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tv   Washington Journal Lester Spence on Efforts To Take Down Confederate...  CSPAN  August 22, 2017 11:43am-12:10pm EDT

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to explain how they lost their education, how they lost their family members come and how they lost other loved ones. we are talking about a neglect issue. we need more money and a declaration of an emergency. thank you. >> it seems to me the most important issue facing our state is the partisanship that keeps us from making any progress. i do not believe in putting allegiance to a party over my oath of office to the people. an r can leave thaed d outside of the building and if we all show up as louisianaians, there is no reason we cannot tackle peace. at least that's my take on it. thank you. >> one of our issues is to make sure the medical cannabis bill adheres to the policy of having representation of minorities and women. this is an issue that we have and we will address the new 2018
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legislative session. >> voices from the road on c-span. ♪ host: joining us from baltimore is lester spence, the political science associate professor at johns hopkins university talking about the issue of confederate monuments. good morning. guest: good morning. good to be here. host: you sent out a tweet recently when it came to the topic of monuments. you put a picture of a tweet. it shows the base of a monument, but it does not show the statue. these so this is what limited power looks like. can you explain why you put that picture and the thought behind it? guest: that particular statue was a statue where i played basketball at hopkins on wednesdays and fridays. i would walk that statue on the way to play ball. i have seen that statue
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literally dozens of times. one time i looked at it and i saw it represented the confederacy. it is shocking to live in the 21st century and see a statue of the confederacy basically right near where you live and work. if you asked me a few weeks ago could i imagine a time where that statue would come down, i probably would have told you i could imagine a time but not be able to pinpoint when that time was. as a result of political protest, it came down immediately. it was like it was there one day, then under cover of night it was removed. i took that picture just to show that political power, limited political power, it is not like black populations or progressive populations have the right or ability to take all of their wishes and embed them in government.
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it's not possible for them all the time to take all of their wishes and make it public policy, but this was a time they were able to translate that desire into actual political action. host: when it comes to monuments confederate monuments overall, is this the best approach? should the statute be put in some kind of context and museums? what is the best approach? guest: the approach the city has taken before was to actually have plaques next to the monuments. to put them in context. these plaques were just put up. before that statue was taken down, there was a plaque next to it saying that the statue was erected as part of a lost cause project devoted to the confederacy. and that was ok. now that they are gone, i think
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what i would like to see is the base maintained. the statues themselves are removed, but the bases stay there in order to reflect on the one hand the fact that there was a political project dedicated to white supremacy that had a long history that is deeply tied with the creation of the nation, and then that there was another political project that was created in order to remove them. i think that is actually the best approach in this circumstance. i could imagine other potential approaches, whether leaving, taking pieces of the statue, maybe maintaining them. there are a number of different choices that people have in front of them, and the blessing is this generates the opportunity to create more
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discussion about what we should be doing. host: as far as this discussion, if you want to ask our guest questions, lester spence from johns hopkins university. here's how you can call us. (202) 748-8001 for republicans. democrats -- (202) 748-8000. (202) 748-8002. twitter and facebook available to you as well. should it just be confederate statues that get this treatment? what about statues of jefferson, statues of washington? how far does this go? guest: in the baltimore case, they did not just remove three confederate statues, but they removed one dedicated to the supreme court justice responsible for drafting the opinion in dread scott. i think his name was taney. i think that was appropriate in this case. it is important to point the confederate move in context. you are actually talking about,
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at the very least you are talking about a traitorous project. the confederacy actually was at war with the united states. they were traitors. then when you layer in the white supremacy, they left the nation because of slavery. if you look at all the secession documents, the vast majority of the secession documents, they refer to slavery either explicitly or refer to it implicitly. for those reasons, i would make a clear distinction between removing confederate statues on the one hand and then statues of washington or jefferson on the other. there are people who have different opinions than i do here. host: do you think as far as taking down statues, is this a short-term trend of the political moment, or does this have long-term effects? guest: i think this will have long-term effects. i think once people realize that
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something like this can happen, so to give another example, there was a park i used to go to when i first moved to baltimore. beautiful park. robert e lee park. where am i right now? really? even though i am a political scientist, even though i'm engaged in political activity, it did not occur to me that you could actually change this. this park did not have to be named robert e. lee park. once people see that happening, all the sudden, it ends up having all types of spillover effects. it would not surprise me if even if there is a big monument or there is a big carving of confederate leaders in stone mountain, georgia, bigger than mount rushmore, it would not surprise me to see that sanded down in 10 to 15 years.
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another spillover affect we may see is not just about confederate statues, to quote a local baltimore activist, adam jackson, shout out to adam jackson, it's not just about confederate statue but confederate statutes. the city of baltimore still deals with the legacy of segregation. that has all sorts of policy impacts on how black folks and working class people in general live their lives. it is possible that you start with statues and then actually move to public policy. host: lester spence joins us from baltimore, a political science and african studies associate professor at johns hopkins university. he is here to talk about confederate statues, an issue going on for the past week or so. virginia, you are up first. democrats line, you are on with our guest. go ahead. caller: yes, sir.
