The United States has fully engaged in a conversation about racism, the fundamental theme of the country’s history, after protests against the death of black George Floyd at the hands of the police. At the heart of the debate is the symbolic legacy of the Confederacy, and President Donald Trump took sides. “Those who deny their history are condemned to repeat it!”, He tweeted on Thursday.
On Wednesday, the same day that Floyd’s brother called in Congress for measures to end racial injustice, the president attacked an initiative debated at the Pentagon that proposes to change the name of military bases named in honor of Confederate officers who fought against the Union in the Civil War. “It was suggested that we should rename up to 10 of our legendary military bases, like Fort Bragg in North Carolina, Fort Hood in Texas, Fort Benning in Georgia, etc. These monumental and very powerful bases became part of the Great American Legacy and history of winning, of victory and freedom. The United States of America trained and mobilized our heroes in these sacred lands and won two World Wars. Therefore, my Administration will never consider renaming these magnificent and legendary military installations ”, he tweeted. The White House later said the president would be willing to refuse to sign the annual defense budget law if Congress tried to force the measure.
Trump’s defense of Confederate grassroots names comes when initiatives to remove monuments of figures from the southern Secessionist states, who defended white supremacy and the institution of slavery, are repeated throughout the country. Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi called for the removal of 11 monuments of Confederate figures after Virginia Governor, also Democrat Ralph Northam, announced that she would remove General Lee’s statue from a monument in Richmond, which was the capital of the United States. Confederate States. In that same city, a statue in honor of Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy, was vandalized and knocked down on Wednesday night. NASCAR, the very popular series car competition, also decided on Wednesday to ban Confederate flags at its events.
The figure of Christopher Columbus is also being challenged in the wake of the protests. After the beheading and toppling of the conqueror’s statues in Boston and Richmond, respectively, two other statues were vandalized in Houston and Miami. Last year, when Washington DC joined a series of states and cities that exchanged the Columbus Day festival for that of Indigenous Peoples, President Trump expressed his opposition.
At a time when the country reflects on systemic racism, Trump chose to avoid, if not deny, the debate. He avoided talking about how Floyd’s death shook the consciences of the Americans, he preferred not to participate in the ceremonies in his memory held these days and, in the wave of protests that runs through the country, he positioned himself without nuance with the police and against the protesters, whom he insists on accusing without proof of being manipulated by the extreme left and the Antifa movement. In a moment of collective introspection, he chose to present himself as the president of “law and order”.
Five months before the elections, it is an electorally risky move. As in 2016, he seeks a connection with that white and abandoned America that contributed decisively to his victory. But national surveys point to an increasing distance from most Americans.
Deciding to end the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the president announced his return to campaign rallies, canceled for months due to the danger of the virus spreading. And the date and place chosen for the return contain, once again, a symbolic power that has not gone unnoticed. Trump’s first rally will be on June 19 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. On June 19, known as Juneteenth, the end of slavery is celebrated in the United States, and there are already marches and demonstrations called for that day as part of the protests after Floyd’s death. The city of Tulsa was, in 1921, the scene of a massacre of hundreds of blacks during racial unrest. The choice of the stage and the day of Trump’s reunion with the crowds was criticized by the Democratic ranks. “This is not just a nod to white supremacists, it is giving them a welcome home party,” lamented Senator Kamala Harris, one of the most talked about candidates for vice presidency on Democratic Joe Biden’s ticket.
General Milley: “I shouldn’t have been there”
General Mark Milley, the United States’ highest military commander, said on Thursday that he was wrong to accompany Donald Trump on his already famous June 1 tour, to which the police opened the way by attacking peaceful protesters who were gathered together to the White House so that the president could take a picture in front of a church that had been vandalized in the protests. “I shouldn’t have been there,” acknowledged the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“My presence at that time and in that environment created the perception of military personnel involved in domestic politics,” said Milley in a video statement. “It was a mistake I learned from and I sincerely hope that we can all learn from it.”