Project Update: The Lost Cause and Reconstruction Video

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Several months ago, I announced my plans to make a video debunking the Lost Cause and responding to those who fail to consider it in their analysis of the debate over statues. That project, while delayed, also ran into snags. Namely, that my original plan for the video must change.

Instead of merely responding to a conservative take on the Lost Cause and the statues created by that movement, I must also respond to a misrepresentation of the past in the post-Civil War, more commonly known as Reconstruction.

I say this thanks to a recent article in The American Conservative by Helen Andrews, a member of the right-wing Claremont Institute, in which she impugns the entire enterprise that was rebuilding the South.

More specifically, she disregards contemporary historians and figures such as W.E.B. Du Bois for his work on Reconstruction, seemingly failing to realize that the state of historiography in the 19th Century was significantly weaker than it is now. She also engages in blatant red-baiting, which as I have explained before, is the bane of a healthy democratic society.

In her attempts to disregard the importance of Reconstruction, Andrews contributes to many of the old racist tropes that permeated among white segregationists in the South. Whatever her intentions, her approach can’t stand.

To that end, I plan to not only talk about the statue debate but also the importance of remembering the specter of white supremacist propaganda and how it worked to justify the subjugation of an entire group of Americans. History must not be forgotten for partisan points.

What Not To Do About the Unvaccinated

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Covid-19 is perhaps one of the most frustrating things in recent American history. It has shut down our lives in ways that we could never have imagined, killing hundreds of thousands of people in the United States and millions worldwide. And with that destructive yield, debates about Covid-19 inevitably evoke intense emotions across society, both here and abroad. But with the recent attempt by the Illinois legislature to increase medical costs for unvaccinated people, it is important to consider the consequences and limitations of the state’s response to unvaccinated people.

HOLD YOUR HORSES

Before I begin, I would like to preface myself. Under no circumstances does my current position on healthcare costs remove the obligation of eligible people to get vaccinated. I have always been, and always will be, in favor of vaccination programs and mandates to achieve herd immunity.

Since I stepped into this topic, I consistently maintained that anti-vaxxers are the bane of our collective experience in this pandemic and were a problem for society even before Covid-19. I have always felt that mandatory vaccination is necessary to public health, and I maintain that position to this day. Nobody has the right to threaten herd immunity and the well-being of immunocompromised people. Nobody.

Similarly, I have consistently maintained my intense disdain for anti-vaccine sentiments, and I make no apologies for my unmitigated disdain for the entire movement that identifies itself as so-called “free thinkers.” I have written multiple articles reiterating that anti-vaxxers are, by and large, self-destructive and ignorant and that they regularly exemplify the worst elements of our past.

But with all of that under consideration, I also can’t support laws that will deny healthcare, which is a human right, to people because it is more profitable for a hospital to do so.

WHY I OPPOSE SPIKING HEALTH COSTS

The current bill under consideration was proposed by Illinois state Rep. Jonathan Carroll and comes after the state has seen all 102 of its counties hit with a rise in Covid cases. With the cases rising, the state has done all that it can to increase vaccination rates, increasing their population’s vaccination percentage, meaning the percentage of people with more than one shot, to a tantalizing 66.6 percent. Not quite the 70 percent that some medical professionals are hoping for, but significantly better than where it once was.

With this context in mind, it would seem odd to oppose the proposal by Rep. Carroll, but consider what policies have not been enacted the cost to the people’s well-being, and it will become clear why this approach is untenable and unjustifiable.

Under Rep. Carroll’s proposal, “a person who is eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine and chooses not to be vaccinated shall pay for health care expenses out-of-pocket if the person becomes hospitalized because of COVID-19 symptoms.” While on its face, it appears that this would only affect those who refuse to get vaccinated, what it does not consider is the possibility that people who are eligible to get vaccinated and don’t have access. If the law fails to consider unequal levels of transportation, it could end up punishing people who are willing to get vaccinated but don’t always have the means to get to their appointment.

Even before Covid-19, transportation remained a significant problem for people in urban and suburban areas to getting vaccinated. A 2012 study found that nearly a quarter of respondents had difficulty getting transportation. And further analysis has shown that 61 studies have determined that transportation is a barrier to treatment for other illness, including chronic ones. Needless to say, this challenge intersects with the influence of racism and infrastructure policy.

Since the approval of the Federal-Aid Highway Act, infrastructure policy has cut through black communities and established a form of de-facto segregation. Entire black neighborhoods were demolished to build highways and roads that led to the suburbanization, which primarily benefited white Americans leaving the cities. It was so destructive to black communities that it was derisively called “the negro removal act.” And though the language is certainly outdated, it is an apt description of the policy’s impact.