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i am 80 years old. i am a registered democrat, have been all my life. this taking down of statues is a denial of history. you cannot stop it. if you start here, you have got to take washington's and jefferson's down. there is no way of getting around it. you make it a lie if you don't. thank you. host: professor spence. guest: i disagree. i think it is important to note that erecting those statues represents a denial of history. promoting people like robert e. lee and stonewall jackson and the confederate daughters as if they were actually promoting american values, that is a denial of history.
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i think that in this case, keeping the bases there would be both a recognition of this moment in history where there was a move afoot to embed confederate ideas into the nation just as black people were getting civil rights. i think keeping the base their re acknowledges that project, but removing the statues actually acknowledges we are no longer in that moment, and in fact the values the confederacy representatied should not be pat and parcel of this nation. host: in "the wall street journal," there was a picture of the monument you tweeted out, a story of the confederate daughters being in the fray. that's what the headline says of this topic. a quote from a historian at the united daughters kentucky division, saying they are reeling, adding the udc had
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nothing to do so whatsoever with white supremacy. guest: can you repeat that? should the quote at the university of daughters of kentucky division, she added the udc has nothing whatsoever to do with white supremacy. guest: [laughter] i don't know how that works. the confederacy was about white supremacy. maybe they are not card-carrying neo-nazis, not members of the kkk, but the confederacy was a white supremacy project. that's what it was. talking about erasing history, that is erasing history. that is what they said it was. host: david is up next for lester spence. caller: professor, i'm here in west virginia. where is the outrage about the 21st century racist people we
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honor? we have robert c byrd, a life coul.tatue i am a 62-year-old, white, partially white, and i am outraged he tried to keep my black friends from going to school in my elementary years. life andist all his has been in congress 40 plus years. he has a life-sized statue. how come we are not outraged with his statue in our state capital? where is the outrage for that? just because he is a democrat? thank you. have a nice day. guest: thank you for the question, brother. i think it is wonderful that we are in this moment where we can have these types of conversations. i think in the specific case of byrd, you are talking about someone who was a racist but
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actually repudiated his views and then took political action to a certain extent that reflected the changing viewpoint. i think there is a difference between someone like that and somebody like a confederate "war hero." again, this is the conversation. we can actually start to think about in what instances should the people we are giving statues to whom may not be part of an explicit confederate project, in what instances should we be removing or replacing them? i think of the wonderful conversation to have. in this case, i think it makes sense that there is outrage or that there does not seem to be the same outrage around bird, but the thing is that could change. host: herby in mississippi, democrats line. caller: come on off that, man. we got haley barbour in mississippi and a rogue flag, cannot make excuses like that.
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leave those statues up. what you do is go ahead and pay black people there reparations. hit america where hurts, their pocket. this right here would solve a lot of our problems in the black community. we would not have ghettos. we would not be having the hoods. we would be living like rich white people. we are spending all this money in iraq, building countries, you don't want black people to have what they are entitled to. when you have this racial thing, the jews jump in there. the jews received their reparations. you all own the media, new york, everything. host: that is herby from mississippi. professor spence, if you want to respond? guest: what i agree with is that, on one level, taking down statues is a symbolic act. that is not necessarily, just taking down the statues will not
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improve the life chances of folks in detroit or baltimore or st. louis. here in baltimore, we spend so much money on police. one out of every four municipal employees is a police officer. if we were talking about a nation, that would be called a police state. dealing with the confederate statues is only part of the issue. the other part is public policy. whether that should take the form of reparations as the caller suggested or the form of more equitable distribution of taxes so we actually have more benefits for working class folks in general, that is a discussion we should have. host: professor spence, there is a story in "the post" recently about the number of statues raised to confederate heroes at statuary hall in the u.s. capital. there are calls from nancy pelosi, the house minority leader, to take down those
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statues. do you think that conversation will reach the halls of congress itself with taking down the statues? guest: i think it will. i think because of the way the republican party is right now, as it stands, i believe only 30 republican members of congress have actually called trump to task for his statements in charlottesville. i think there seems to be a really tight relationship between the republican party and between basically white supremacists. i think that conversation can be had, but i don't think those statues will be taken down. host: nancy pelosi had this in part to say, "the confederate statues in the halls of congress have always been reprehensible. if republicans are serious about denouncing white supremacy, i call upon speaker ryan to remove the confederate statues."
