Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a day for us to remember the man who promoted peace and equality in the face of adversity, and committed himself to peaceful demonstrations. It is a day for us to reflect on his vision of living in equality, and to honor the sacrifices he, and many other civil rights activists, made. It is not a day to stir up hatred and undermine the goal of the Civil Rights Movement — especially if you are Donald Trump, who was impeached for the second time last week for encouraging white supremacists to storm the Capitol, then applauding their efforts in doing so. On Jan. 18, the Trump administration continued to prove that it is an administration filled with racist white supremacists who play the victim when things do not go their way. As if it isn’t enough to attack our democracy, President Trump has continually undermined the experiences of minorities in the United States behind the shield of “patriotism.” However, the fact that the “1776 Commission” report was released to the public on MLK Day shows us the true intention behind the making of it.
This joke of a report was created to rebuke the Pulitzer-Prize winning project, the 1619 Project by the New York Times Magazine, which was created to educate American students about slavery and the contributions of Black Americans. However, Trump viewed the project as “toxic propaganda” and, according to the New York Times, states that it makes it seem like our country was founded on “oppression, not freedom.” If there is one thing Trump has right, it is that our country was founded on freedom — from the rule of the British, though, not from the chains of slavery. The 1776 commission report claims recent historical revisionism is only highlighting the “sins of our ancestors,” and that slavery was an “unfortunate reality” around the world at the time, not just an American evil. Yet, slavery isn’t and shouldn’t be considered simply an “unfortunate reality” of the time. It was barbaric and inhumane. To not acknowledge that slavery was allowed in the land of the free is to erase the struggles these slaves faced in our own country.
There is also no denying that many of the founding fathers owned slaves as well, yet the report claims that they abhorred slavery. If that’s true, then why weren’t their slaves freed while they were still alive? Our founding fathers did, and sacrificed, much to create a democratic country, but just because we put them on a pedestal for it doesn’t mean they did not have their flaws. I acknowledge that President George Washington owned over 100 slaves and that he also led the continental army to victory in the American Revolution. I also acknowledge that President Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence and endorsed the end of the slave trade while at the same time owning more than 600 slaves. To act like the founding fathers having slaves while preaching freedom and equality shouldn’t be a big deal, is ignorant. We should not silence the voices or ignore the presence of slaves working at the properties of our founding fathers. Every one of their stories have been silenced for centuries, and only now are we open to hearing their stories. Their experiences are not to be shunned, but, instead, acknowledged.
It is clear this report is also meant to attack liberals and progressives, making this a political issue, though it shouldn’t even be an issue in the first place. The report even compared American liberals to Italian fascist leader Benito Mussolini as they seek to “centralize power under the management of so-called experts.” First of all, if Trump wants to know what a fascist looks like, he can look at a mirror. Before he starts throwing around the phrase “so-called experts” at liberals, he needs to take a good look at his “1776 commission,” which was formed last September as a response to the Black Lives Matter protests. His commission is made up of a bunch of conservative bigots, and not one professional historian of the United States. The 1776 commission report doesn’t even have any scholarly citations within the report to back up their claims. Seems like it’s Trump who is the one trying to centralize power under the direction of his “so-called experts.”
Trump also claims that “the left-wing rioting and mayhem are the direct result of decades of left-wing indoctrination in our schools.” Well, from what I can see, right-wing rioting and mayhem are the direct result of four years of lies and misinformation spread by our very own president. Violence is never the answer, but to say the riots last summer were a result of having an education acknowledging the racism that plagues this country throughout history is just plain stupid. Has he ever thought that there are people who are just tired and frustrated of not receiving justice because of the color of their skin? Apparently, he hasn’t, because he is pushing for an ignorant “pro-American” curriculum. In other words, Trump just wants to ignore the ugly history of the U.S. and make it seem like it is the greatest country in the world. He forgets that the U.S. is also made up of many different minority groups, whose experiences are deeply tied to that ugly history. Or maybe he didn’t, but figured gaslighting will make everyone else forget.
The report states:
“A radical women’s liberation movement reimagined America as a patriarchal system, asserting that every woman is a victim of oppression by men. The Black Power and black nationalist movements reimagined America as a white supremacist regime. Meanwhile, other activists constructed artificial groupings to further divide Americans by race, creating new categories like ‘Asian American’ and ‘Hispanic’ to teach Americans to think of themselves in terms of group identities and to rouse various groups into politically cohesive bodies.”
According to this, almost every minority group is just imagining the years of oppression that they have faced. The report also claims that “identity politics” is the cause of it, in which citizens are sorted into “protective classes based on race and other demographic categories,” which creates a system of “explicit group privilege.” If the “radical” women’s liberation movement was just reimagining the U.S. as a patriarchal system, then why weren’t women allowed to vote until 1920, about 144 years after the country was founded? Why do women still earn about 89 cents for every dollar a man makes? If Black people were just reimagining the U.S. as a white supremacist regime, then why, even after the 14th and 15th Amendments, was it so hard for Black people to vote? Why did it take until 1965, a bit over 100 years after slaves were freed, to make it possible for Black people to vote?
The report goes even further to state students are being taught about how “claims” of systemic racism can only be fixed through more discrimination, referring to the affirmative action policy. Systemic racism is not a claim, but a fact. One only needs to look at the Capitol riots and compare the police response then to the response at the BLM protests. This statement completely brushes aside the experiences of many at the hands of systemic racism. Additionally, the intention behind affirmative action is to bring diversity to fields that have been filled, primarily, with white men — which is practically every field. It is meant to bring opportunities to those who have the talent and/or potential, but wouldn’t have otherwise been considered, due to systemic racism. So please, Mr. President, stop claiming discrimination and inequality when you, yourself, have been blatantly racist and prejudiced against others.
As if it isn’t bad enough to have this trash released to the public on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the report says that the Civil Rights Movement turned to programs that were against the ideals of the founders. It also added that the movement evolved into “identity politics” and “teaches that America itself is to blame for oppression,” which is “the opposite of King’s hope that his children would ‘live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.’” How dare they practically spit on the sacrifices MLK and other civil rights activists made in order to ensure equal rights for all, on the very day we celebrate a prominent civil rights leader? How dare they also attempt to use Dr. King’s words to justify their blatant bias and prejudice? This is toxic propaganda that further proves that racism and oppression is very much real in the U.S., and not going away anytime soon. The report states that today’s ideological divisions are similar to that of the Civil War. Finally, something I can agree with — and we all know which side Trump and his supporters are on, if the Trump supporter holding the Confederate flag while storming into the Capitol is any indication.
The racist report also recommends that school districts should “reject any curriculum that promotes one-sided partisan opinions, activist propaganda, or factional ideologies that demean America’s heritage, dishonor our heroes, or deny our principles.” In other words, school districts really should reject this 1776 commission report, as it clearly holds one-sided partisan opinions without any scholarly citations to back it up. This very report demeans the U.S.’s heritage as a country that moves forward against the wills of white supremacists, dishonors heroes — such as the civil rights leaders — and denies our principles as a free country that should not be held down by racism. But, we will not be discouraged. Martin Luther King Jr. once said “I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.”
Featured Image: Courtesy of Los Angeles Times