The end result of this racial re-entrenchment was the modern American transportation system. Dependent on private cars and poorly funded public transportation, it continued to serve white Americans fine, but left black Americans reeling as their communities were destroyed with little compensation. The withdrawal of wealth out of the cities also meant that black residents had less funding to alter infrastructure in their communities, and thus, found themselves cut off yet again.

Of course, the inevitable response to this is “why can’t they just buy a car?” But that also ignores the racism that underlies American society, as black Americans are, on average, charged more than their white counterparts when buying a car. Whether it is in their markups or autoloans, black Americans face higher charges. And with incomes nearly twice as low as their white counterparts, this burden makes disparities in access even more pronounced.

With this in mind, raising costs for healthcare by making an unnvaccinated pay out of pocket for treatment would likely do more to hurt black Americans, who already die at a higher rate, by forcing an expense on them that may not even be justified by supposed refusal to get vaccinated. Remember, the law clearly states “a person who is eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine and chooses not to be vaccinated shall pay for health care expenses out-of-pocket if the person becomes hospitalized because of COVID-19 symptoms.” It does not address persons who unable to get access while also being eligible, so if you missed an appointment or were unable to make one, and were hospitalized for Covid-19, then you would be subject to a massive expense that you probably couldn’t afford.

And considering that black Americans’ lack of access is almost certainly due to federal and state policies, it is completely inappropriate to enact this poorly thought-out policy. There were plenty of alternatives, but the current proposal chooses the most harmful path possible with vaccine enforcement.

WHAT WE CAN DO

While it is tempting to suggest that all mandates will fall into this trap, that is not the case. The Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for employers, while currently challenged in court, could avoid the problems related to healthcare. If the states want to, it could enact a mandate that not only requires employers to get their employees to get vaccinated, but also provides for a state-supported transportation outreach program for those unable to get to vaccination sites on their own.

Moreover, the state should endeavor to avoid general fines against unvaccinated and distinguish between the willfully unvaccinated and those unable to receive it. Under current precedent, the states do have the power to mandate vaccination if they see fit to do so, and if states like Illinois enact such policies while also considering and planning for inequities in access, then they can avoid the problems mentioned above and save lives.

NEW VIDEO: How CNN’s Hesitance to Fire Chris Cuomo Hurt Its Credibility

Earlier this week, it was announced that Chris Cuomo was no longer going to be working with CNN after revelations came out that he was helping his brother by keeping tabs on other journalists. The breach of public trust is self-evident, as CNN is now also investigating Cuomo through a private law firm, but as I argue in my video, there is more to this than a mere breach of contract. Instead, Chris Cuomo represents a threat to CNN’s credibility.

CHECK IT OUT!

Video and Thumbnail by Conor Kelly

Right-Wing Mom Group Tries To Ban MLK Book from School

Photo by Gotta Be Worth It on Pexels.com

It is not every day that someone tries to cancel Martin Luther King Jr., but here we are. Earlier this year, the Williamson County, Tennessee chapter of Moms for Liberty made a complaint to the Tennessee Department of Education arguing that the education’s curriculum violated the state’s law against Critical Race Theory and asserted that several books needed to be removed to protect the students from “trauma.”

What books could cause such trauma, you might ask? Well, according to the complaint written by The Mom’s for Liberty Chair, Robin Steenman, the two main books are Martin Luther King Jr. And the March on Washington (2000) and Ruby Bridges Goes to School: My Story (2009). These two children’s books depict Martin Luther King’s work in the Civil Rights Movement and Ruby Bridges’ entry into school as the first African American to enter New Orleans’ Franz Elementary School.

List of Books Rejected by Mom’s for Liberty

Among other reasons, Steenman complains that these books portray the violence of multiple racist mobs in negative terms. To add to this disgusting complaint, Steenman even opposed depictions of the different water fountains that were segregated at the time.

Mom’s of Liberty rejects the portrayal.

Similarly, the complaint warns against a negative depiction of infamous racist and commissioner of public safety, Eugene “Bull” Connor.

Connor was well-known for his ardent segregationism, confrontation with MLK, and opposition to protests. In his work, Why We CanCan’tit, King referred to Connor as “a racist who prided himself on knowing how to handle the Negro and keep him in his place.” So” it is rather odd that an organization that wants to portray itself as an agent of liberty would simultaneously highlight the condemnation of an ardent segregationist who abused his power over his fellow Americans.

That is, of course, until you realize that is precisely the point.

