of her. AMIRA ROSE DAVIS: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think there’s two really important things here that you just brought up. One, absolutely, Naomi has been in the tennis space that we know has had a great deal of scrutiny for Venus and Serena Williams, for Sloane, for Coco Gauff, for Naomi herself, in a myriad of ways. And I think that entering into that space, you already saw moments where Naomi tried to disrupt kind of conventional narratives or push back at even framing of questions. When people said, “Oh, you’re Japanese,” she would always remind them that she was Haitian. She insisted on her Blackness being recognized. When she wore masks, and Tom Rinaldi asked her in the post-game, “Well, what does it mean? You know, what do these masks mean to you?” — and she had explained this and talked about this before — and she said, “Well, what does it mean to you?” She flipped it, you know, back on the reporter. And I think that these were the ways that she had already slightly disrupted, or when she stopped playing last August with a number of other athletes and said, “There’s more important things to do than for you to watch me play tennis.” So we’ve already seen her take on this role and kind of push the status quo in these ways. But I think it really is important to map this onto two other conversations. One is Black athletes who are continuing to insist on their humanity being recognized, who continue to say, “We’re not just here to entertain you,” and to push back on what is seen as entitlement or what people are owed of their labor. And athletes are saying, “My labor is — my athleticism is on the court. But you’re already privy to my weight, to my height, to my injury history, to my body, and then also to my mind with these probing questions.” And whether it’s protesting or speaking out about fan abuse, which is what we’re seeing increasingly, as well, or this conversation that Naomi is having, the underlying point that they’re pushing back on through these moments is to say, “We are fully human, and this is our job, and we don’t have to actually just go along with racial abuse, or we don’t have to sacrifice our mental health.” And I think that’s a really important through line that we see happening here. And so, you can look at people like Marshawn Lynch, Kyrie Irving, Natasha Cloud, who refused to do WNBA pressers unless they were about gun violence and police brutality, as a kind of longer history of that. But that second part about Black women is also really important, too. There’s ongoing conversations about Black women’s mental health. We saw this topic also come up when Meghan Markle disclosed her depression, her anxiety. And I think that this is a really important growing conversation. Some people — some social scientists have called it a mental health crisis, that the trope of a strong Black woman who’s tasked with doing labor, who’s simultaneously hypervisible and invisible, means that there’s really high rates of depression, of anxiety, and too often not enough mechanisms for help — a very low number of Black women therapy providers, for instance. And so, I think that part, that point — right? — of what this conversation does, how it moves the needle and how these Black women celebrities and athletes can play a really important role in pushing that conversation, as well. AMY GOODMAN: We want to thank you so much, Amira Rose Davis, for joining us, assistant professor of history and women’s, gender and sexuality studies at Penn State University, co-host of the sports podcast Burn It All Down. And, boy, what Naomi said in her silence last year at the U.S. Open, donning seven masks, each bearing the name of a Black person who was killed: Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, George Floyd, Philando Castile and Tamir Rice — almost all killed by police. When we come back, we look at the link between mass shootings and domestic violence. Back in 30 seconds. This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.
Politics & Elections Facebook Will Announce Tomorrow Whether Trump and His Fascist Posts Can Return Economy & Labor Mutual Aid Efforts Are Working to Fill the Gaps of Biden’s COVID Response Economy & Labor Amazon’s Anti-Union Bullying Shows Why We Need the PRO Act Economy & Labor Tax Dodgers Owe US Over $7 Trillion, Says Janet Yellen Politics & Elections Biden Picks Warren Ally to Oversee Student Aid, Signaling Shift on Student Debt Human Rights Over 10 Million People Could Become Homeless When Eviction Moratorium Ends Image Credit: Courtesy HBO A new four-part documentary series, Exterminate All the Brutes, delves deeply into the legacy of European colonialism from the Americas to Africa. It has been described as an unflinching narrative of genocide and exploitation, beginning with the colonizing of Indigenous land that is now called the United States. The documentary series seeks to counter “the type of lies, the type of propaganda, the type of abuse, that we have been subject to all of these years,” says director and Haitian-born filmmaker Raoul Peck. “We have the means to tell the real story, and that’s exactly what I decided to do,” Peck says. “Everything is on the table, has been on the table for a long time, except that it was in little bits everywhere.