THE 1619 PROJECT:
A DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD
May 2, 2021
[It will help you to understand this article if you first have read "Is it a 'Privilege' Not to be Discriminated Against?" and "Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Explanation that Jim Crow Harmed Working Class Whites As Well As Blacks"]
The New York Times 1619 Project is a double-edged sword.
One "edge" is a detailed, lengthy and in many ways insightful examination of how black people, from 1619 onward, have been victimized by atrocious racist oppression in many different ways, some obvious and some not so obvious.*
The other "edge" is a profound silence about WHY this racist oppression occurred.
The second "edge"--the silent one--prevents the 1619 Project from being the effective instrument for ending racial discrimination today that, no doubt, its many contributors hoped it would be. The second "edge" makes the 1619 Project, on the contrary, something that actually helps the ruling billionaire plutocracy continue to use racial discrimination today the same way its ruling class forebears used chattel slavery--to divide-and-rule the have-nots in order to maintain its wealth and power and privilege.
To understand how the second "edge" does such a terrible thing, let's consider the two very different ways to teach the facts of US history regarding the racist oppression and dehumanization of blacks from the days of chattel slavery to Jim Crow and more recently.
One way is to present the facts in the context of the conflict between the haves and the have-nots, between the upper class rulers of the United States and ALL of the working class people of all races. In this approach, the PURPOSE of the ruling class's racist treatment of black people, and its use of lies and manipulation to try--sometimes successfully--to get working class whites to carry out racist attacks on blacks, would be correctly understood: it was the ruling class's chief method for dominating ALL races of working class people, by creating resentment and mistrust and mutual fear between blacks and whites to prevent their solidarity in challenging the power of the ruling class. This approach would help people understand why, among ordinary people, AN INJURY TO ONE IS AN INJURY TO ALL. When taught this way, the emotional response of working class whites would be ANGER at the ruling class for its use of racism to attack working class people of all races.
The other way to present the facts of U.S. history regarding the oppression and dehumanization of blacks from the days of chattel slavery to Jim Crow and more recently is very different. This way entails presenting the facts without any mention whatsoever of the PURPOSE of the ruling class's racist treatment of black people. When taught this way, the message--implicit if not explicit--is that white people, as a race (and hence the nation itself), oppressed black people, benefited from oppressing black people, were (and hence the nation was) guilty of extreme racism for centuries, and their descendants (and hence the nation today) ought to atone for the guilt of their ancestors (and hence the guilt of the nation). This approach would prevent people from understanding why, among ordinary people, AN INJURY TO ONE IS AN INJURY TO ALL.
When taught this way, the emotional response of working class whites will be either to feel guilty for being white, or feel angry at whoever is teaching the facts, angry at these people for "using race to divide us," angry at them for portraying "my nation" as having done evil things and for "talking only about its warts and not its good aspects that outweigh the bad," and angry at these unpatriotic people (mainly blacks, of course) for "hating the United States."
THINK ABOUT THIS!
Which approach do you think the Biden administration is using? Which approach serves the interests of the ruling billionaire class to keep us have-nots divided against each other?
And which approach do you think the overt racists in the Republican Party (who work on behalf of the same billionaire ruling class) are (secretly) ecstatic that the Biden administration is using?
The New York Times 1619 Project, which is the target of Republican animosity (see "Republicans ask Biden to withdraw ‘divisive’ proposal to teach more Black history," for one example), is full of many absolutely true facts about the racist oppression of blacks in U.S. history.* It is not lying about this. But it is written in a manner that makes it perfectly suitable to being used in Way #2, which explains why a ruling class organization like the New York Times published it.
For example, Bacon's Rebellion in 1676 in the Virginia Colony entailed bonded laborers of both European and African descent (the distinction between bonded and slave labor had not yet become as sharp and strictly racially defined as it did later) uniting together against their common oppressor--the British upper class tobacco plantation owners. These racially united laborers almost militarily overthrew the British upper class in the Colony. The upper class was frightened as hell! It was precisely in order to destroy this working class solidarity that, after Bacon's Rebellion, the British upper class in the Virginia Colony--as it openly admitted!--instituted for the first time official legal *racial* discrimination against people of African descent, in a sharp break with the British long-standing tradition of discriminating on the basis of property ownership but not skin color.
This new racial discrimination became the basis for the racially defined chattel slavery of blacks. Any history of race and racism in the United States that aimed to explain the PURPOSE of racism, and how it was used by the upper class to dominate workers of ALL races, would feature the story of Bacon's Rebellion and the origin of purely racially based discrimination in law. But there is not a mention of Bacon's Rebellion in the New York Times 1619 Project! (Read more about Bacon's Rebellion in the "Myth #1" and "Myth #3" sections of this article.)
The Phony liberal versus conservative (Democratic Party versus Republican Party) debate about racial discrimination in the United States
When pro-Democratic Party and pro-Republican Party people debate things like the 1619 Project they both use the same method--nationalism--to hide the fact that the purpose of racial discrimination has been, and is, to pit the have-nots of ALL races against each other along race lines in order to destroy working class solidarity that could challenge the power of the ruling class. Both sides of this phony debate pose the question as whether or not "our nation" is racist. One side says it is and the other side says it isn't. Neither side allows even a hint that within "our nation" there is a raging conflict between the have-nots and the haves and that racial discrimination is a weapon deployed by the haves against the have-nots.
Thus Senator Tim Scott, in his rebuttal to President Biden's speech, declared, "Hear me clearly. America is not a racist country."
And then MSNBC, in its rebuttal of Tim Scott, features a black woman declaring, "Yes, we still love America, not for what it was but for what it could be."
