They built and labored and created alongside dozens of tribes and cultures, and they certainly weren’t the only ones who suffered grievously as this country gradually developed and bloomed and grew into itself…a nation of primarily European-descended immigrants (even today) and a conflicted multicultural stew.
Two and a half years ago (7.30.20) I posted a loose-shoe retort to the 1619 Project, which attempted to (a) define the U.S. of A. as an empire built upon slavery and (b) to define 1619 (when the first slaves arrived in Virginia) as this country’s primal defining event rather than the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776.
In the wake of Disney’s The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder, which at least partly seeks to indoctrinate 5 to 7 year-olds into the theology of anti-white racism and the basically racist idea that whites are inherently evil, and with the understanding that anti-racism essentially advocates for the furtherance of more racism (i.e., defining ourselves primarily by race and the huddling of separate tribes, pride within those tribes, white against black, etc.) and with the Proud Family chant of “slaves built this country,” I’m reposting “What’s Your 1619 Beef?”
“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 many of us as a bridge too far.
“Many factors drove the expansion and gradual strengthening and shaping of this country, and particularly the spirit and character of it…here are 40 for starters, posted in groups of 10:
1. Immigration. 2. The industrial revolution and the cruel exploitations of sweat-shop workers by wealthy elites; 3. The delusion of religion; 4. Anti-Native American racism and genocide; 5. the American Revolutionary War against the British; 6. The mid 19th Century influence of Abraham Lincoln, Frederick C. Douglas, John Brown and Harriet Beecher Stowe; 6. The vast networks of railroads; 7. Selfishness & self-interest; 8. Factories and construction; 9. The two world wars of the 20th Century; 10. Scientific innovation.
11. Native musical forms including jazz, blues (obviously African-American art forms) folk and rock; 12. American literature; 13. The influence of New York theatre and Hollywood movies; 14. 20th and 19th Century urban architecture; 15. The influence of Frank Lloyd Wright and Frank Gehry; 16. Major-league baseball (Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Hank Aaron, Stan Musial, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Roger Maris); 17. Family-based communities and the Protestant work ethic; 18. Fashion and the garment industry; 19. Midwestern farming and individual gardening; 20. Native cuisine and the influences of European, Mexican, Asian and African cultures, not to mention hot dogs with mustard.
21. The shipping industry; 22. Hard work and innovation in all industries great and small; 23. 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, Woody Guthrie, Katharine Hepburn, Aretha Franklin, Jean Arthur, Eleanor Roosevelt, Carol Lombard, Shirley Chisholm, Marlon Brando, Woody Allen; 24. Barber shops; 25. Manual lawnmowers; 26. The auto industry; 27. Prohibition & gangsters; 28. The Great Depression and the anti-Communism and anti-Socialism that eventually sprang from that; 29. Status-quo-challenging comedians like Richard Pryor, Lenny Bruce and Steve Allen (“schmock schmock!”), 30. Popular music of the ’50s, ’60s and ‘70s (Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Beatles and Rolling Stones, Queen).
31. Television, cable and streaming; 32. Great American universities; 33. Great historians; 34. Great journalism (including the National Lampoon and Spy magazine); 35. Great poetry; 36. Beats, hippies and post-Stonewall gay culture; 37. The anti-Vietnam War movement; 38. Pot and psychedelia, cocaine, quaaludes; 39. The late ’70s splendor of Studio 54; 40. 20th & 21st Century tech innovations (Steve Jobs).
This is called “barely scratching the surface.”