The 1619 Bill But Why is America Freaking Out Now








1619 Project Reveals Their Fear of America’s Actual Past


American history is like that, once you start studying it in a serious way. Slavery and its heirs, Jim Crow segregation and racism, are to be found in every nook and cranny of the American experience. The tidal force of slavery and racism pushed along not just epic events like the Civil War or the struggle for civil rights but were felt in more hidden places, in the architecture of the White House that was built by enslaved people, in the endowments of venerable universities that received their seed money from the slave trade, and perhaps in the very teeth of the man still worshipped as the father of his country. America as we know it has its origins in settler colonialism, a house built on a foundation of two great crimes, the ethnic cleansing of natives and the transatlantic slave trade. These were the building blocks of the racial hierarchy that still oppresses the nation.  


Over the weekend, The New York Timeslaunched a series called the 1619 Project, to mark the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans into the Jamestown colony, an event that was foundational not just for black America but the country as a whole. As Times editor Mara Gay wrote, “In the days and weeks to come, we will publish essays demonstrating that nearly everything that has made America exceptional grew out of slavery.”


These words, and the first batch of essays, provoked many prominent right-wingers to go berserk. Newt Gingrich could barely contain his rage on Twitter as he quoted Gay. “This is simply a LIE,” Gingrich barked. “Pravda was never more dishonest than this effort to write a ‘left history.’” Ilya Shapiro of the Cato Institute tweeted in a like manner, “Writing about history is great, but a project intended to delegitimize mankind’s grandest experiment in human liberty & self-governance is divisive, yes.” Daily Signalcontributor Jarrett Stepman wrote that the goal of the series is “to delegitimize American ideas and place race and slavery at the heart of literally everything this country is about (including things like healthcare). Racism and slavery were there at the time of the founding, but they aren’t what the country was founded on.”
This collective meltdown is puzzling. Anyone who takes the trouble to sit down and read the essays in the 1619 Project will be struck by the fact that they are very sober, thoroughly grounded in the most recent mainstream scholarship, and also surprisingly and fiercely patriotic. By placing the black experience at the center of the American story, the series doesn’t debunk the nation’s ideals of freedom, showing them to be pure claptrap. Rather, focusing on the struggles of those who were denied freedom dramatizes the story of how those ideals came to acquire a measure of reality.

The beautiful opening essay by Nikole Hannah-Jones makes clear that the 1619 Project is offering a redemption tale: “The United States is a nation founded on both an ideal and a lie. Over the weekend, The New York Timeslaunched a series called the 1619 Project, to mark the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans into the Jamestown colony, an event that was foundational not just for black America but the country as a whole. As Times editor Mara Gay wrote, “In the days and weeks to come, we will publish essays demonstrating that nearly everything that has made America exceptional grew out of slavery.”
These words, and the first batch of essays, provoked many prominent right-wingers to go berserk. Newt Gingrich could barely contain his rage on Twitter as he quoted Gay. “This is simply a LIE,” Gingrich barked. “Pravda was never more dishonest than this effort to write a ‘left history.’” Ilya Shapiro of the Cato Institute tweeted in a like manner, “Writing about history is great, but a project intended to delegitimize mankind’s grandest experiment in human liberty & self-governance is divisive, yes.” Daily Signalcontributor Jarrett Stepman wrote that the goal of the series is “to delegitimize American ideas and place race and slavery at the heart of literally everything this country is about (including things like healthcare). Racism and slavery were there at the time of the founding, but they aren’t what the country was founded on.”

This collective meltdown is puzzling. Anyone who takes the trouble to sit down and read the essays in the 1619 Project will be struck by the fact that they are very sober, thoroughly grounded in the most recent mainstream scholarship, and also surprisingly and fiercely patriotic. By placing the black experience at the center of the American story, the series doesn’t debunk the nation’s ideals of freedom, showing them to be pure claptrap. Rather, focusing on the struggles of those who were denied freedom dramatizes the story of how those ideals came to acquire a measure of reality.

Conservatives, of all people, should be aware of the power of the past in shaping contemporary reality and of the need to make a reckoning with history. Edmund Burke gave the essence of the conservative creed in his famous polemic against the French Revolution, where he spoke of society as “a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born.”
If we take Burke’s words to heart, then the stories told in the 1619 Project are deeply relevant to the present. We’re in partnership with the past, including those in the past who were immeasurably wronged, and part of our debt to them is paid by remembering their stories. It’s a strange conservatism that wants to wave away history. Basically to fix this issue wouldn't both parties be talkin about reparations. 

The 1619 Bill But Why is America Freaking Out Now The 1619 Bill But Why is America Freaking Out Now Reviewed by Anson Moore on August 22, 2019 Rating: 5

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