The New York Times’ 1619 Project was created in order to refocus American history on its story of race and economics. The 1619 date is a reminder of the first enslaved Africans brought by ship to the early European settlements in North and South America. This is history that has long been available to people to discover, but has also been ignored and frequently hidden or suppressed in our country’s official retellings of our collective story. Conservatives across the country, bereft of any ideas since feudalism, are recasting the 1619 Project and other critical race theory educational initiatives as an attack on our country. In their estimation, only white males like themselves are allowed to feel persecuted, and any discussion of race and the moral anchor that systemic racism has moored our country’s progress forward is an assault on their monopoly on power. They are right about the latter.
On Wednesday, Sen. McConnell took time away from never passing any legislation that wasn’t voter suppression-related or a tax break for the richest amongst us, to speak at a press conference in the Citizens Union Bank in Shelbyville, Kentucky. McConnell’s fellow Kentuckian Republican Rep. Joseph Fischer recently filed Bill Request 60, for the upcoming 2022 state legislature session that would limit how race and the history of racism in our country is taught. Here’s an elementary school level bit of math for you: Kentucky + Republican Rep. + bill about the teaching of race and racism = X* Here’s another equation for you math nerds: Mitch McConnell + statement about race and education + microphone = X**
*Answer: Imaginably racist.
**Answer: Very imaginably racist.
On Wednesday, McConnell told the press that the fact the world participated in slavery and the slave trade during the 17th century means that in America historians marking the first enslaved Africans brought to the Americas isn’t important history. That’s what he argued.
Man, turtles live a long time.
McConnell’s answer came out of a question from The Courier Journal concerning his support or opposition to the kinds of constraints his fellow Republicans are trying to put on public school teachers and educators. He went on to say that the federal government shouldn’t tell schools what to teach, and he also didn’t seem to knock the fact that Republicans across the country are the only political group telling schools what they should teach.
Mitch McConnell has previously described the focus on the 1619 date in American history as an “exotic notion.” He has also categorized any push for education curriculums to include more comprehensive teaching on systemic racism, “activist indoctrination.” McConnell’s intellectually dishonest angle on the 1619 date is that by calling attention to our country’s founding dependence on cheap labor and the evolution of our nation’s racism, we “denigrate and downgrade” other, more positive and less uncomfortable, achievements that our country has made.
It’s a garbage argument as pointing out our country’s systemic racism, and very specifically highlighting 1619 as a date, is clearly an important part of our nation’s story. Millions of Americans of all races, cultures, and creeds have been directly affected, and continue to be affected, by those decisions. The Civil War that McConnell says put this sin “behind us,” is only fought because of that date, and to deny it and the existence of its reach is incongruous with even the words coming out of the Kentucky senator’s disingenuous yap.
McConnell’s attempt at speaking out of both sides of his mouth included this statement: “I think trying to completely denigrate and downgrade American historical moments like 1776, 1787, 1965—critical moments—is a mistake.” If you want to know what truly denigrates and downgrades our country’s history, and specifically what those dates mark, all you need to see are McConnell’s own actions in orchestrating a filibuster of a commission into the events of Jan. 6—something that had the bipartisan support of his own constituents. As for the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Republican Party is in the middle of generating hundreds of voter suppression laws throughout the country.
Here’s McConnell telling people that systemic racism and our country’s use of slavery and racism as a controlling economic foundation is “exotic.”