By Lafe Tolliver, Esq
“Until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.” –Chinua Achebe-
You may have heard the recent political dust-up about some GOP Senators blowing a fuse when they were informed that some federal funding would be part of undergirding the epic educational presentation called the 1619 Project.
That award winning project seeks to present historical balance into the previously erroneously but established American narratives of how slavery impacted this country.
The crux of the project is to re-balance the past and refute any racist presumptions that somehow slavery and its impact was just an inconvenient “blip” on America’s history and how White Americans are fed an anemic porridge of half truths and outright lies about America’s racial history.
The agitated senators, mostly from the South, are upset because the 1619 Project takes direct hits at their cherished beliefs, inculcated by a teaching corps that blindly fed them falsehoods as youths and young adults, and which shaped both their nascent personal and political beliefs.
These beliefs fomented a faux history that Southern plantation owners and genteel Southern society was “kind” and “noble” to the transplanted Africans who were kidnapped and forced to become slaves with their skin color being the single determining factor.
White America has a nigh death grip on any positive historical narrative that portrays itself as a benevolent America that treated those “wretched” African souls as merciful objects of their Christian benevolence.
Some White historians who treat facts as pliable, corrupted the real history of slavery in America so that White Americans could mentally cope with their abysmal treatment that they meted out to the African men and women and children who landed on these shores from the year 1619 onward.
The 1619 Project, developed by Nikole Hanna Jones and writers for the New York Times, has won awards for its sane attempt to balance the scales of history and inform its readership, via its documented scholarship, that slavery was the primary dynamic in the amassing of the initial corpus of wealth of this country due to the free and exploited labor of the transplanted Africans.
The 1619 Project illuminates how some early White historians blatantly disregarded clear facts in order to present a false picture of the actualities of slavery and this corrupted presentation was, in part, to preserve the image of whiteness being supreme and blackness being of no value.
So, when you hear Southern senators bemoaning the 1619 Project as being revisionist … it is. It is revisiting and revising and informing educational book publishers that their prior texts of minimizing the horrors of slavery and being dismissive of the economic and cultural contributions of the Africans (later labeled as slaves) needs a monumental redo.
The 1619 Project would indeed be a strange read to those protesting Southern senators who were fed a milk and later, a meat diet, that it was the South which was oppressed and was the victim of Northern aggression; and that plantation owners just “loved to pieces” their ever smiling nigra mammies and banjo dancing Stepin Fetchits’.
Whenever historians state the obvious facts that the peculiar institution of slavery was modeled to develop a capitalistic country and that the generators of that initial mass wealth, which allowed early America to later become a world powerhouse, were Black folks, some White folks get edgy.
They are edgy because their self-imposed image of being a charitable people to all is being severely questioned by Project 1619.
Even after the passage of hundreds of years since 1619, White America has yet to solve its shameful racial history.
That is one reason why the issue of reparations is so fraught with fear to many White people. Reparations would be an explicit acknowledgement that America cursed and abused people of color for hundreds of years; and now for them to economically account for it, is too much of a grasp for this country.
The 1619 Project deftly holds up a mirror to the troubled conscience of this country for its past and current racial sins and petitions for it to atone for its wrongs before it can come out of its racially self-induced coma.
A coma in which America seeks to whitewash or deny its true past and is willing to accept a sanitized history but which still marginalizes the African; and continues to justify glaring racial inequities based upon the original concoction and propagation of the Big Lie: that America was always the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Contact Lafe Tolliver at firstname.lastname@example.org