Opinion: The 1865 Project – Anthony Bryan

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The movement looked like a crusade, but a crusade which is the only one in history. It was not a union of different countries and races under religious inspiration against a common enemy; it was conducted by men of the same race against others of the same race, within a common country, and yet for the benefit of a different race. —Peter Joseph Hamilton, History of North America, Vol. 16; The rebuilding period, p. 12.

In 2019, the New York Times Review published a series of articles on the topic that America’s true birth date was 1619. The centerpiece of this Project 1619 series, titled “The Idea of ​​America,” argues that the arrival of enslaved Africans in the Virginia Bay Colony was the beginning of everything that was, and is, essential to the United States. The author further asserts that black people deserve recognition for almost all of America’s accomplishments and positive attributes. “America simply wouldn’t exist without us,” she said. A number of articles by other black writers follow in the same vein, finding links between slavery and all sorts of modern practices, including the use of Excel spreadsheets.

The Project 1619 is a more detailed version of the “we built this country” claim, and it is rooted in the same solipsism and outrage that drives most black political and cultural commentary. Giving black people credit for America’s achievements is like giving a hospital janitor credit for a successful heart transplant. In healthy times, the Project 1619 would be distributed in the form of a brochure on street corners. But we don’t live in sane times, thanks to white liberals. It was their policy of gullibility and indulgence in black grievances that gave Project 1619 prominence in elite circles and mainstream media, and makes it an addition to school curricula.

Some academic historians, including some on the left, have bravely taken up the cause of challenging the Project 1619assertions of and did he verify that the publishers at the New York Times Review doesn’t. But the 1619ers have mostly ignored factual errors. Their mission was to advance a white guilt agenda, and they weren’t going to be deterred by details. Although the fact checkers were right historicallythey missed the forest for the trees assuming the Project 1619 was about historical scholarship instead of racial revanchism.

A number of other efforts have been undertaken to counter claims that slavery is the essence of America. The 1620 draft, for example, held that it was the Mayflower Compact that laid the groundwork for the American form of government, but most of the others dated America to the year 1776 and the declaration of independence. President Donald Trump created an advisory commission in 1776; a Project 1776 Political Action Committee raised over $2 million; black conservatives created the 1776 Unites project; and Hillsdale College offered a 1776 curriculum. The premise was generally that the principles of freedom and self-government are what truly define America.

There are three consistent rhetorical patterns in the 1776 approach. The first is to denounce slavery and racism. The second is to quote the words “all men are created equal” from the Declaration of Independence. Although Thomas Jefferson would surely delete this line if he could see what it produced, and although it is patently false, it is repeated again and again as proof that America is of goodwill and noble heart. The third is to quote Martin Luther King, Jr.: “We should judge people by the content of their character.” Mainstream conservatives, especially white people, love this phrase and often invoke MLK’s “dream” to claim that liberals are the “real racists” because of their wry refrains and support for affirmative action, quotas , etc.

The Republican call for color-blind civic nationalism is no match for the vengeful emotivity of the Project 1619. But this asymmetry is typical of racial discussions in America – black people, with the support of liberal white people, aggressively push any argument or policy that benefits them, while “MLK-Cons” respond with weak appeals to the Constitution and to universal principles.

The 1619ers have a point that the importation of Africans into North America and the resulting population of millions of blacks is a defining aspect of American history. And in many ways, 1619 is indeed more formative than 1776. When Americans take public transportation, attend public schools, and travel to the state fair, they feel the legacy of slavery more deeply than the legacy of the Constitutional Convention.

But more than just the presence of black people, what affects white Americans in 2022 is their relationship with blacks. And today’s black-white relations began, in a legal sense, after the Civil War. In 1865, after the bloody conflict ended, a “political cold war” began, in which white people attempted to determine what to do with the newly liberated black population. The 13th Amendment, officially outlawing slavery, was ratified in late 1865. Over the next five years, Republicans in Congress made further amendments to the Constitution to give blacks citizenship and the right to vote. , thus creating a new arrangement of American life. Since then, white elites in Washington DC have claimed for themselves the legal and moral authority to dictate the relationship between states and their citizens in the name of protecting black people and their post-1865 rights.

Freedmen voting in New Orleans, 1867

During Reconstruction, radical Republicans used their postwar dominance to impose their desired political and social arrangements on Southerners, barred them from governing themselves, returned their elected representatives to Congress, and used the military to s ensure they obeyed. It was a period of rule more in the tradition of European monarchs than in classical republicanism. It also marked the end of “America of 1776” and the beginning of what might be called “the 1865 project”.

Jefferson once said that slavery in America was like holding a wolf by the ears. Many early Americans opposed outright abolition precisely out of fear of the rampaging wolf. But after the Civil War, the zeal for “equality” and the zeal to punish the South took precedence over practical considerations of racial harmony and social cohesion. The political elites of the 1860s and 1870s did almost nothing to mitigate the possibility of conflict between whites and blacks. Or as WEB DuBois himself put it, “Thus black suffrage ended a civil war by beginning a race feud.”

The 1865 Project created a predictable backlash and animosity over the following decades in the South, and many blacks eventually headed north. Even then, “equality” remained elusive. So, in the 1950s and 1960s, a very white and very prosperous American elite decided once again to rebuild America in pursuit of racial equality. This time it would not only dictate the relationship between government and citizen, but also between businesses and customers and between whites and blacks.

Through more legislation and a series of Supreme Court rulings, these new radicals, now operating through the Democratic Party, strengthened the 1865 Project. Voter registration, hiring decisions, education and housing were all under federal jurisdiction to protect black people from discrimination. And, as in the 1860s, gunmen were brought in when white citizens showed too much defiance to resist these changes. Like the first, the second wave of the 1865 Project did not bring harmony or racial equality. In fact, in the years following the “civil rights movement,” race relations deteriorated, with rioting and an increase in violent crime.

The 1865 Project is the product of a certain type of white mind. Whether they are called radicals or bleeding-heart liberals or social justice warriors, the mentality is the same. These people see themselves as the hero of a fairy tale of good versus evil. They relish the opportunity to speak out on behalf of so-called oppressed black people. They never consider the concerns of white dissidents as legitimate or worthy of consideration, which justifies any form of restriction or sanction. Some even seem to be happy to humiliate less enlightened white people. Their intra-racial villainy fuels an appetite for “poetic justice,” whether it’s converting Jefferson Davis’ plantation into a post-war freedmen’s farm or melting down a 2021 Robert E. Lee statue and donate the metal to a black museum to build an “anti-racist” sculpture.

The 1865 draft is a set of legal restraints imposed on whites by other whites in order to bind them to an unhappy civic marriage with blacks. When the multiracial utopia doesn’t happen, the 1619s blame the persistence of racism while the 1776s and MLK-Cons say it’s because of “big government.” What hardly anyone will say is that the project is fundamentally flawed. It didn’t work and it won’t work. And the inability to recognize that makes everything worse.

In recent decades, the 1865 project has gotten even worse. It has gone from legislative action to cultural madness that insists on dictating personal behavior and speech in every facet of American life. From celebrating the first black person to do just about anything, to fat black women working as underwear models, to white people literally kneeling in the streets, this third phase of the 1865 Project has produced a constant carnival of absurdities and punishments. And as the proportion of white people in America continues to decline, the implications of this way of life become more powerful and more dire. The New York Times Reviewthe editor of had the nerve to add this note to the Project 1619“Maybe we can prepare for a fairer future.” But it is white people who must prepare for a future that will not be fair to them or their children – and act accordingly.


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