… We lost the wider perspective.” TRANSCRIPT This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form. AMY GOODMAN: Republican lawmakers are continuing their attack on schools for teaching students about the true history of the United States, from the genocide of Native Americans to the legacy of slavery. Last week, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell wrote a letter to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona criticizing what he described as the Department’s promotion of revisionist history including The New York Times 1619 Project, which reexamined the pivotal role slavery played in the founding of the United States. In his letter, McConnell wrote, “Americans never decided our children should be taught that our country is inherently evil,” he said. New York Times reporter Nikole Hannah Jones, who created the 1619 Project, responded by saying ” “Republicans across the U.S. are pushing laws to mandate ‘patriotic’ education & to prohibit the teaching of the #1619Project and about the nation’s racist past.” Well, today, we spend the hour looking at an epic new series that delves deeply into the legacy of European colonialism from the Americas to Africa. The documentary is titled Exterminate All the Brutes. It’s directed by the Haitian filmmaker Raoul Peck. It has been described as an unflinching narrative of genocide and exploitation, beginning with the colonizing of indigenous American land. This is the documentary’s trailer. RAOUL PECK: There is the story we have been told. In Columbus’ travel journal, they were discovered. But there is no such thing as alternative facts. There is something we need to talk about. Three words that summarize the whole history of humanity. Civilization, colonization, extermination. This is the origin of the ideology of white supremacy. This is me in the middle, and I just want to understand, why do I bring myself into this story? Because I am in immigrant from a [beep] country. Neutrality is not an option. It’s time to own up to a basic truth. The story of survival and violence. We know now what their task truly is. Exterminate all the brutes. It is not knowledge we lack. We already know enough. What is missing is the courage to understand what we know. Who are we? What if from the beginning the story was told the wrong way? The nightmare is buried deep in our consciousness, so deep that we do not recognize it. And over the centuries, we lost all bearings. Because the past has a future we never expect. AMY GOODMAN: That’s the trailer for the HBO documentary series Exterminate All the Brutes which is available on HBO and HBO Max. Time Magazine said the series, quote, “may well be “the most politically radical and intellectually challenging work of nonfiction ever made for television.” We are joined by the Oscar-nominated Raoul Peck who joined us from France. He was born in Haiti, grew up in the Democratic Republic of Congo after his parents fled the Duvalier dictatorship. His past films include I Am Not Your Negro about James Baldwin, Lumumba about the Congolese Prime minister, the founding leader of Congo, Patrice Lumumba, and The Young Karl Marx. Raoul Peck, it is great to have you back on Democracy Now! This is an epic masterpiece, this four one-hour documentary series. Can you talk about how you went from I Am Not Your Negro, which was the story of James Baldwin, to creating this masterpiece? RAOUL PECK: Well, basically after I Am Not Your Negro, I went throughout the world with the film. I was fortunate to be able to see how the film was received in many different places. And one of the common threads through that was the type of reaction that you just mentioned, like Senate Leader Mitch McConnell. This denial is somehow a sign that they feel that they are entrenched now, they are attacked. There is great fear about some sort of civilization going overboard. And for me it is a symbol that the type of lies, the type of propaganda, the type of abuse that we have been subject to during all these years. I am old enough to have heard many other people like Rick Santorum and Mitch McConnell and many others throughout the years. The only difference now is that we have the means to counter them. We have the means to tell the real story. And that is exactly what I decided to do, to once and for all put everything on the table without any semblance of holding back my punches. Everything is on the table and have been on the table for a long time, except that it was in little bits everywhere. Because science, sociology, anthropology, et cetera, politics, have been cut up in little pieces, so we lost the wider perspective. And the film does exactly that, to bring us to the core story, to have the whole matrix of the last 700 years of basically Eurocentric ideology and narrative. NERMEEN SHAIKH: Raoul Peck, in providing this broader historical context, you trace the origin of contemporary modern forms of biological racism to the Spanish Inquisition and the so-called purity of blood statutes — that is limpieza de sangre — that was a means of distinguishing old Christians from conversos, that is Jews but also Moors, from the pure blood of Christians. These laws, you say, are the antecedents of the ideology of white supremacy. For the first time in the world, the idea of race based on blood was enshrined into law. So how should we understand the continuities between the purity of blood statutes and the forms of racist violence we witness today? Because the entire argument of this truly magnificent work is that the past is not really