Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) has proposed legislation to deny funding to schools that teach The New York Times' Pulitzer Prize winning revisionist history multimedia journalistic enterprise, the 1619 Project. Instead of engaging in the debate with Cotton as to whether or not the federal government should be determining curriculum, or the Senator's opinions on the 1619 Project, the progressive, leftist media did the thing they always do: they charged racism.
After the Saving American History Act of 2020 was proposed in the Senate, media was curious as to Cotton’s intentions. In an interview published in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, Cotton was asked about the bill and the 1619 Project. He went through his objections to the project, saying that "The entire premise of [T]he New York Times' factually, historically flawed 1619 Project… is that America is at root, a systemically racist country to the core and irredeemable. I reject that root and branch," Cotton said.
"America is a great and noble country founded on the proposition that all mankind is created equal. We have always struggled to live up to that promise, but no country has ever done more to achieve it."
He takes issue with the framing of America in the text of the 1619 Project, penned and conceived in part by Nikole Hannah-Jones, which asserts many untruths, including this one, "that one of the primary reasons the colonists decided to declare their independence from Britain was because they wanted to protect the institution of slavery."
Nikole Hannah-Jones wrote this, attributing to the residents of the 13 original colonies the belief that "independence was required to ensure that slavery would continue."
Cotton, along with many other Americans, are not of the opinion that America is "an irredeemably corrupt, rotten and racist country," as Cotton states the 1619 Project portrays the country. Instead, Cotton said, the nation should be viewed "as an imperfect and flawed land, but the greatest and noblest country in the history of mankind."
That does not negate the horrors of slavery, and Cotton fully and completely acknowledged that the study of slavery and its place in American history is necessary, but what got him in trouble was when he summarized the views of some of America’s esteemed founding fathers.
"We have to study the history of slavery and its role and impact on the development of our country because otherwise we can't understand our country." Cotton said. "As the Founding Fathers said, it was the necessary evil upon which the union was built, but the union was built in a way, as Lincoln said, to put slavery on the course to its ultimate extinction."
Yet Cotton didn’t say the thing that the mainstream media says he said, he was expressing the truth that very troubling, racist views were held by some of our nation’s greatest founding orators and statesmen. The writers of the 1619 Project would agree that many of these men held that view, the fact that they did is not up for debate. But advocates for the project are not interested in considering the relative merits and detractions of the work itself, instead they wish to discredit its critics.
Despite that, many outlets, including Canada’s National Post, attribute the view that slavery was anything other than a wretched stain on our nation’s past to Cotton.
New York Representative Hakeem Jeffries put the words in Cotton’s mouth, saying before the House "slavery was not a necessary evil, it was a crime against humanity. It was a crime against humanity. Anchored in kidnap, rape, torture, lynching, and the systematic enslavement of people of African descent century after century after century. We are still living with its legacy today." Cotton would agree with that. As would, undoubtedly, most Americans.
The aim of the 1619 Project, in its own words, "is to reframe American history by considering what it would mean to regard 1619 as our nation’s birth year." The reasoning behind this is that in 1619 people who had been captured and trafficked into slavery in Africa were brought by boat to what would become Virginia. But the fact that international human trafficking began on North American shores in 1619 does not a nation found, and there is no reasonable way to say it does.
On June 1, the Pulitzer Center offered a full curriculum package for the teaching of the 1619 Project, to which they had already given their highest award. They offer the full, 100 page text of the project. Before diving into the meat of the project is this note: "...in partnership with the Pulitzer Center, The Times is introducing a curriculum and educational outreach effort to bring this material to students... Look for more #1619project updates in the weeks ahead."
Despite Nikole Hannah-Jones saying that, "...the 1619 Project is not a history. It is a work of journalism that explicitly seeks to challenge the national narrative and, therefore, the national memory, the project has always been as much about the present as it is the past," the project was framed as a tool to educate.
Putting aside for the moment the fact that the federal government should not be particularly involved in mandating curriculum, from the widely derided progressive era "common core" to the incredibly lauded 1619 Project, Cotton's concerns about use of the project as an educational text are well founded.
The Saving American History Act of 2020 states unequivocally that "The true date of America’s founding is July 4, 1776, the day the Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Second Continental Congress.
"The self-evident truths set forth by that Declaration are the fundamental principles upon which America was founded.
"An activist movement is now gaining momentum to deny or obfuscate this history by claiming that America was not founded on the ideals of the Declaration but rather on slavery and oppression.
"This distortion of American history is being taught to children in public school classrooms via [The] New York Times' '1619 Project', which claims that 'nearly everything that has truly made America exceptional' grew 'out of slavery'.
"The 1619 Project is a racially divisive and revisionist account of history that threatens the integrity of the Union by denying the true principles on which it was founded.
"The Federal Government has a strong interest in promoting an accurate account of the Nation’s history through public schools and forming young people into knowledgeable and patriotic citizens."
The current activist movement, and the divisive 1619 Project, has successfully reframed the narrative of our past as one of victims and oppressors, good and evil, black and white. It tells the story of American history as though hatred and subjugation based on race were the only factors. Moreover, it implies that if you think there is anything else to consider then something is wrong with you for thinking that.
Cotton was not going to get an open debate when he took up the cause speaking out against the 1619 Project, its impact and intention. There was only ever one way that Cotton's critique of the 1619 Project was going to be met, and that was with accusations of racism hurled at the critic. It is the only tool of discourse the left will use, and it not only belittles those who are looking for honest conversation, but the entire mission of the progressive left.