The New York Times has given an incredible gift to the world this season and I hope they are richly rewarded for it. It is fashionable- and not entirely unjustified- to harshly critique The Times for its awkward management of the new realities of news media messaging during the unprecedented candidacy and presidency of Donald Trump. The Times has taken the public position that they report news and manage their editorial content based solely on two factors: truth and their own time-tested journalistic standards. That has not always gone well in the age of Trumpism but they have come quite close to a complete one-shot course correction with the 1619 Project. Although it is not always reliable to judge the merits of a matter by who supports or opposes it and the level of conviction of their positions, it holds up in this case. To wit: the fact that committed liars and craven charlatans like Newt Gingrich and Ted Cruz are attacking The Times for putting it out is proof enough that it is a work of high value.
It is very tempting to not give a damn what conservative commentators think. They have taught the world through their flagrant contradictions and shameless pandering that they cannot be taken seriously. But when the New York Times released its special collection of essays marking the 400 year anniversary of the onset of American slavery many conservative pundits lost what was left of their minds. Their hysteria over these maticulously resarched essays on American history, culture and economics is highly instructive. In fact it tells you everything you need to know about the current state of political discourse in America.
I will summarize the conservative objections to the 1619 Project in plain english: America should NOT pay any more attention slavery than it has already paid. America should NOT study or discuss this particular aspect of American history. Americans should continue to enjoy our blissful ignorance about the actual events that occurred surrounding America’s founding as well as the legacy of those events. That is actually all they can come up with. They just don’t want to hear about it or talk about it and they don’t want anyone else to either. So conservatives are the intellectual equivalent of Chris Tucker’s Smokey from the cult-classic film Friday asking “Man, why y’all bringin’ up old sh*t?”
Here is my challenge to anybody- and I mean ANYBODY- who has a problem with the 1619 Project: Read every essay in the collection and record every single false or misleading statement that you can identify. Then publish and publicize those false or misleading statements on every public communications platform you have access to. But do not just call out what you believe is false, you must also support what you hold to be true. In essence, I am challenging you on behalf of The Times editorial board to put up or shut up; either stand tall or sit the f**k down. If you do not have time to actually read the work then at least listen to it on the free New York Times podcast “The Daily.”
Anyone who is unwilling to read the essays or listen to them is unqualified to even engage a discussion. So to those people I say please, pretty-please, with sugar on top, just STFU. Rational discourse cannot be had with those who are willfully ignorant of the subject matter at hand so adding their two cents to the mix actually subtracts from the total value. Disagreements between informed individuals who are advancing divergent positions in good faith are constructive. But in this age of social media, knee-jerk reactions, click-bait and headline-head-fakes constructive debates are nearly extinct. The Times is giving America a chance to have such a dialogue about the state of racial affairs today by providing a foundation of facts for us to stand upon. We have been standing on a crooked foundation of mythologized lies for far too long and it is high time we out-grow that platform.
To be clear, I understand what conservatives are so deathly afraid of. This renewed in-depth review of the inseparable concomitants of slavery, racism and the rise of America as a world power can only lead in one direction: away from the general acceptance of the racial hierarchy and of the patriarchy that they are so deeply invested in. Of course that is scary to them. And perhaps they should be afraid of the unknown impact of a broad exposure of the corruption and hypocrisy of the mythologized “founding fathers” who claimed they valued freedom but were committed to a system of forced labor camps, sexual exploitation, human trafficking and white supremacy. So the Newt Gingriches of the world are on notice: The jig is up, boys. The world knows that “conservatism” is inextricably tied to institutionalized racism whether it openly exposes its savagery or wears the mask of civility. You “conservatives” are now going to wear the scars of our shared history just like the descendants of slaves have always had to wear them. Welcome to the world of inescapable and undeniable truth, fellas. And if that truth sets you free, then be sure you pay homage and thank The New York Times.