As I noted before, the relationship between supposed ‘Critical Race Theory’ and the suppression of any negative portrayal of American history is interconnected, if not interdependent. Far from preventing further mistreatment and abuse along sectarian lines, the movement against Critical Race Theory attempts to prevent any discussion of previous and continuing mistreatment.

And as journalist Judd Legum explained when he first broke the story, Moms of Liberty could easily resubmit their complaint to the state’s Department of Education and get their wish.

So long as these movements are able to influence the legislatures of this nation to pass similar anti-CRT bills like the one in Tennessee, Americans can expect similar attempts to censor history in the future.

Justice Breyer Should Retire

Image by Mark Thomas from Pixabay

There is a part of me that is reticent to write this. No doubt some will see my writing this article as an act of arrogance, but it is no less pertinent or necessary to the public good to say this. For all the long-term good he has done in serving the American people, Justice Breyer must resign from the Supreme Court. Suppose there is to be any credibility left in this mighty institution of American jurisprudence. In that case, a long-term buffer must remain on the bench to prevent the continued degradation of our political institutions.

From the beginning of this Court’s conception, the appointments and approach to rulings have been nothing short of political. Despite Obama being the duly elected President of the United States, then-Majority leader Mitch McConnell blocked Judge Merrick Garland from a vote in the Senate, effectively meaning that the President would not affect the composition of the Court’s composition. Instead, McConnell elected to give that power to Donald Trump, a president who enjoyed none of the popular mandate that his predecessor possessed.

This move further irritated the tensions between the American people, who voted for Obama and his platform, and the administration that actively altered the face of the Court by appointing Neil Gorsuch.

What followed was two judges with controversies all on their own. Then-Judge Kavanaugh was accused of sexual assault, and Republicans almost immediately pushed the accusation aside with calculated precision. The consequences were immense for Dr. Ford, the main accuser, as she was subjected to death threats after Kavanaugh’s testimony. Republicans appointed him anyway. Then came Judge Amy Coney Barret, who was controversial for various reasons. Namely, her opposition to Roe V. Wade (1973). But more than that, Barret revealed a fundamental ignorance of the laws she was supposed to uphold. During her hearing, Barret was asked by Senator Ben Sasse (R-Nebraska) about the five rights protected under the 1st Amendment. Barrett seemingly forgot that the right to protest, also known as the right to have a redress of grievances, is a protected right.

This embarrassing display is not the only basis for concern, though significant. One would expect a lifetime appointee to the Court would know about one of the most important rights a democracy can have: the right to dissent. However, it is unsurprising that such a slip didn’t hurt her appointment chances. All the GOP is after is another conservative justice.

Barrett, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh represent an unmitigated control level over the country’s highest court. During his time on the Court, former Justice William J. Brennan Jr. liked to remind his colleagues that a person could do anything with five votes. While hyperbolic, it speaks volumes about a single appointee’s power, much less three. With a five-to-four majority, some moderation is possible and even required to get a ruling. But with a six-to-three majority, that moderation is unnecessary so long as those three additional justices are on the same page.

And that is where Justice Breyer comes in.

Under normal circumstances, Justice Breyer would be under no pressure to resign, as Justices usually serve for life. But with the current state of the Court falling to unqualified and partisan judges on the Court, the fate and legitimacy of the judiciary are at stake.

As time moves on, these justices rule further and further to the right, far away from the country’s will. And such a position creates strain on public trust. Already, the Court has seen its popular support decline significantly to 40 percent approving compared to 54 percent last year. It was the lowest approval rating the Supreme Court has received since Gallup began recording.

Image taken from Gallup, 2021.

If Justice Breyer is replaced by another conservative justice, this trend of right-wing rulings and public disapproval will further delegitimize America’s highest court. As such, replacing Breyer with a long-term check to the right is necessary.

Now that Biden has won his election and has control of both the House and the Senate, it is the perfect time to replace Breyer to prevent a further shift in the Court, and we might not get another chance to prevent the Court’s shift rightward.

If we are to avoid the mistakes that came with the late Ginsburg’s seat, we must take the initiative and prevent the GOP from further destroying the Court’s value.

Chris Cuomo Suspended: What Took So Long?

Chris Cuomo at 2016 DNC via Wiki Commons

Chris Cuomo, CNN’s host of Cuomo Prime Time, was suspended on Wednesday after new documents revealed that he was more involved in his brother’s attempts to silence his accusers than previously thought. The revelations came from the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James and opened a new chapter in the fight over CNN’s integrity. Thanks to these documents, it is now clear that Cuomo used his connections as a journalist to monitor his brother’s accusers and keep tabs on the stories other reporters wrote about him. While horrifying in its implications for journalistic ethics, this revelation also requires us to ask a simple but important question. What took so long? 

