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“1619 Project” Should Not Be Targeted By Donald Trump

September 11, 2020

There are always so many truly ridiculous and frankly ignorant statements from Donald Trump in any given week it is necessary to sift through them to narrow down the ones that need a response. Such as the one dealing with the “1619 Project”, a powerful and illuminating approach to understanding history, a topic that warms my heart.

A week ago Trump tweeted the US Department of Education would investigate whether California schools are using the New York Times’ “1619 Project” in the public school curriculum. Oh, the shock and horror! To think that a school would use a Pulitzer-Prize winning collection of writings and perspectives regarding the events and consequences of August 1619, when the first slave ship arrived on America’s shores! Trump blustered that the Department of Education would look at this matter and if it was found to be true such programming would not be funded.

So there! Another white ball hit to his white base of supporters in an Election Year.

What makes Trump’s tweet utterly preposterous is the fact the 1619 Project curriculum is available online for free. The project was launched by the New York Times Magazine last year. After the launch, the Pulitzer Center was named an education partner for the project and announced its education team would develop educational resources and curricula for teachers to use.

What makes Trump’s tweet so repulsive is the racial bluster he employs with gusto. But this time he again runs up against that stubborn thing called the U.S. Constitution. Trump does not have the authority to withhold federal funds from schools that teach the project. The federal courts have slapped him down with other attempts he made by using education funds that were not directed by congressional approval.

Trump proves to be a solid reason why the 1619 Project has validity. The racism he foments along with the white superiority he thinks he can move electorally in the nation after a clear demarcation line has been drawn about where society is headed is most telling. George Floyd was the point in time when a large percentage of the nation simply said enough! It is estimated that 20 millions Americans took to the streets to march since early June to register there disgust with racial issues in the nation.

But Trump is pushing a different narrative where there is no need to strive for more and deeper understandings about our racial history and how it impacted people. The words Trump used from the White House for a partisan political convention are not only troubling, but most telling.

“Americans are exhausted, trying to keep up with the latest lists of approved words and phrases, and the ever more restrictive political decrees. Many things have a different name now, and the rules are constantly changing.”

That is amusing since only a few weeks before Trump was bragging he passed a dementia test where he recalled five words! But he has no ability to re-access his language to meet an evolving transformation of our society. Everything we need to know.

For Trump and the racist element of his base they cling to their politics akin to how William Faulkner wrote Absalom, Absalom (though no one believes Trump ever read it) where incest is less of a taboo for a family than acknowledging one drop of black blood in the genealogical pool. The absurdity of that plot is as inane as what Trump is trying to sell this election cycle. But fewer voters are willing to buy his outdated rhetoric.

As one who loves learning more about history, and making that point in many posts about topics that stirs my curiosity, let me state it as clearly as I can. It is critically important that all people, but especially our student population, understand the gravity and the enormity of our nation’s original sin.

Therefore, the 1619 Project is a necessary and provocative way to engage the mind and force us all to come to terms with how this nation started, and how that beginning plays a role yet today in our politics, our society, and culture.

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