past. It is, as you say, the past has a future that we can’t anticipate. RAOUL PECK: Well, the thing is that we are accustomed to not see history as a continuity, as you say. And we came from a very specific history. We are not some sort of tribalist tribe that came out of nowhere. Today’s civilization is basically embedded in the capitalistic societies. And that story started around the 10th and 11th century with the first accumulation of riches, accompanied by the killing and exiling of Jews, killing Muslims, trying to go all the way to Jerusalem. Those first Crusades were able to create a lot of — or not create, to basically extract a lot of riches that allows the monarchy to be able to finance trips to discovering new roads to the east. And the accident, which it was, of the so-called discovery of the new continent was not something they planned. And when it happened, they basically created a totally new concept, which is the concept of discovery. And from that day on, you could just go somewhere, put a flag, deploy military [INAUDIBLE] and say, “This is mine,” no matter who was on the land before. And I remind you that at the time of Columbus, there were basically 100 million people on both continents in America. So you can imagine what it meant. Within 100 years, more than 90% of them were totally annihilated. So it is a very specific moment in the history of the modern world. For the U.S., it seems like it’s the beginning of a new world, but it’s not. It’s a continuity of a lot of action that have been the source of European civilization, basically. AMY GOODMAN: Let’s go to a clip from Exterminate All the Brutes, where you explain settler colonialism. RAOUL PECK: From the beginning, the extension of the United States from sea to shining sea was the intention and design of the country’s founders. Free land was a magnet that attracted European settlers. This particular form of colonialism is called settler colonialism. But as a system, it requires violence. It requires the elimination of the natives and their replacement by European settlers. AMY GOODMAN: And this is another clip from your series Exterminate All the Brutes. In this dramatized scene, a white man, played by the actor Josh Hartnett, engages in a standoff with a Native American woman leader. WHITE MAN: I do not want to spill Seminole blood, kill Seminole children, Seminole women. Give us back the American property you stole from our good fellowman planters and settlers and I will let you move to the Injun territory the U.S. government has provided for your people. NATIVE AMERICAN LEADER: You call human beings your property? WHITE MAN: They’re slaves. NATIVE AMERICAN LEADER: You steal land. You steal life. You steal humans. What kind of species are you? AMY GOODMAN: We were listening to Abi Osceola [sp] or the woman who plays her, of the Seminole nation. You say her story goes deep into the history of this continent. Talk about who she is and why you choose to center her and the Seminole Nation in the first part of your series, including their solidarity with enslaved Africans. RAOUL PECK: Well, the whole vision of the film is based in changing totally the point of view of who is telling the story. And in particular because this story not only center from Europe but also center in the bottom or in the middle of the United States of America, I had to start the film from that particular point of view of this woman who is the head of her tribe, of her nation. And basically the Seminole have been one of the rare tribes who were never really — who did not really obey to the enforcement of leaving their territories. They were called the Invisible Tribe for a reason. So it was important for me to start it from a point of resistance, from a point of an individual, of a woman. And watching this invader basically telling her to leave her land and to deliver the slaves that were — and of course, that’s a story that is not really well-known, that a lot of slaves who escaped were welcomed by Seminoles and other tribes. And I wanted to start with that symbolic moment of resistance and also of solidarity, and from there, deploy the whole rest of the story. NERMEEN SHAIKH: Raoul, that is in one of the forms of continuity that you point to. The story of Native Americans is absolutely critical and the erasure of this genocidal history, in particular in the United States, is evidenced, as you show, in the perverse use of Native American names and designations for military weapons from Blackhawk to Apache, as well as military operations, the most recent and proximate of which was the May 2011 operation named Geronimo to assassinate Osama bin Laden. So could you talk a little bit more about that, the way in which Native American history has been distorted, if not entirely erased, and the uses to which it has been put in contemporary U.S. politics? RAOUL PECK: Well, it is clear that — and you see that throughout the film through different type of device or type of stories, level of stories in the film, is how everything is somehow connected. The history of the Native American, which is for me the core story, whether it has been pushed out and erased sometimes or told the wrong way, it is like a phantom. It is already there. You can’t get rid of it. There are so many skeletons in those boxes, that they come up. And they are more and more coming out. And it’s ironic that the very powerful U.S. Army who was