From the very beginning, Cuomo’s involvement with his brother was a matter of public scrutiny. Even without the allegations against the former governor, a journalist interviewing his brother on air was far from accepted among other reporters. Though Cuomo attempted to defend the interview by arguing that the story in question didn’t involve his brother as a matter of personal accountability, others have rightly pointed out that the story involved state agencies that the former governor had control over. At the very least, the willingness that Cuomo showed to blur the lines between personal interest and journalistic duty should have been a red flag for CNN’s leadership. 

Instead, CNN and its leaders failed to remove Cuomo and apologize for the obvious error temporarily. That is, of course, until the allegations came out.

After allegations against former governor Andrew Cuomo came out, the now controversial anchor explained that he “obviously” couldn’t report on the happenings of his brother due to the conflict of interests therein. However, that had not stopped him previously. Instead, he refrained from discussing the issue altogether, seemingly finding his journalistic integrity when the moment required it. It seemed as though the New York anchor had finally realized that his previous behavior was not going to fly and try to make up for it with decent coverage. If only that were true. 

Instead, a guest essay by Cuomo’s former boss at ABC, Shelley Ross, alleged sexual misconduct against the anchor and that he had grabbed her rear without her consent. Cuomo was seemingly so enthusiastic about it that he allegedly told his former boss, “I can do this now that you’re no longer my boss.” Ross backed up her claim with an email from Cuomo in which he apologized for his conduct seemingly not because it was inappropriate but because her husband was there. 

https://cdn.substack.com/image/fetch/f_auto,q_auto:good,fl_progressive:steep/https%3A%2F%2Fbucketeer-e05bbc84-baa3-437e-9518-adb32be77984.s3.amazonaws.com%2Fpublic%2Fimages%2F7079ca4a-0147-4fb3-b4ec-0cb7e3915fc4_825x357.webp
The email provided by Shelley Ross to The New York Times

Previous readers of my newsletter will know my thoughts on this, as it was not long after these reports came out that I demanded that CNN fire Cuomo for his conduct, as he was also revealed to be helping his brother defend himself from allegations of sexual harassment. Of course, I did not expect a major news organization to listen, but the fact that it took yet another example of his unethical conduct to get even a suspension is beyond ridiculous. 

The moment Cuomo was accused of sexual misconduct with documented proof should have been the moment he was removed from his position. It should not require the Attorney General of a state to get a news organization to admit that keeping the man giving his brother’s advisor intel on his accusers might not be the best decision. 

It is especially damning that he was using his connections, which he no doubt got from CNN and other news organizations, to monitor journalist Ronan Farrow at the New Yorker, as it reveals how little Cuomo cared for the most basic standards of objective reporting. While absolute, perfect reporting is almost impossible, that does not prevent a reporter from taking basic steps to avoid a conflict of interest. Or, at the very least, avoid getting involved with the scandal itself.

In perhaps an even more pathetic display of his arrogance, Cuomo immediately went on his podcast to describe how much it “hurt” and how “embarrassing” it was for him to be suspended from his show. He then pointed out his previous apologies and the like, seemingly hoping it would be enough, but it’s not. Once a person crosses the line into nepotistic coverage and actively works to silence victims of sexual harassment, there can be no going back. 

Chris Cuomo should have been fired long ago, and I hope that media outlets will be responsible enough to keep him off the air and avoid giving this corrupt con-man anymore credibility to tarnish. That is, of course, if CNN follows through.

Why Lies About Critical Race Theory Matter

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

With its continuous and unending coverage in the news, it is hard to find an example of one person who has not heard about Critical Race Theory. And of course, with such a large amount of coverage, everyone seems to have an opinion on it. With those opinions under their belt, people begin to make claims that are either false, misleading, or, in some cases, outright lies. Those lies inevitably spread around the internet and influence other people to the point where they convince their leaders to act upon those lies. With the rise in laws banning CRT, it becomes increasingly obvious that these lies have spread far beyond their acceptable range, are self-destructive to the public, and serve only to whitewash history in the education system. It is high time that those who help spread those lies are held accountable for their dishonesty.

WHAT IS CRITICAL RACE THEORY?

Critical Race Theory is a multi-faceted and complex academic approach to law and racism in the United States. It came from a previous theory of legal analysis known as Critical Legal Studies, which argued that the law is never truly neutral and represents the interests of those who write the law. A decade later, the theory grew into Critical Race Theory.

