Sometime this morning Glenn Kenny challenged HE to get specific about arguments with “The 1619 Project.” I tapped out a response on the iPhone while lying on my foam-fortified IKEA couch and attending to the emotional needs of Anya, our two-year-old Siamese cat:
“Slavery has always been an ignominious chapter in the first 245 years of US history (1619 to 1865) and racism has stained aspects of the culture ever since, but to assert that slavery and racism (which other cultures have shamefully allowed over the centuries) are THE central and fundamental definers of the immense American experience strikes me as a bridge too far.
“One stone in the shoe is the 1619 Project’s contention that the American revolution against England was significantly driven by colonist commitment to maintaining slavery.
“Many factors drove the expansion and gradual strengthening & shaping of this country, and particularly the spirit and character of it — immigration, the industrial revolution and the cruel exploitations and excesses of the wealthy elites, the delusion of religion, anti-Native American racism and genocide, breadbasket farming, Abraham Lincoln, Frederick C. Douglas, the vast networks of railroads, selfishness & self-interest, factories, construction, the two world wars of the 20th Century, scientific innovation, native musical forms including jazz, blues (obviously African-American art forms) and rock, American literature, theatre and Hollywood movies, sweat shops, 20th Century urban architecture, Frank Lloyd Wright, major-league baseball, Babe Ruth & Lou Gehrig, family-based communities and the Protestant work ethic, fashion, gardening, native cuisine and the influences of European, Mexican, Asian and African cultures, hot dogs, the shipping industry, hard work and innovation, the garment industry, John Steinbeck, George Gershwin, Paul Robeson, Louis Armstrong, JFK, MLK, Stanley Kubrick, Chet Baker, John Coltrane, Marilyn Monroe, Amelia Earhart, Malcom X, Taylor Swift, Charlie Parker, Elizabeth Warren, Katharine Hepburn, Aretha Franklin, Jean Arthur, Eleanor Roosevelt, Carol Lombard, Shirley Chisholm, Marlon Brando, Woody Allen, barber shops & manual lawnmowers, the auto industry, prohibition & gangsters, the Great Depression and the anti-Communism and anti-Socialism that eventually sprang from that, status-quo-challenging comedians like Richard Pryor, Lenny Bruce and Steve Allen (“schmock schmock!”), popular music (Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra and the Beatles), TV, great American universities, great historians, great journalism (including the National Lampoon and Spy magazine), beat poetry, hippies, the anti-Vietnam War movement, pot and psychedelia, cocaine, quaaludes and Studio 54, 20th & 21st Century tech innovations, gay culture, comic books, stage musicals, Steve Jobs, etc.
“Don’t tell me that slavery & racism is and always has been this country’s central definer. The 1619 Project’s revisionist zealotry rubs me the wrong way in more ways than I’d care to elaborate upon.”