basically at its core created not only to fight the British at the beginning but after independence was basically used to kill Indians and to keep Black slaves on the plantations. So basically, the U.S. Army at the beginning was the militia. So this story continues. It is basically a story of 200 years, which in the whole history of humankind is nothing. So as long — you can try to repress that story, but it is coming out there. As long as there will be Native American or there will be Black life, they will continue to tell that story. There is no escape from it. And that’s why what I was saying at the beginning — when you see people like Rick Santorum saying that, “Well, when we came, there was nobody on this land” — what did you do with the 100 million people? You have to explain that. So it becomes more and more absurd that Republican leadership at that level are capable of such ignorance. It’s mind-bending [sp]. So for me, it is just the logic of the whole story. And that is what we try to explain and to tell in this story of Exterminate All the Brutes. My objective is really to make sure that that kind of ignorance cannot be voiced anymore. NERMEEN SHAIKH: Raoul, another possible form of repression, another idea that has been repressed, is something that Sven Lindqvist in his extraordinary book Exterminate All the Brutes, from which your film substantially draws, he shows how closely intertwined the idea of progress is with racism and even genocide. And in the film, you explain Darwin’s central if unintended role in providing scientific validation for racial prejudice and hierarchies with his notion of natural selection, saying in fact that genocide came to be regarded as the inevitable byproduct of progress. You show in the film as well the iconic late 19th-century painting by John Gast titled American Progress. But of course, this idea of progress remains central to the way in which global society and American society are organized. What alternatives do you see to this ideology, and where do you see it, if at all, taking shape? RAOUL PECK: Well, it is a very complicated question to answer. And I don’t really go by that way in assessing what the future will be or what are the solution. I think any solution will first have to start with the real story. We need to sit down around the same table and agree on the diagnostic. We have to agree on the genocide. We have to agree in the whole line of history that has been going on for more than 700 years. Otherwise, there is no conversation possible. So I am not and we are not, if I can speak for many others, it is not about revenge. It is about let’s see the world as it is and let’s name all of the things that happened and bring us to what the world is today. That is what it is about. It is not about showing how culprit you are or not. It is about acknowledging the past and the present because they are strongly connected. So for me, it’s the same thing as democracy. As long as we accept democracy as our mode of communication, if we want to come out of that situation, it is implied that we have to sit down and have a real conversation, an honest conversation. But unfortunately, we see that the dominant narrative is not ready for that. They’re totally with the back on the wall and can’t let go of their huge inequality that is actually in those last 30, 40 years that have never been as extreme as it is. January 6th is also another sign of a democracy which is in a dire situation, that this country which had been seen as the forefront of democracy and justice was able to attack the very center of that democracy. So the confusion is just huge. And it is difficult for me to acknowledge any type of solution. I think the solution should come from us, from all of us, and a collective decision. That is the only vision I can have. AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Raoul Peck, the acclaimed Haitian-born filmmaker who then grew up in the Democratic Republic of Congo as well as the United States. He is the director of the new HBO four-part documentary series Exterminate All the Brutes. We continue our conversation after break. [break] AMY GOODMAN: “American Dream” by J.S Ondara, one of the songs featured in the series Exterminate All the Brutes. This is Democracy Now!, Democracynow.org, the Quarantine Report. I’m Amy Goodman with Nermeen Shaikh. If you want to get our daily email digest of news, headlines, stories and alerts, send the word “democracynow” — one word, without a space — to 66866. Text the word “democracynow” — one word, without a space — to 66866. We are continuing now with our conversation with Raoul Peck, the Haitian-born director of the new HBO four-part documentary series Exterminate All the Brutes. I want to go to another clip from the second episode in the series, where Raoul Peck — he is the narrator of this series — explains what happened after Columbus arrived in what is now Haiti, where Raoul Peck was born. RAOUL PECK: Instead of the bustling ports of the East Indies, Columbus came upon a tropical paradise populated by the Taíno people, what is now Haiti. Then from the Iberian Peninsula came merchants, mercenaries, criminals and peasants. They seized the land and property of indigenous peoples and declared the territories to be extensions of the Spanish and Portuguese states. These acts were confirmed by the monarchies and endorsed by the papal authority of the Roman Catholic