MOSES: Threat to defund schools implementing 1619 Project detrimental

President+Donald+Trump+gives+speech+in+front+of+crowd+at+a+Prescott+Valley%2C+Arizona+rally+Oct.+4%2C+2016.+Photo+via+Flickr+

President Donald Trump gives speech in front of crowd at a Prescott Valley, Arizona rally Oct. 4, 2016. Photo via Flickr

President Donald Trump’s threat to defund schools implementing the 1619 Project is a divisive tactic that proves to be a threat to America.

The 1619 Project is an ongoing initiative started by the New York Times Magazine beginning in August 2019, the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It aims to place the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the very center of our country’s narrative, and historians, of course, have been bringing slavery to the center of the American story for a long time — more than half a century.

There is an unwillingness to address the role of slavery in the founding of our nation in schools. The 1619 Project confronts this by exposing the falsehoods surrounding slavery and emphasizing that the principles of slavery are saturated into the DNA of our country. The inaccurate teaching and whitewashing especially when it comes to slavery, has contributed to the injustices facing our communities today.

The 1619 Project has been scrutinized, many historians and critics calling it “anti-American,” but I disagree. It is more nationalistic to confront the realities of slavery and its existence in our country today than to ignore it. If an individual cares about their country, one would care that our country is being torn apart for efforts to address slavery and its lasting effects.

Generations of children are being spared the terrible reality of slavery, but slowly more schools are implementing the 1619 Project into their curriculum, such as looking at less obvious consequences of slavery like “how plantation economics led to modern corporate, capitalist culture,” according to NPR.

School districts in Chicago, Illinois, Washington D.C., and Buffalo, New York have decided to update their history curricula to include the material, which posits that the institution of slavery was so embedded in the country’s DNA that America’s true founding could be said to have occurred in 1619, rather than in 1776. Buffalo teachers and administrators have already begun studying the 1619 material so they can implement it into their curriculums.

Though Trump originally tweeted Sept. 6 about defunding states like California for implementing 1619 Project curriculum, he fails to realize that many schools across the nation have already built their curriculum around the realities of slavery.

The unfortunate part about this entire issue is that the teaching of accurate history is controversial. It frightens me that our nation deals with a major inability to address the evil origins of our country. I am, however, more frightened that the American people have become numb to the what President Trump has been saying and how his words negatively affect our democracy.

Truth be told, history is messy and complex, but that does not mean we should shy away from it as Trump is inclined to do.

Though Trump’s threats are empty, seeing as he does not have the power to defund schools, he represents what America has always been: those in power suppressing the truth. But if we are looking to “Make America Great Again,” maybe we should start with acknowledging that maybe America was never great to begin with and go from there.

This story was written by Hope Moses. She can be reached at hope.moses@marquette.edu.