Americans must join hands to stop the 1619 Project’s poisonous slanders
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On his first day in office, President Biden signed an executive order abolishing the 1776 Commission established by his predecessor. But the 1776 Commission isn’t going away quietly, and all Americans should be grateful for that.
While the stated intent of the commission was to help prepare for the 250th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, then-President Donald Trump’s real purpose was to correct the lies told about our Founding by The New York Times’ 1619 Project.
The Times project’s central proposition is that the arrival of the first African slaves on these shores in 1619 was the “true” founding of the American republic. According to project director Nikole Hannah-Jones, the colonies launched the American Revolution in defense of slavery — a claim debunked by some of the nation’s most eminent historians, including many liberal scholars, not that Hannah-Jones and her editors had enough shame to forthrightly retract it.
The 1619 Project mainstreamed the critical race theories and anti-American historical distortions that exploded in the 2020 riots. Indeed, as Charles Kesler suggested in these pages, last summer’s violent unrest could be called the 1619 riots.
Despite 1619’s errors, big and small — not least the outrageous characterization of Lincoln as a racist bent on resettling liberated slaves in Africa — Hannah-Jones won a Pulitzer Prize; the Times might as well house the award next to its 1932 Pulitzer for reporting that covered up Stalin’s terror famine in Ukraine.
Yet school districts around the country have embraced 1619 as a curricular template for teaching US history. Trump, then, was right to establish a commission that would counter the influence of a project designed to poison the minds of students. But Biden, intent on reversing everything Trump did and in thrall to his party’s left wing, dumped it.
Despite the presidential shutdown, the group informally reissued the report it submitted in January. More important, members met again in May to begin an effort to push back against a new Biden Department of Education rule that would, under the guise of “anti-racism,” direct federal funds to programs that will be guided by critical race theory.
That means the Biden administration will actually be encouraging and funding the teaching of racial discrimination — mirroring its overtly racist COVID-relief efforts that exclude white farmers and restaurateurs.
Racism is what “anti-racism” amounts to, since the ideology sees Americans only as members of racial groups, some labeled virtuous victims, others treated as evil beneficiaries of “privilege.” While school systems can reject the administration’s efforts, the power of federal money to promote agendas shouldn’t be underestimated.
Scholarly pushback, then, is essential. Biden and much of the mainstream media sought to wrongly frame the 1776 Commission as an expression of Trumpian racism. But it was about time someone stood up for the truth against leftist ideologues determined to trash the Founding Fathers and depict America as irredeemably racist.
Long after the triumph of the civil-rights movement, the United States is far from perfect. But it isn’t the systematically racist country Hannah-Jones and left-wing Democrats claim it to be. Yet, with much of the country focused on other issues, the takeover of US education by leftists pushing the 1619 agenda is halfway complete. It’s a reminder that small groups of ideologues with cultural cachet and institutional access can quickly remake the national landscape, over against mass opposition.
The revived, informal 1776 Commission can point to a more honest account of American history for schools and other institutions to follow. Still, at a time when corporations as well as the government have bought into Marxist-style re-education programs, it will an uphill battle.
But the stakes are high enough that every element of conservative influence must be brought to bear. The 1619 catechism is the classic Big Lie, and Biden’s greenlight to inculcate kids in it is a threat to the nation.
Though it’s an argument about the past, America’s future as a country that still upholds the principles of liberty depends on the outcome of this battle: 1776 must triumph over 1619.
Jonathan S. Tobin is editor in chief of JNS.org.
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