I spent a day with Washington Post columnist Gary Abernathy at Messiah College right before the pandemic hit. Read about it here.
Since then I have read him regularly. His recent column on critical race theory is worth your time. Here is a taste:
It would be better for the proponents of CRT to further minimize the notion of overt racism and focus more on the embedded unfairness that is often difficult for White people to recognize. Doing so would help overcome a natural resistance among millions of White Americans who (a) know they are not racists and (b) are not going to support any curriculum that suggests that they are.
In other words, White people may well admit that bias and prejudice are built into the system, as long as they’re not blamed for a foundation that was laid long before they were born.
What also scuttles CRT for many is the suggestion that it should supplant established history in significant ways. Such was the takeaway from the New York Times Magazine’s “1619 Project,” a 2019 series led by staff writer Nikole Hannah-Jones that argued that the United States was born not in 1776 but, rather, 157 years earlier when the first enslaved people were brought to the Virginia colony.
The book drawn from the series “softens some of the edges of the prior magazine collection,” writes Post critic Carlos Lozada, continuing a trend already afoot, such as in a follow-up article 14 months after the original series appeared wherein Jake Silverstein, the magazine’s editor, clarified that suggesting 1619 as the nation’s birth year was intended as a “metaphor.” That’s good.
Our founders — the ones we traditionally recognize — were brilliant but imperfect people. Many were enslavers. But their moral failings, especially viewed through a 21st-century prism, should not banish them from the hallowed pages of history. It’s right, however, to identify and teach that the architectural, economic and intellectual contributions of Black Americans, both enslaved and free, qualify them as our founding fathers and mothers, too.
Many conservatives pride themselves on being grounded in logic rather than emotion. Logic dictates that something as historically obvious as the impact of slave labor on the success of our nation should be acknowledged and more comprehensively taught, along with the fact that our legal, governmental and economic institutions were crafted, intentionally or otherwise, to favor White people.
It’s often suggested that White Americans owe something to Black Americans, or that White people should live with guilt over their “White privilege.” But White privilege is not a privilege at all. It’s the range of opportunities that are promised to all Americans. When we fall short of delivering on that promise, it’s incumbent not just on White Americans but on the United States as a nation — as an institution — to rectify that imbalance. That’s why I have argued in favor of reparations for descendants of enslaved people.
Critical race theory should be welcomed in schools to the degree that it introduces the overlooked contributions of African Americans and the institutional racism that has existed since our nation’s founding — within a curriculum that stops short of sermonizing to today’s White Americans or force-feeding politically driven solutions.
Read the entire column here.
I realize that most ordinary Americans will not see the difference, but critical race theory and the 1619 Project are slightly different things. One (CRT) is a way of thinking about systemic racism in America. The other (1619 Project) is a claim about the founding of America and the ideas that drove it.
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