For nearly fifty years, we have taught American children that the three greatest determinants in history are race, class, and gender. Virtue is scoffed at; “Great Men” are mocked; and free will is ignored. Should we be shocked—do we even have the right to be shocked—that our press, our culture, and our educators are obsessed with race? In every way, we are a far more racist society than we were in, say, 1989. Everything evil we now call “racist,” whether the thing is actually racist or not. Racist has come to be synonymous with evil and wrongdoing. Aside from the fact that this severely diminishes and attenuates the true challenges to true racism, it is also demonstrably false, especially in regard to our history as an American people.

Last month, one of our nation’s two most respected papers, The New York Times, launched an initiative about… wait for it… wait for it… racism, finding its origins, at least chronologically, in the arrival and sale of the first persons from Africa in August 1619. Here is its own explanation.

The 1619 Project is a major initiative from “The New York Times” observing the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It aims to reframe the country’s history, understanding 1619 as our true founding, and placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are.

Let me requote this, but with emphasis on certain things.

The 1619 Project is a major initiative from “The New York Times” observing the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It aims to reframe the country’s history, understanding 1619 as our true founding, and placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are.

In other word, we Americans are all a bunch of racist pigs. What’s fascinating, of course, is that The New York Times, from any proper and true understanding of history as well as of racism, has just presented us with de facto racist history, a history based solely on race and racism. Additionally, The New York Times claiming any originality in this observation is simply ridiculous; racism has been the cry of the Left since the 1960s, and race has been its currency.

Now, I would never—under any circumstances—downplay the seriousness and horrors and tragedy of slavery in America. From my perspective, slavery is everywhere and always morally reprehensible. It is a grave evil for the victims as well as for the victimizers. It is also, for the victimizers, a grave sin, making themselves little gods. Slavery, sadly, has shaped much of our history, but not in the way that the New York Times is claiming, directly and indirectly.

It’s worth considering a few nuances regarding the claims of the “The 1619 Project.”

First, chattel slavery did not gain a permanent foothold in America until, roughly, 1669.  Prior to 1669, most blacks were freed after the seventh-year jubilee. They were not slaves, but rather involuntary indentured servants. Why slavery became permanent, chattel slavery in 1669-1670, remains one of the greatest mysteries of American history, solved only by conjecture, not, unfortunately, by fact. We simply do not possess the data to know for certain what happened then. Though chattel slavery grew in horror and terror, it began to subside—in seriously high numbers—between 1761 and 1793, slave owners realizing just how hypocritical it was to declare a belief in Natural Rights while simultaneously enslaving women and men. Slavery dramatically increased again with the development of the cotton gin.

Second, as Abraham Lincoln stated so clearly in his Second Inaugural, slavery never pervaded all of the Americas but, instead, eventually concentrated itself in the southern part of the United States. (It should be noted that slavery thrived in the eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries in several areas of the North—most notably in New York City itself.) By privileging the history of Virginia in its “1619 Project,” the New York Times is radically downplaying the history of New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, etc. Poor John Winthrop, poor Cotton Mather, and poor John Adams!

Third, by declaring 1619 rather than 1776 our founding, The New York Times also seriously distorts the extreme (properly so) anti-slavery Natural Law/Natural Rights/Common Law position of many of the founders (and most Americans) in the 1770s. It also does not allow for a proper understanding of the trajectory of events leading up to the Civil War, the arming of black troops in 1863, or the passage of the 13th Amendment.

Fourth, and bizarrely, “The 1619 Project” equates the plantation system of enslaved labor with capitalism.  In what possible world could one identify enslaved labor as a form of free enterprise? The most prominent advocate of southern slavery in the 1850s, George Fitzhugh, claimed (more convincingly than The New York Times) that each plantation represented the perfect ideal of socialism.

Fifth, “The 1619 Project,” by its very emphasis, does not just dismiss northerners and abolitionists, it also dismisses all of the immigrants who came to America after 1865, millions and millions of them from Southern and Central Europe, and the millions more from Latin America. What about American Indians? What about… and the list goes on and on.

“The 1619 Project,” as envisioned and projected by The New York Times, is not just factually in error, it is dangerous, pitting one person against another, one group against another based on skin tone. If our true founding is rooted in an evil deed in 1619, what does everything else mean? I’m no nationalist, but it’s rather clear that there can be no America as a nation or as a republic if we continue to teach our children (wrongly, as it turns out) that America exists for the sake of exploitation.

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Editor’s Note: The featured image is “Slaves Waiting for Sale” (1861) by Eyre Crowe (1824-1910), courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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