CRT began in the 1980s, thanks to Harvard Professor Derrick Bell. With his article Brown v. Board of Education and the Interest-Convergence Dilemma (1980), Bell argued that the law’s divergent position with the integration goals could be more properly dealt with by focusing on improvements in education. The argument underlying this paper and many like it is that the law, its current form, maintains white supremacy by failing to adequately deal with disparities created by previous forms of oppression. Its self-proclaimed race neutrality does not, in the eyes of Critical Race Theory, prevent it from failing to address disparities in treatment and outcomes.

Since then, essays such as Whiteness As Property (2006) and Race, Reform and Retrenchment (1988) also explained this perspective related to racial identity and colorblindness respectively. As Professor Kimberle Crenshaw explains, Critical Race Theory “is a way of looking at law’s role platforming, facilitating, producing, and even insulating racial inequality in our country, ranging from health to wealth to segregation to policing.”

It is intended to observe systemic racism through a systemic and critical lens. It spans beyond personal prejudice, despite what some claim about how it views white prejudice. It is, at most, a standpoint theory that is meant to explain system racism.

But you wouldn’t know that by listening to its recent detractors.

BRING IN THE PROPAGANDISTS

The fight over Critical Race Theory has been a political game for Republican operatives from the very beginning. Activists like Christopher Rufo have worked tirelessly to amplify the idea that Critical Race Theory, a standpoint theory from the 1990s, is being spread rapidly through the workforce and schools. To support this claim, Rufo took leaked documents from multiple poorly-worded training seminars on anti-racism and released them to the public to create as much conflict and distrust as humanly possible.

Rufo did not merely leak information, however. Instead, he strived to reframe the information he was releasing so his audience would see it from his point of view. To do that, he needed a good way to describe his new enemy. To Rufo, CRT was more than just an academic theory that explained structural inequality. It was the enemy in the long-standing culture war dating back to the Obama administration. And he needed a way to describe that enemy while encompassing as much as he could within that label. Describing this need, Rufo explained his approach to the New Yorker, saying:

We’ve needed new language for these issues…Political correctness’ is a dated term and, more importantly, doesn’t apply anymore. It’s not that elites are enforcing a set of manners and cultural limits, they’re seeking to reengineer the foundation of human psychology and social institutions through the new politics of race, It’s much more invasive than mere ‘correctness,’ which is a mechanism of social control, but not the heart of what’s happening. The other frames are wrong, too: ‘cancel culture’ is a vacuous term and doesn’t translate into a political program; ‘woke’ is a good epithet, but it’s too broad, too terminal, too easily brushed aside. ‘Critical race theory’ is the perfect villain.”

Christopher Rufo to Benjamin Wallace-Wells, The New Yorker.

And wouldn’t you know it? Rufo’s attempts to draw the attention of Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who had Rufo on his show, Tucker Carlson Tonight, to discuss this newly established concern. During his short time on Carlson’s show, Rufo argued that CRT represented an existential threat to American politics and civil life and that the Trump administration should intervene to prevent its spread.

The end result was predictable as it was reprehensible. Within two days of Rufo’s comments, the Trump administration began its assault on anti-racist training. The Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Russel Vought, released an order requiring all agencies to end anti-racist training. In his letter, Vought labeled said training as “un-American propaganda training sessions.”

The order further urged that agencies should root out any examples of CRT in their training, saying: ” in the meantime, all agencies are directed to begin to
identify all contracts or other agency spending related to any training on “critical race theory, white privilege, or any other training or propaganda effort that teaches or suggests either (1) that the United States is an inherently racist or evil country or (2) that any race or ethnicity is inherently racist or evil…”

This use of state power and the ability to influence government agencies to remove what is deemed harmful ideas is precisely the point. There is no attempt to adequately represent Critical Race Theory or explain its historical context. Instead, anti-CRT advocates are working to restrict the development of ideas that don’t fit a conservative mold. And considering the state of the current Republican party, it is not too surprising that this has devolved into a moral panic.

That is, after all, what Rufo wants.

Earlier this year, Rufo explained his intentions in detail, tweeting out what should have been the death of his credibility.

Rufo saying the quiet part out loud.

Rufo’s ultimate goal in opposing CRT is to turn it into a nebulous evil that can be used to label anything Republicans don’t approve of.

The purpose of this moral panic is to ensure that no matter what the intention or utility of an idea if Republicans don’t like it, they can put into a box of Critical Race Theory and discard it. More importantly, they can ban it. It is not surprising, considering that Rufo is a senior fellow of the Manhattan Institute, a right-wing think tank despite his attempts to appeal to everyday Americans.