This establishment-sponsored debate (see it also play out here) only allows us to think in terms of "Our nation" (rich and poor alike, with class inequality accepted as an uncontroversial fact of life), and never in terms of "Our class--the have-nots (who want equality and an end to class inequality and racial discrimination.) This phony debate is designed to keep us divided by race.
In this phony debate, neither side--not even the supposedly anti-racism Democratic Party side--mentions the actual racist laws that are still in effect in the United States today, laws that I discuss in detail here. The Democratic Party has no intention of abolishing the actual still-existing racist laws.
This "Yes, the U.S. racist" versus "No, the U.S. is not racist" debate is designed to make working class white people feel defensive and under attack by blacks who accuse them --"their country"--of being racist. It is designed to make white working class people perceive anti-racism as code for anti-white. MSNBC's phony "anti-racism" is part of a ruling class scheme to use racial discrimination for the same purpose that the ruling class used chattel slavery.
NO! NATIONS ARE NOT PEOPLE; THEY ARE NEITHER GOOD NOR BAD, NEITHER RACIST NOR ANTI-RACIST; NEITHER MORAL NOR IMMORAL
People are good or bad, racist or anti-racist, moral or immoral.
Nations are the arena inside which rages a conflict between people (mostly working class) who want to shape society by the values of no-rich-and-no-poor equality and mutual aid, versus people (mostly upper class) who want to shape society by the contrary values of inequality and domination of the many by the few.
The question that the ruling class wants us to debate, whether "the United States is a racist country or not," is a bogus question with no right answer. It is a trap question designed to turn the have-nots against each other.
If one "takes the bait" and cites The 1619 Project to declare that "The United States is a racist country" then you will implicitly be accusing many millions of ordinary people who identify as "Americans" (because the ruling class works very hard to make them do so) of being racists, even though they are opposed to racism and have in fact suffered from systemic racial discrimination against non-whites even if they are white.
If one "takes the bait" and declares that "The United States is NOT a racist country" then you will implicitly be denying the fact of enormous racial discrimination against non-whites that the U.S. rulers from the days of chattel slavery to the present have carried out for the purpose of dividing the have-nots along race lines in order to oppress ALL the have-nots including the whites.
The sensible response to the question, "Is the United States a racist country?" is to say, "Countries are neither racist nor anti-racist. The United States is a place inside which the ruling upper class has been using racial discrimination against non-whites to oppress ALL the have-nots, both white and non-white."
If you "take the bait" and answer either Yes or No to the "Is the United States a racist country?" question you will have fallen into the trap laid out to pit have-nots against have-nots.
The mass media is working very hard now to force us to answer this divisive bogus question with a Yes or a No. The liberal media tells us to answer Yes and the conservative media No. Both the liberal and the conservative media are working for the same ruling billionaire plutocracy.
This "Is the United States a racist country?" question is a twist on the old bogus idea of the "national interest," which I discuss here.
Why Vice-President Kamala Harris Agreed with Sen. Tim Scott that "America Is Not a Racist Country"
Recently Vice-President Harris, to the surprise of many, publicly said she agreed with Republican Senator Tim Scott that America is not a racist country. In agreeing with Sen. Scott, Harris simply re-formulated the debate to be racially divisive in a slightly different manner. The wording of the disagreement between the Democrat and Republican shifted from whether "the United States is a racist country" to whether ordinary white people (presumed by the Democrat to be the undeserving beneficiaries of systemic racial discrimination against non-whites, i.e., the supposed beneficiaries of "white privilege") should be made to pay for their guilt by accepting discrimination against whites for the benefit of non-whites, i.e., "Affirmative Action."
Senator Tim Scott is opposed to "Affirmative Action." He says:
“It’s backward to fight discrimination with different types of discrimination."
Kamala Harris is a proponent of "Affirmative Action." "Harris opposed California's ban on affirmative action. She asked the Supreme Court to 'reaffirm its decision that public colleges and universities may consider race as one factor in admissions decisions.' Harris filed legal papers in the Supreme Court case supporting race as an admissions factor at the University of Texas. She also filed papers supporting affirmative action in a different Supreme Court case involving the University of Michigan." (source here)
Kamala Harris's pro-"Affirmative Action" position is spelled out very clearly by Ibram X. Kendi, who writes:
"The only remedy to racist discrimination is antiracist discrimination. The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination." [from Kendi's book, How to be an Antiracist, pg 19.]
Kendi is one of the leading intellectuals on race and he has of late been warmly embraced by the liberal wing of the ruling class. "In September 2017, Kendi founded the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University, serving as its executive director. In June 2020, it was announced that Kendi would join Boston University as a professor of history. Upon accepting the position, Kendi agreed to move the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University to Boston University, where he will serve as the founding director of the Boston University Center for Antiracist Research."
The ultra liberal Boston Globe newspaper (owned by the billionaire John Henry) conducted a special zoom event featuring the paper's editorial editor praisingly interviewing Kendi. If one does a Google search for "Kendi New York Times" one will see lots and lots of examples of the New York Times featuring and praising Kendi, who is a prominent contributor to a new book titled, The 1619 Project, edited by the main author of original New York Times Magazine edition that was The 1619 Project itself.
The Scott versus Harris debate, in other words, is the old debate about "Affirmative Action." In order to understand how this debate is a phony debate that is intended to destroy solidarity between working class whites and non-whites, please read "We Need THIS, Not Affirmative Action," in which I spell this out in detail.
* Not every factual assertion in the 1619 Project is beyond criticism or doubt, of course. Here is one academic authority on the American Revolution who disputes the theory of it that is presented in the 1619 Project.