A recent reader’s Commentary asserted that “the extended inferno over critical race theory, are just the most topical illustrations of a deep and enduring effort to deny the truth and defend the backlash.” I am in support of the truth having spent 30 years in the military defending it. However, the “truth” behind critical race theory has been severely distorted by those seeking to make their own “facts” — The 1619 Project is a prime example.
Proponents of critical race theory rely heavily on “findings” of The 1619 Project which was started several years ago as long-term journalism project by Ms. Nikole Hannah-Jones. Upfront she stated that her effort “aims to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the very center of the United States’ national narrative.”
The effort was launched in August 2019 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the “first enslaved Africans arriving in colonial Virginia.” In 1619, a group of about 20 captive Africans did arrive in the Virginia colony. A Dutch-operated privateer, White Lion, carried the 20–30 Africans who had been captured by a joint African-Portuguese raid against the Kingdom of Ndongo in modern-day Angola, making its landing at Point Comfort in the English colony of Virginia. Although The 1619 Project places this event as the genesis of slavery in the colonial history of the United States, many historians have taken issue with this claim questioning whether those 1619 arrivals actually became slaves. With no slave laws in place, they were treated as indentured servants and given the same opportunities as whites. Other historians have pointed out that slavery in North America existed well prior to 1619, and that Spanish sanctioned slavery in the Americas is documented to have existed as far back to 1494.
The project also outright falsifies American history — its most outlandish claim is that the American Revolution was fought to protect slavery. The American Revolution Institute states that project’s assumption that “one of the primary reasons the colonists decided to declare their independence from Britain was because they wanted to protect the institution of slavery” is simply not true.
In addition, Mr. Arthur Milikh of the Heritage Foundation points out “The overriding lesson (of The 1619 Project) is clear: young people must learn to despise their nation — its Constitution, ideals, economic system, and its Founders. Teaching young people that they have no country, that there is neither God nor justice, but only their own anger to right wrongs leads not to civilized self-rule, but to fanaticism and self-destruction.”
No, we cannot ignore the sordid history of slavery in America and the fact that both injustice and racism continue to this very day. However, embracing such flawed studies as The 1619 Project to prop up critical race theory does nothing to correct the sins of our past.
So, an “enduring effort to deny the truth,” — no — let’s tell the truth and move forward.
James R. Poplar III, of Quicksburg, proudly served with the US government for over 40 years. He specialized in national security affairs at both Vanderbilt and the National Defense University.