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others say she could have taken the same action while she was majority leader of the house. guest: that is actually right. as far as ryan, good luck with that. i see that as being a good political ploy, but i see it as being a political ploy to put pressure on the republicans. and they should have pressure put upon them. as bad as the republican party has been, the idea that they would basically allow themselves to be taken over by white supremacists does not make sense. i am trying to figure that out. host: tony in washington, d.c., independent line. thanks for calling. go ahead. question did have a for dr. spence, but he answered that question. an earlier caller was talking about taking the statues down and erasing history. i went through 12 years of
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public school. after public school, i went to two private colleges. we never, ever, ever learned history from statues. history is written in books, history is recorded in oral traditions or recordings could . history is in documents, archaeological digs, never statues. even if you look at the first article of the u.s. constitution, there are references to slavery. just because we are taking down statues means nothing about taking away history. started abouttuff the neo-nazi rallies and taking down statues and all of this ridiculousness, i went back and read john c calhoun's address on the senate floor in the 1850's. he specifically said that if the north continued with this agitating issue about slavery,
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the southern states would have no other choice but to secede from the union. there were two reasons. slavery was one. the other reason was that he thought the southern states were losing their sovereign authority in comparison to the northern states. host: sorry about that, tony. apologies for that. professor spence, go ahead. guest: i wish he would've been able to finish, but basically what he is arguing is right. there is a whole history. it is not like you have to go that far to show that the confederacy was a white supremacist project about maintaining slavery. the idea that we would have public monuments, streets, schools, buildings named after people who supported white
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supremacy and then who supported treason, that doesn't -- once you really just say that out loud, it doesn't make a lot of common sense. i am glad there is a political project afoot that is dedicated to removing that confederate message. host: professor spence, i think you referenced it, but what happens to the treatment of streets or parks and schools or even the display of the confederate flag itself? guest: i think that they should be put, we should create museums and put them there. i think the streets should be renamed. i think the schools should be renamed. i think the buildings should be renamed. i think the statues should be put somewhere. the bases should be maintained. the thing with history, if we don't -- charlottesville happened for a reason. dylann roof happened for a reason.
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one of those reasons is that we are very, very bad at, kind of, giving people, to giving americans even just a little bit of racial literacy. because people are not really literate, we end up reproducing these really problematic political outcomes and political projects. the way to eradicate white supremacy is not fully through teaching people. that has got to be a really important part of it because people just don't know. the idea that the confederate daughters would not understand that project is part of white supremacy is mind blowing. host: let's hear next from lewis north carolina, democrats line. , caller: good morning. this is very confusing of what
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the president stated last night about the taliban isil, and al , qaeda as terrorists. when abraham lincoln was on the scene, there was a white man, named john wilkes booth, assassinated him in the balcony of the ford theater. my understanding is he was affiliated with the klansmen. i remember a man named dr. martin luther king, very strong powerful man in god. another man assassinated him, he was a klansman. there was a little young boy who assassinated nine black worshipers. he was a klansman. the president wants to fight terrorism. i am a man of color. i'm not an african american. i am a black american. i don't understand why we go way over there to fight terrorism
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when we have it right here in america. i know a lot of white people might not believe it because they cannot see it. they are in the midst of it. for a person of color, it is here. i think we need to take our resources like we are doing now with c-span and educate the public that we have a problem right here in the united states. if we allowed neo-nazis, white supremacists to go ahead and make have it, if you want to look at it, black people built the south. host: professor spence, go ahead. guest: i agree with everything the caller said. the problem is that trump has a constituency. and shrum's constituency -- trumps constituency they largely either believe or if they do not believe wholeheartedly, they are willing to tolerate white
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supremacist doctrine in order to deal with what they feel is their fall from grace in american life. trump feels as if he has to speak to his base. the other thing is that trump himself has been a racist since he has been an adult. host: can you expand on that, the part about they believe about the fall from grace in american life? can you explain on that? guest: the words of political scientists like christopher parker have been very clear that if you look at that tea party tendency what they actually feel as if they have a great degree of racial resentment. they believe that their stature as whites has declined
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precipitously, and then there is actually mortality rate data suggests that they are dying earlier than other populations. the combination of them feeling as if the nation is not what it was back in the 1950's, their status as whites is declining, or because they are white their status is declining, that translates into certain types of political action, and that translates into non-statements like what we have from trump. or week statements from what we had from trump. that also translates into 30 republicans have repudiated trump's remarks. only 30? that's because they have a base. they have a base that expects them to actually support white
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supremacy either explicitly or implicitly. host: professor spence, what do you see as the next front on this topic of confederate statues and the like? what are you paying attention to now? guest: so what i'm really interested in is the degree to which this conversation translates into a larger project, so the symbolic stuff, removing streets, changing street names, changing buildings, etc., that is one thing to pay attention to. the other thing i am interested in is the degree to which people can take this cultural mode and dutc -- cultural move and bring it back to a wider conversation about public policy. as i am taping this in


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