We have heard a great deal about the 1619 Project and Critical Race Theory in the last few weeks, and not for the reasons that we might hope. To give you a little background, the 1619 Project was a collection of pieces published by the New York Times and compiled by Nicole Hannah Jones in August of 2019. The collection served to peel back layers of bias that have been injected in years of the commonly understood historical record of the United States. The collection used the arrival of the first enslaved peoples on the continent, in the year 1619, as the moment in which the foundation for our present was forged.
The 1619 Project was a powerful and in-depth look at all the different ways in which slavery both helped to spur American economic growth as well as continued subjugation and exploitation of Black people in this country. This analysis extended far beyond the ending of the Civil War and the 14th Amendment, showing how housing, economic, and transportation policies have continued to prevent any kind of real equality from becoming a reality. Additionally, it shed more light on the discriminatory implementation of policies in the criminal justice sphere that illuminate why reform is so necessary in this sphere.
More recently, Donald Trump has threatened to withhold funding from any school or school district that chooses to use the 1619 Project as part of its curriculum. These threats, while most likely not viable, say a great deal about racism and nationalism in our country. The President of the United States is threatening educators because they may teach content that has a counter narrative to a white supremacist past. As we get closer to the election, and Trump continues to trail Biden in the polls, he is responding by moving more and more to the right. He has shifted from sounding the dog-whistle on race issues, to making bald-faced segregationist and racist statements.
Now is the moment for educators across the country to stand up for equality and denounce this attack on curriculum and racial equity movements. This is one of those moments where silence is empowering the oppressor. By allowing this rhetoric to continue unchecked, bigots and racists have become even more emboldened. We cannot afford to leave this fight to only those that might be directly affected by these threats. This is a movement, by the government, to suppress and marginalize speech and thought that seeks to repair the harm done by centuries of racism and subjugation. If we allow this type of suppression, we will have failed not only in the battle for race equity in this country, but also in the battle for what is enshrined in the Bill of Rights and the 13th and 14th Amendments to the Constitution.
The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people, but the silence over that by the good people.
-Martin Luther King Jr.