The 1619 Project: A “patriotism not of hagiography but of struggle”


Over at Boston Review, Princeton graduate student David Walsh wonders why the conservative view of “patriotism” is so “fragile.”  He comes up with three reasons for this:

  1. The conservative propensity for “viewing freedom and equality as incompatible.”
  2. Conservatives are invested in the “explicitly racist power arrangements that the 1619 Protect criticizes.
  3. Conservatives “revere history as a source of  incontestable authority, as opposed to a storehouse of fallible human experience.”

Read the entire piece here.

3 thoughts on “The 1619 Project: A “patriotism not of hagiography but of struggle”

  1. Conservatives, almost by definition, are, indeed, invested in, if not resurrecting the nation’s white supremacist past, than in feeling a certain nostalgia for it and in honoring it.

    Take as an obvious example their efforts to defend statues erected to white supremacist terrorists and traitors who attacked America in the 1860s. Why are they so worked up about that? They say they want to acknowledge our history, and these statues are needed to do that. But that’s clearly not the case: We don’t raise a statue–let alone hundreds of them–to just anyone who did something worthy of remembrance. We raise statues to honor people, causes, and ideas that we admire.

    The history that is regarded with nostalgia by these folk is the history of a scociety where violently defending an explicitly white supremacist social arrangement wasn’t considered disqualifying for public honors.


  2. I do think much of the conservative challenging of the 1619 material is rooted in a misunderstanding of “centering.” Post-modernism doesn’t believe in a single center to start with, and the perfectly honorable part of the angle these essays are taking is to say “let’s try doing American history centering 1619 and the role of slavery, instead of centering 1620 and Bradford & the Mayflower Compact, or centering on 1607 and John Smith & Pocahontas.” I was thinking as I read the essays how you could by the same rights construct a series of essays centering on Native American genocide and resistance and reaction. But too many conservatives seem to think if you try another center you’re proposing a permanent non-negotiable re-location of the core of American identity to the slave block, and that’s not what post-modernism means by centering . . . it’s more a process of trying on a variety of identities and seeing what each suit of clothes tells you about yourself.


  3. Here is the entirety of Mr. Walsh’s evidence for his calumny that conservatives are invested in “explicitly racist power arrangements”: (Aside: I’d love to read his list identifying what those explicitly racist power arrangements are in 2019 America.)

    1. Newt Gingrich represented a suburban district outside Atlanta that benefited from “transit-segregation” (whatever that means).
    2. Newt Gingrich’s 1971 dissertation supported Belgian colonialism.
    3. Ronald Reagan made racist statements about African nations.
    4. Bill Buckley defended segregation in 1957, for which he later — by 1965 — recanted and apologized. I guess Exalted Cyclops Robert Byrd gets to evolve; Bill Buckley and his views are frozen in amber (and are thus handily representative of conservatism’s explicit embrace of racism, writ large).


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