Most of us understand “critical race theory“, which holds that white privilege and white supremacy have been long ingrained in American society.
And many of us have read or at least skimmed the N.Y. Times‘ “1619 Project“, which basically says that the history of the United States and the character of its paleface citizens have been defined by racism and white supremacy all along, and that this poison is embedded in our social root structure**, and that whether they realize it or not whitebreads need to submit to intensive anti-racist training to even begin to fix things.
These claims and interpretations have mostly been the concern of cultural elites over the last 15 or 20 years, but now, through the good graces of Oprah Winfrey, the New York Times and Lionsgate, a series of feature films and television shows based on “The 1619 Project” will eventually become a mass-market reality.
There are many academics who’ve disputed the accuracy of “The 1619 Project” (including a group of African American academics who comprise “The 1776 Project“), but I’m going to rely upon New York magazine’s Andrew Sullivan, who posted an argument on 9.3.19.
His piece was mainly about the radical culture of the N.Y. Times. It was titled “How The New York Times Has Abandoned Liberalism for Activism.” Here’s an excerpt:
“The New York Times, by its executive editor’s own admission, is increasingly engaged in a project of reporting everything through the prism of white supremacy and critical race theory, in order to ‘teach’ its readers to think in these crudely reductionist and racial terms.
“That’s why ‘The 1619 Project’ wasn’t called, say, a ‘special issue’ but a ‘project’. It’s as much activism as journalism.
“And that’s the reason I’m dwelling on this a few weeks later. I’m constantly told that critical race theory is secluded on college campuses, and has no impact outside of them — and yet the newspaper of record, in a dizzyingly short space of time, is now captive to it. Its magazine covers the legacy of slavery not with a variety of scholars, or a diversity of views, but with critical race theory, espoused almost exclusively by black writers, as its sole interpretative mechanism.
“Don’t get me wrong. I think that view deserves to be heard. The idea that the core truth of human society is that it is composed of invisible systems of oppression based on race (sex, gender, etc.), and that liberal democracy is merely a mask to conceal this core truth, and that a liberal society must therefore be dismantled in order to secure racial/social justice is a legitimate worldview. (That view that ‘systems’ determine human history and that the individual is a mere cog in those systems is what makes it neo-Marxist and anti-liberal.)
“But I sure don’t think it deserves to be incarnated as the only way to understand our collective history, let alone be presented as the authoritative truth, in a newspaper people rely on for some gesture toward objectivity.
“This is therefore, in its over-reach, ideology masquerading as neutral scholarship.
“The NYT [has chosen] a neo-Marxist rather than liberal path to make a very specific claim: that slavery is not one of many things that describe America’s founding and culture, [but] is the definitive one.
“Arguing that the ‘true founding’ was the arrival of African slaves on the continent, period, is a bitter rebuke to the actual founders and Lincoln. America is not a messy, evolving, multicultural, religiously infused, Enlightenment-based, racist, liberating, wealth-generating kaleidoscope of a society. It’s white supremacy, which started in 1619, and that’s the key to understand all of it. America’s only virtue, in this telling, belongs to those who have attempted and still attempt to end this malign manifestation of white supremacy.
“I don’t believe most African-Americans believe this, outside the elites. They’re much less doctrinaire than elite white leftists on a whole range of subjects. I don’t buy it either — alongside, I suspect, most immigrants, including most immigrants of color. Who would ever want to immigrate to such a vile and oppressive place? But it is extremely telling that this is not merely aired in the paper of record (as it should be), but that it is aggressively presented as objective reality.
“That’s propaganda, directed, as we now know, from the very top — and now being marched through the entire educational system to achieve a specific end. To present a truth as the truth is, in fact, a deception. And it is hard to trust a paper engaged in trying to deceive its readers in order for its radical reporters and weak editors to transform the world.”
** One of the stand-our portions in Nikole Hannah-Jones’s introductory essay to “The 1619 Project” says 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.” Never knew that.