Church. That’s more or less the official story. And through that official story, a new vision of the world was created, the doctrine of discovery. AMY GOODMAN: That’s a clip from Exterminate All the Brutes, the 18th century known as the Age of Revolutions. But we often associate this time with the American Revolution or the French Revolution, not the Haitian Revolution, which was led by Black slaves, the first country in the Western Hemisphere to be born of a slave uprising. You say, Raoul Peck, the only revolution that materialized the idea of enlightenment, freedom, fraternity, and equality for all. Haiti becomes a republic and the U.S. Congress would not recognize it for decades, fearful that the fact that Haiti was born of a slave uprising would inspire the enslaved people of the United States to rise up as well. Can you talk about the erasure of the Haitian Revolution, your own country, Haiti, its significance for you, and how the U.S. dealt with Haiti all of these years? RAOUL PECK: The best words for this is what Michel-Rolph Trouillot have written about silencing the past. It was key for the U.S. and all the other European powers to silence the Haitian Revolution because it was in their eyes worse than Cuba in the 1950s. We were under a strict embargo because all of them had economy that still relied on slavery. And Haiti was the worst example they could have. And Haiti was also beating them in terms of their own ideology of enlightenment, because Haiti, the first constitution of Haiti, basically stated any man or woman or person who set foot on the island is a free person. And none of the other revolutions dared go so far, because they were totally involved in slavery and were profiting from it. So there was no way the Haitian Revolution could be accepted. So when people say that America is the first democratic country in the Western Hemisphere, it is not. It is Haiti. And the story continue until today. We have a history of being attacked, of being invaded, of many of our leaders come to power with the acceptance of the U.S. government. And it continue until today. Basically, the last two presidents we had came into power thanks to the support of the U.S. government. So we are unfortunately a long story of abuse from the United States and also of resistance. Because one thing that we can say is that the Haitian people were always, whether it take 30 years, five years, or two years, they always make sure that they can get rid of those corrupt leaders. NERMEEN SHAIKH: I want to ask about one of the critical issues that you raise in the last part of the film, a critical question. You talk about your own experience living in Berlin where you lived for 15 years and were also a film student, where you made a film on a Nazi torture compound. You say when you were there that you thought a lot about how a country that has produced some of humanity’s best philosophers, scientists and artists also operated one of the most devastating scientifically run and engineered killing machines. Now, many people have reflected on this question and the seeming contradiction in this fact by concluding that the Holocaust was some kind of historical aberration. In other words, that it stands very much outside the history of the Enlightenment and the ideas of humanism and universalism on which it apparently stands. But even as this is raised as a question, your film suggests that other conclusions could be drawn. Could you talk a little bit about that? RAOUL PECK: Well, it’s nothing new. In fact, there are many scholars that have worked on that specific question for the last 50, 60 years. And of course there is resistance to say that the Holocaust was a very special moment in the life of Western civilization. But it’s not. It’s a continuity of a will [sp] of genocide, the will [sp] of eliminate people that are deemed inferior. The structure of genocide are always the same. The person who invented the word “genocide” in 1943, Raphael Lemkin — we went to the New York Public Library, and in that library, in his file, there is a list of something around 42 previous genocides before the Holocaust. And he include in it of course the genocide against the Native American people. So trying to make any type of genocide special I think is a really not correct way of seeing the history of humankind. They all copied from each other. They are all of course specific. You can’t directly compare the genocide in Rwanda with the genocide in Cambodia and with the Holocaust. They have different ideological reason. They have different historical reason. They have different people involved. But as the structure, as the system of genocide, they all obey the same pattern of first pinning down a special category of person, of people, and then start saying that we are superior to them, and they are insect. And as soon as you come to the point where they are animals or they are savages, or they are insect, you are allowed to kill them. And that is the excuse that was always needed for every imperialist, for every conqueror in order to eliminate whoever was in the land they wanted to conquer. So it’s similar. It happened similar throughout the history of humankind. And it became more specific within the concept of the capitalistic society because then it was also linked to profit. It was also linked to make bigger territories in order to exploit large communities. So I have had that discussion many