This political connection is necessary to understand the fight over this abstract legal theory. It can’t be abstracted away to some sort of illiberal theory that threatens free speech, as Tara Ella, has done. Nor can it be simply misconstrued as “supplantation of liberalism by the radical critical theory worldview.” Instead, it is important to consider the consequences of poorly-written bans on what amounts to a niche academic theory.

In Tennessee, the legislature banned Critical Race Theory from being taught in schools, prohibiting any material that causes discomfort or asserts privilege based on race. Other prohibited positions include any material that asserts meritocracy is racist or contributes to racism in America and that the state of America is racist.

The poorly defined nature of these laws was on full display just this week as the Williamson County chapter of Moms For Liberty (MFL) filed a complaint with the state, attempting to remove two books, one discussing Martin Luther King Jr.’s march on Washington and an autobiography written about Ruby Bridges, who was the first black child to integrate into a New Orleans school.

The argument by MFL is that these two books depict examples of aggression by police and wrongly vilify Bull Connor, the infamous commissioner of public safety and segregationist in Birmingham, Alabama.

Despite all of these complaints targeting examples of historical fact, organizations like MFL will insist that they are defending their kids from the pain that comes with seeing such dark images and gritty history. For all intents and purposes, organizations like them are trying to tone down teaching on racism despite the clear importance of our nation’s racist past. So long as the panic over Critical Race Theory continues, attempts to disregard basic historical facts will remain a part of American life. Such an outcome is unacceptable.

The 1619 Project Returns: Hope for a Critical Perspective

1619 Project by NY Times via Wiki Commons

After its explosive arrival on the political stage, the 1619 Project is set to return. This time in book form, as Pulitzer Journalists Nikole Hannah-Jones and her colleagues have expanded on their famous work. One can only hope that it improves upon a much-needed criticism of the traditional American narrative.

The project, which began in 2019, challenged traditional views of American history. In most cases, that challenge was justified, and where it made mistakes, corrections were made. I happily pointed out mistakes, but with the project rising onto the national stage, very few critics were concerned with its actual meaning or arguments.

Here Comes The Backlash

It isn’t too surprising that the 1619 Project provoked a backlash. Indeed, any narrative which seeks to challenge the orthodox perspective will create controversy. And the 1619 project was certainly bold in its challenge. In its introduction, The New York Times explained the purpose of the project, saying:

The 1619 Project is an ongoing initiative from The New York Times Magazine that began in August 2019, the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It aims to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative.

1619 Project, New York Times, 2019.

This perspective necessarily ran into the usual responses that come with critiquing the triumphant narrative that many Americans have been sold. One example, one I have examined before, is the Heritage Foundation’s video on the subject.

As I explained then, the very arguments that the 1619 Project works to address are repeated without so much as a substantial critique of the actual facts undergirding their response. Indeed, it was a vapid and flaccid response to what could’ve been a lively and honest debate about this legacy and its future. And it would continue like that, especially among Republicans. But I have already addressed much of that backlash. What’s important to note is that flawed as it was, the 1619 Project’s detractors are not particularly interested in its historiographical implications. Far from it.

Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) proposed a law to prohibit the federal government from giving funds to schools that used the project in its curriculum and called it a “racially divisive, revisionist account of history that denies the noble principles of freedom and equality on which our nation was founded.” This approach, in turn, created a liberal backlash of its own, creating a political schism over the project. Though the project is not obligated to limit its work to appease this backlash. One can only hope that as the new project comes out, it will avoid these dishonest tactics and get to the root of America’s history with racism.

What’s Next? AND WHY THE BACKLASH MATTERS

We can expect to see the project expand upon its analysis and address some of its criticism if all goes well. While the 1619 project has done its best to address key issues, it has not fully addressed its critics directly. Nikole Hannah-Jones’ essay, America Wasn’t a Democracy Until African Americans Made It One (2019), was one provocative piece that tried to give a more human perspective than other works in the project but did not get ahead of its critics. Though that is not too surprising, considering the personal nature of the essay. Like any work of historiographical value, it should, in theory, address its critics and work to address their views and, refute them as firmly as possible.

By firm, I mean that the project should endeavor to address the exact arguments against the project’s core mission. Rather than making an edit after the fact, it should focus on its critics and its, both political and historical. Whether or not the 1619 project’s creators wanted it, they are the centerpiece of ongoing controversy about who we are as Americans and who we are as a nation. Though, considering her statements in response to her critics, I feel that this project will be worth the wait.

“People who send threats, people who make threats, what they’re really trying to do is silence you… This is my mission. And so nothing will distract me from that, and I just can’t go around worried about what might happen. I just have to do my job.”

