Posted on May 15, 2020

Why Right-Wingers Are Waging the War of ‘1619’

Will Bunch, Philadelphia Inquirer, May 12, 2020

Why conservatives can’t handle the truth of a Pulitzer and 401 years of U.S. racism

If only Ida B. Wells had lived to see this. Wells, born into slavery in 1862, won a posthumous Pulitzer Prize last week for her courageous anti-lynching journalism at the turn of the 20th Century. Fittingly, her citation was awarded on the same day that the New York Times’ Nikole Hannah-Jones – who pays tribute on Twitter by calling herself “Ida Bae Wells” (and launched a foundation in honor of the real Wells) – took home the 2020 Pulitzer for commentary on the same day, for her searing essay that launched the New York Times’ 1619 Project.

I couldn’t agree more with the judges who found Hannah-Jones’ piece challenged readers to think about U.S. history in a radically new way – to see the arrival of the first slave ship on American soil as foundational to who we are today as what happened here in Philadelphia in 1776 or 1787. Yet remarkably, there were a lot of conservative and right-wing commentators and even some pols who – in a week with coronavirus deaths soaring toward 80,000 and the highest U.S. unemployment rate ever recorded – found no more important project than trying to take The 1619 Project down.

I won’t even address some of the more extremist types who weighed in, but comes now the more respectable, bow-tied George Will, who’s expanded his fan base with the stunning realization that President Trump might not be ticketed for Mt. Rushmore and who himself won the commentary Pulitzer in 1977. Yet Will, too, seems convinced that swatting at tiny gnats will somehow take down the elephant in the room: That a strain of white supremacy has infected too much of what we do as a nation, and still does.


{snip} Racism influenced our Constitution, undid the brief progress of post-Civil War Reconstruction, and animates today’s conservative backlash.