years ago, back ago, including in Germany. But today, I think we should move past that what I would call the confrontation between who got the biggest pain. Do we put slavery confronted to the Holocaust or the [INAUDIBLE] pain? It is not about that. We are all from the same human family. It is not about who has suffered more. I think we have to acknowledge every piece of history that happened on this planet, and we have to give responses to them. And we have to explain why they happened. Because it is the only way that eventually we can prevent them to happen again and again. AMY GOODMAN: We want to talk more about that after this last clip from the series Exterminate All the Brutes. RAOUL PECK: Trading human beings, what sick mind thought of this first? Brought by force and pushed to death — slavery, or the trade, as they they referred to it euphemistically. A state-sponsored genocide. What does this say about the civilized world? AMY GOODMAN: So if you could talk more about what this does say, and going back to the beginning, talking about genocide, the term coined by Raphael Lemkin, colonization, as well as civilization, and how you find hope today in the discussions, if this is all acknowledged, though you are saying just acknowledging this is not enough. RAOUL PECK: Yes. Of course. But acknowledging it is a big step, and that is what I wanted to say before, is that even for me as a filmmaker, telling that story, it took a lot of thinking in order to tell a story where for the first time you tell the story of the genocide of Native American and then you tell the story of slavery and then you tell also one of the major extermination story, which is the Holocaust. And for the first time I think, at least on film, you can see the connections between them. And for me, it is a huge step. It is taking all those atrocity in a different context. And for me, it can only be the beginning of a wider conversation. Instead of each part keeping their own [INAUDIBLE], keeping their own death, their own pain, and sometimes being used against each other, you know? And that is a divide that has been used for many, many years. For me, the film is also a step to break that separate narrative. There is not many different stories. There is one historical knowledge. And we need to access it. And to your question, that’s the [INAUDIBLE] in the series. We already know enough. The problem is, what do we do with that knowledge? Because everything I say in the film, everything that Sven Lindqvist tells the story about, or Michel-Rolph Trouillot, or Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, those are fact. Those are highly competent scholars who spent their life documenting the horror. And my use of their work with them was exactly that, to force the conversation to a more sovereign [sp] type of discussion and to push aside the blurring of history, push aside the ignorance that still reign in the discussion. I’m not going to name them again, the two politicians I named, but I think the population are more and more interested in learning where they come from. There’s a reason why everybody now wants to have their DNA analyzed. Because there is some sort of feeling of connection, you know? And it’s our job as filmmakers and U.S. journalists as well to lay that in plain sight. And then we can say, “Okay, what do we do with this?” NERMEEN SHAIKH: That’s exactly — we just have a minute. What do we do with this? Your film begins and ends with the same line that Sven Lindqvist says again and again-”It’s not knowledge that we lack. What is missing is the courage to understand what we know and draw the conclusions.” How does your film and the work of these other authors enable that courage? RAOUL PECK: I was primarily educated by Jesuit. [laughs] And one thing, maybe from that, that I believe in the notion of knowledge. I believe in the notion of learning the truth. And the film for me is the first step. My wish is that every school, every university is able to watch the film and have discussion around it. Because you cannot go further if you don’t know your own history, whatever the side you are on. But you need to know. It is not about accusing you of anything. It’s about facing your reality. Because you can’t understand what is going on. You can’t understand why policeman are still killing Black kids and Black men and Black women in this country if you don’t know where it comes from. And it’s unfortunate, we are in a time where we have a huge instrument for communication, and huge instrument for learning. You can go on the Internet and learn about everything. But we lack a very condensed matrix of those histories that we have been built by. And each one of us needs to do our homework, otherwise I don’t see any nonviolent outcome out of this. AMY GOODMAN: Well, you have given us a remarkable assignment and an epic work to watch for all. Raoul Peck, acclaimed Haitian-born filmmaker, director of the new HBO four-part documentary series Exterminate All the Brutes. Visit democracynow.org to watch our 2018 interview with Raoul Peck, about his films The Young Marx and I Am Not Your Negro about James Baldwin. That does it for our show. A very Happy Birthday to Denis Moynihan! I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh. Thanks so much for joining us. Stay safe. This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.
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