Nikole Hannah-Jones, 2021.

Rep. Paul Gosar Censured: Republicans Reveal Their Blackened Hearts

Image by Gage Skidmore via Wiki Commons.

Congress took a historic step towards accountability, as they censured a member of the House of Representatives for the first time in ten years. Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Arizona), the Republican congressman who infamously tweeted a video depicting him killing AOC and President Biden, has been censured and removed from his committee assignments. Though the move is appropriate, it is far too lenient, and considering how many Republicans voted in Gosar’s favor, it seems that this measure is the least that Congress can do.

From the very beginning, Republicans revealed their moral bankruptcy. The vote, which was almost entirely along party lines, with 223 voting in favor of the resolution and 207 against it, was another example of Republicans failing to acknowledge basic reality. 

In a previous article on this issue, I noted that Congressional Republicans condemned previous examples of artists threatening leadership in the White House. Such as when Kathy Griffin posed with a fake Trump head covered in blood. Snoop Dog was famously visited by the secret service for making a music video shooting a Trump figure. All of this is to say that Republicans don’t honestly believe that depictions of violence are acceptable in politics. And though I am sad to say it, that hypocrisy was on show today.

Rather than facing the contradiction they created, Republicans have dedicated the full might of their caucus to distracting the American people from their utter disregard for decency. Putting that moral bankruptcy front and center, Rep. Lauren Boebert dove into a deranged rant, falsely claiming Rep. Ilhan Omar married her brother and referring to her as a member of the “Jihad Squad.” 

In a normal country, that language alone would be a scandal. That a representative’s religion and previous marriage could be used to turn a blind eye to violent threats is an indictment of our current political system. 

In a normal country, this wouldn’t happen. Unfortunately, we are not a normal country anymore.

When Important Debates Fall Apart: Reviewing The Better Discourse Panel on Critical Race Theory

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The screenshot is taken from Jangle’s video of the debate.

Debate is a messy thing. When done well, it can illuminate the differences in thinking that people have about a wide variety of issues that would otherwise go unnoticed. However, when the debate goes sour, and the well becomes poisoned, what is left is a mess of conflict and partisanship. And that was on full display at the Better Discourse’s debate panel on Critical Race Theory. Whether it was a consistent lack of charity from its anti-CRT, an inactive and biased moderator, or just a poor framing, the panel was seemingly set to self-destruct it was conceived by the Better Discourse staff.

Video by Justin “Jangles” Gibson.

The panelists included anti-CRT advocate James Lindsay, Sean Fitgerald AKA Actual Justice Warrior, Justin Gibson AKA Jangles Science Lad, and Michael Gonzales AKA Liberal Sanity Project. The debate was moderated by Keri Smith.

Even before the debate began, a staff member poisoned the well, saying, “I think most of us here today have one simple thing in common. We don’t like to be bullshitted. We try our best not to tolerate revisionist history.” It would seem the themes of indoctrination in education couldn’t be held back now, could they?

But the poor showmanship would not end with a hap-hazard announcer but would extend throughout the debate thanks, in part, due to the unending ineptitude of the moderator. Despite the first question being relatively simple, it gets bogged down.

What is Critical Race Theory?

The question of what constitutes C.R.T. has long become increasingly pertinent to modern discourse, in part thanks to political operatives like Christopher Rufo, who has famously worked to misrepresent the work of C.R.T. scholars. But when it comes to actually answering the question, and providing an apt definition, the two anti-CRT guests, Sean and James, veer off into two very different and equally absurd answers.

Fitzgerald, at the beginning of his monologue, argues that there are two types of C.R.T. The first is the actual and original idea of C.R.T., the legal scholarship that derived from the works of Derrick Bell, Kimberle Crenshaw, and Richard Delgado. Though Fitzgerald admits he is uninterested in that specific form of C.R.T. Instead, he focuses on ideas that he believes ‘trickle down’ from C.R.T. and influences new forms of teaching on race and society.

This admission is strange for a variety of reasons, but the main point of contention that I have is how easily Fitzgerald mixes different approaches to addressing racism in America while simultaneously putting all of those approaches under the same banner. It is intellectually lazy, if not outright contradictory, something Gibson points out.

“Yeah, it is also a weird way to frame the debate. So, we are going to talk about Critical Race Theory, but we are not actually going to talk about Critical Race Theory. We are going to talk about what we associate with Critical Race Theory.”

Justin Gibson Critiquing Sean Fitgerald’s framing of CRT.

