Empire Files- Mass Shootings and White Supremacy Share Roots

ROXANNE DUNBAR-ORTIZ: He has embodied this and I think he has his own instincts, and he’s been acting it out as a real estate man. You know, it’s interesting for me observing Trump’s behavior every day and his, the way he’s made his money and all. He’s so much like a, and people are kind of shocked when I say this, like George Washington. You know? This real estate crook that was taking, with militias going out and surveying Indian land and then coming back and selling it, when he didn’t own it. But he’d made pieces of paper and sold it. That’s how he started that, when he was 22 years old. And he became very, very wealthy on real estate, you know. Of course, he also had slaves and a plantation, but this was his main work.

And, so these real estate men actually started the United States, because they were all into real estate, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson. Washington was the oldest and best one to develop it. And, what that did was develop capitalism, being the first, you know, the U.S. being the first capital state formed as such on Lockean principles, actually developed on real estate, which is unusual. It didn’t on the selling of land. The sacredness of the land for the settler is its value, you know? It’s to sell it, to buy it to sell it to turn it over. Because that’s how capitalism works: you have to keep turning it over. You don’t want people just to have something and just enjoy it the rest of their lives.

So I think there’s so much in our culture that really is available to a fascist kind of formation. It doesn’t have to be that way, but because it’s so dependent on the idea of “anyone can make it”, you know, that “the playing field is level”“not everyone’s equal, but they have equal opportunity” and that’s always been a lie, but it’s never more so than now, you know, with the income inequality that has to somehow be maintained.

ABBY MARTIN : In a way, Trump is kind of the perfect manifestation of what America really represents, from being the top landlord to the reality star obsession, to this language that we’re talking about, Roxanne. It’s all predicated on deep-rooted white supremacist settler colonial mentality.

ROXANNE DUNBAR-ORTIZ: We’re back at the beginning. We’re back to the beginning.

ABBY MARTIN : Let’s go back because history’s gun culture is based on the Second Amendment, right? The Second Amendment is right to bear arms, to have a well-regulated militia. What does that mean? I mean talk about, first of all talk about America’s gun culture and why the Second Amendment was in the Bill of Rights.

ROXANNE DUNBAR-ORTIZ: Yeah, gun culture already existed when the United States became independent. In the colonies, Virginia and Massachusetts Bay were the big colonies in the early 16th century. And in the 1620s, even in the 20s and 30s, 40s, they made gun laws, it’s interesting, they made gun laws in those colonies that every settler male had to have a firearm and a certain amount, they actually had amounts, like so many pounds of gunpowder and so many bullets to load. And, they were not to leave their house without their weapons or be in any public place, including church, without their firearms. And this was in the 1600s. They had no other enemy than the Indians whose land they had taken who were still on their periphery and they were wanting to take more of that land. So this is purely made, this Second Amendment, this is so this was practiced throughout, the requirement kind of morphed into a right.

There was you know this sense that the only way to take land away from people who are resisting, who were on it and resisting, is by counterinsurgency. By, you know, what counterinsurgency is is not fighting soldiers but killing civilians, burning their crops, burning their villages, cutting off their roads, their ability to move, raping and maiming, and, you know, the highest level of violence is possible to drive people out those who are survived this mayhem. And armies they couldn’t, they actually weren’t big enough. They couldn’t get enough, the idea of getting enough soldiers to do what individual settlers could do by their own desire, not being required or conscripted, but their desire to take that land, because once they took it, it was theirs.

ABBY MARTIN: So gun rights were never for all Americans?

ROXANNE DUNBAR-ORTIZ: They weren’t. They were for a purpose. They’re autonomous settlers organizing themselves with a clear purpose to take land and get rich. So that’s the dance, you know, of the of the government then. They somehow wanted to put some restrictions, and, yet they didn’t want to. They knew they would still need the settlers because they already had this perspective of going to the Pacific Ocean. You know, they had the maps already mapped out in the Northwest Ordinance. So I think the Second Amendment was simply a validation of what already existed, these militias that already existed and the slave patrols that already existed.

It’s like you don’t give that up, you know, that sense of being a settler and having those rights. That’s really what white nationalism is: it’s the settler’s right for priority. And they talk in terms of welcoming, you know, proper immigrants, but they’re always the other. Unless they can culturally come to be the settler, have that mentality. You know, there are all these books on how this or that group became white. How Jews became white, how Italians became white, how the Irish became white, but it’s really how they became settlers. The more they can express that white nationalism and be with it, the more likely they are to be kind of accepted in it. And that’s a process going on now and so it’s really available to anyone and still call it white nationalism but it still, it can take other people in now. It’s not just white people.

ABBY MARTIN: So there’s this revered history of militias in general. I mean there’s even high school mascots of militia people across this country, but you’re talking about the real history of what these militias did. I wanted you to expand on that and also how did they manifest into organizations like the KKK?

ROXANNE DUNBAR-ORTIZ: So in the colonial and in the colonies like the Massachusetts Bay Colony the, these vicious militias who would, you know, go and burn the crops and burn the storage places for food. And, these were all farmers, native people East of the Mississippi, they were all farmers. They were, you know, out in the woods hunting. They had villages and everything, so they were very vulnerable to (attack). When they got to the Plains, is a different thing, you know, people who were herdsmen or were nomadic and not so easy to burn there, because they could move fast. They could change places.

But East of the Mississippi was just like Ireland, you know, just farmers and villages to burn down. So they really used those same methods. So that was from 1607 to Independence, 1785. That’s a long period of time that they formed these things. But you could have a good understanding how they worked as slave patrols. I mean a very vivid clear line. And, they worked this way with Native people too, but people know less about that history. But the militias that were slave patrols in the South were textbook militias. They were not paid. They’re voluntary militias. They’re not the same as Constables, you know, what we call police now, to police the white population. They were purely for, you know, to inspect any stray black person, especially a stray black young man. And this tells you what, you know, how the police connection today is assumed to be a fugitive, a runaway, unless they can prove otherwise.

During the Cotton Kingdom, they would post all over, even all over the North, “any escaped slave” that. And, with the Dred Scott decision, every citizen, every white citizen, had the obligation to turn that person in. So, in a way, they made everyone a part of the slave patrols, as the whole culture was revolved around controlling the enslaved Africans.

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