Gibson points out that C.R.T. attempts to explain how the concept of C.R.T. is usually bogged down by nonsense and sometimes contradictory perceptions of what it is. If anything, Gibson notes, C.R.T. is an attempt to examine disparities among racial groups that they believe are related to previous or continued systemic policies. But when it comes to Lindsay’s response, things get interesting.

BEWARE THE RACE MARXISM

Lindsay’s understanding of C.R.T. as he describes it, comes from an essay titled Toward a Critical Race Theory of Education (Ladson Billings & Tate, 1995). Lindsay’s approach, aside from being strangely named to appeal to his anti-Marxist audience, asserts that Ladson-Billings and Tate saw race as the central component of understanding social inequity. Lindsay is so confident that he asserts that it is a direct quote from their paper. However, a quick look into the paper itself shows that was not what the paper said at all. Instead, the authors were talking about the works W.E.B. Du Bois and Carter Woodson, who emphasized race as a major factor in social inequity. Though they credit much of their approach to these figures, Ladson-Billings and Tate never establish race as the sole factor in American social inequity. Instead, they argue it is “significant.”

Reading through the first few pages of the essay makes it very clear that although the authors are supporting the idea that race should be more thoroughly examined in academia, they aren’t arguing that race should be the sole deciding factor in their analysis. If anything, they’re arguing for the use of race in its own right.

Ladson Billings & Tate, 1995, pg. 51.

This misrepresentation is but one part of the larger lie that Lindsay wants to tell. Throughout his attempted definition of Critical Race Theory, Lindsay cites multiple C.R.T. authors and quotes them extensively, but the fact that he misrepresented the very first authors he cites implicates him as being willfully dishonest. Instead of adequately translating the academic jargon that comes with this work or even bothering to contextualize it, Lindsay prefers to list a series of quotes devoid of context or meaning. And the only one who gets to determine the meaning of those quotes is Lindsay himself, as none of the scholars are there to defend themselves and even fewer audience members even know what Lindsay is doing. See the problem?

Anyone can quote a figure but unless that quote is accurate, it doesn’t mean a thing. He does the same thing with Cheryl Harris’ 1993 paper Whiteness as Property. Instead of examining the factual basis of her arguments and, as a reasonable scholar would do, contextualize them, Lindsay instead puts them into a box of redistributionist or Marxist. The underlying implication of this argument is that the Marxist approach is inherently undesirable and incorrect. It is classic reductionism and red-baiting. Unfortunately, the moderator does not question Lindsay on his points or any of the meaning of these authors. Though there is a reason for that.

Lindsay also fails to understand why C.R.T. even came to be as he fails to explain how C.R.T. grew out of the Civil Rights Movement or how it was distinct from it, choosing to represent it as an oppositional force to its work. But if I went into that, we’d be here all day. Instead, I would like to address the utter absurdity that followed.

LET HIM TALK

Even as the debate proceeds and panelists like Gibson are given the chance to not only respond to the methodological failures of Lindsay’s understanding, Lindsay again inserts himself into the dialogue before his opponent is even given a word in edgewise. As Gibson tries to explain the diverging understandings of C.R.T. within its ranks, Lindsay responds with the childish “Where? Where?” As if repetition would make his approach more salient and meaningful.

It continues constantly. Lindsay’s responses to Gonzales’ point that systemic and overtly racist policies were put in place at the root of society, and those rules, though gone, have influenced our current policy-making. Before he even gets to conclude his remarks, Gonzales is interrupted by Lindsay, who asks the loaded question, “when did those laws end?”

Now, at first, that argument seems salient. The laws are gone, and therefore the effects of those laws should also be gone, right? Except, the underlying argument ignores the lackluster approach the government had when undoing the harms done by those laws. If someone beats another person, stopping them is part of the approach to end the cruelty, but that is not the end of the story. Assisting the person being beaten and easing their trauma, if not wiping it out entirely, is another critical role in ensuring justice is done. Lindsay’s argument ignores that point and deliberately undermines it by preventing it from ever being uttered in the discussion.

And while Gibson rightly jumps in to fight back against the assumptions that Lindsay treated as self-evident, the fact that they are fighting over the assumptions of one man who has done nothing but misrepresent the scholars he claims to cite is evidence of how fundamentally bad-faith this entire debate is. For someone to list off many names and put them into a box with a catch-all name is the height of intellectual dishonesty, and it continued throughout the debate.

And that continues when they actually get into the disparities themselves. But I will get to that in the next article.

Edit: After trying to find the motivation to rewatch the debate, I found the repeated usage of the tactics I outlined in this article by Lindsay too infuriating to examine. It didn’t seem kind to repeat the same points to my audience. This is the only review of the debate I will do.