CNN’s Maegan Vazquez Defends Racially Divisive Curriculum

“By turning to bitterness and judgment, distorted histories of those like Howard Zinn or the journalists behind the ‘1619 Project’ have prevented their students from learning to think inductively with a rich repository of cultural, historical, and literary referents.” — The 1776 Report 

CNN has become an obvious propaganda organ for the woke agenda of the corporate oligarchy. Maegan Vazquez’s January 18, 2021 article, filed under “Politics,” “Trump administration issues racist school curriculum report on MLK day,” could not be more illustrative of that fact.

Vazquez writes, “A commission stood up by President Trump as a rebuttal to schools applying a more accurate history curriculum around slavery in the US issued its inflammatory report on Monday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day.” I blogged about antiracism curriculum in “California Moves Ahead with Divisive Antiracism Curriculum” on September 22, 2020. Vazquez’ assertion of greater accuracy is inaccurate.

To read the Trump commission report, click here: The 1776 Report. The New York Times has attempted to to confuse the public with its own headline, “Trump’s 1776 Commission Critiques Liberalism in Report Derided by Historians.” In fact, the report is a defense of liberalism, not a critique of it. The New York Times continues its habit of conflating liberalism with illiberalism on the left. (One of my favorite historians, Victor Davis Hanson, sat on the commission.)

Vazquez and The New York Times are, of course, talking about fellow journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones’ The 1619 Project which, as several historians have pointed out (Victoria Bynum, James McPherson, James Oakes, Sean Wilentz, and Gordon Wood), is chock full of falsehood and misrepresentation. At first, the editor of The New York Times Magazine lamely said it wasn’t those things and refused for months to issue any corrections. When he finally relented, his corrections were accompanied by unacknowledged changes revising problematic aspects of the argument.

Announcing the 1619 Project by its accolade “Pulitzer Prize-winning” doesn’t save it. Indeed, awarding shoddy scholarship only casts disrepute on the prize. Trump characterized the 1619 Project as “toxic propaganda.” I don’t like the word “toxic” attached to such matters. Toxic or not, the 1619 project is propaganda. 

Nor does going after members of the president’s commission save Vazquez’s rant. She writes, “The commission’s vice chair, Carol Swain, once wrote that Islam “poses an absolute danger to us and our children.” The article in question, Charlie Hebdo attacks prove critics were right about Islam,” can be found here. Vazquez quotes Swain as if she were some hack. Swain, a black woman, a single mother, earning a GED while working as a cashier at McDonald’s, obtained a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and, before finishing her career as full professor at Vanderbilt, earned tenure at Princeton.

I blogged about the 1619 Project in “The Elite Obsession with Race Reveals a Project to Divide the Working Class and Dismantle the American Republic” on July 5, 2020, the day after my July 4 Podcast “The FAR Podcast Episode # 21 Marx and Americanism: From One Revolutionary to Another.” I again blogged about it on July 16, 2020: “Truth in the Face of the 1619 Project.” That blog contains links to Glenn Loury and John McWhorter’s excellent two-part discussion of the project. 

Trump established the 1776 Commission last fall in response to the Black Lives Matter protests that disrupted cities across the nation. Trump blamed anti-racist school curriculum for the violence that routinely followed the protests, claiming that “the left-wing rioting and mayhem are the direct result of decades of left-wing indoctrination in our schools.” I blogged about this extensively, so surf the table of contents of Freedom and Reason.

The president was right. Motive for the protests and riots were clearly articulated in rhetoric uttered by the protestors and rioters. The content of slogans and arguments indicated that BLM was guided by the New Left ideology that has become standard in American universities. I know. I’m a professor of sociology who teaches in a program called Democracy and Justice Studies. I teach, among other things, race and ethnic relations. Critical race theory and identity politics are ubiquitous in the programming.

“Trump’s presidency has been marked by his racist statements and actions,” Vazquez asserts in her article, providing only one alleged example, “his incitement of a mob, which included White supremacists, to storm the US Capitol on January 6 in protest of Biden’s victory.” But Trump didn’t incite the mob that stormed the White House. His speech was an impassioned call for peaceful demonstrations (the text of his speech will be his best defense if his impeachment ever goes to trial). What is more, the timeline of events makes it impossible for Trump to have incited the riot whatever the content of his speech. The presence of white supremacists anywhere has no bearing on Trump. Trump isn’t responsible for white supremacy. He has denounced white supremacy more than any president alive or dead.

Vazquez reports that the “White House statement calls the report ‘a dispositive rebuttal of reckless “re-education” attempts that seek to reframe American history around the idea that the United States is not an exceptional country but an evil one.’” This is indeed the message of antiracism and the work of diversity training (see For the Good of Your Soul: Tribal Stigma and the God of Reparations; The Church of Woke: A Moment of Reckoning for White Christians?) “Americans are deeply divided about the meaning of their country, its history, and how it should be governed”—She quotes this from the report as if Trump is the author of this deep divide.   

Vazquez flips obvious truths like this throughout her article. “The report’s authors also argue that ‘the Civil Rights Movement was almost immediately turned to programs that ran counter to the lofty ideals of the founders,’ specifically criticizing affirmative action policies.” She then quotes this powerful passage from the report: “Today, far from a regime of equal natural rights for equal citizens, enforced by the equal application of law, we have moved toward a system of explicit group privilege that, in the name of ‘social justice,’ demands equal results and explicitly sorts citizens into ‘protected classes’ based on race and other demographic categories.” Is tat note the point of equity. The 1776 Report continues, “Eventually this regime of formal inequality would come to be known as ‘identity politics.’” Identity politics are “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.’”  

Vazquez habit of quoting from the report as if it invalidates itself continues throughout: “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.” Identity politics, the report contends, makes “a mockery of equality with an ever-changing scale of special privileges on the basis of racial and sexual identities.”

The report contend that universities are “hotbeds of anti-Americanism, libel, and censorship that combine to generate in students and in the broader culture at the very least disdain and at worst outright hatred for this country.” It recommends that “states and school districts…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.” It desires that teachers “convey a sense of enlightened patriotism that equips each generation with a knowledge of America’s founding principles, a deep reverence for their liberties, and a profound love of their country.”

I relied on Vazquez for the quoted passages. However, I have read the 1776 Report. The section on progressivism (pages 12-13) is especially good. The progressive belief that the foundational truths of the republic are relative only to their own time anticipates postmodern epistemology and obviates in principle the need to adhere to the founding documents. Of course, as an atheist, I do not subscribe to the faith elements articulated by the authors. At the same time, attempting to deny that the Christian faith played a significant role in the founding and development of the republic would be absurd. Thankfully, one of the founding principles of the republic was secularism.

As for accusations in other media sources that the report excuses slavery, it is true that slavery is not “a uniquely American evil” and it is important that “the institution be seen in a much broader perspective.” It is a matter of historical facts that the United States was founded in the context of world slavery, the US Constitution abolished the slave trade, and chattel slavery itself was abolished within a century of the country’s founding. Also, I am seeing the claim that the report justifies the compromise that counts black people as three-fifths of a person. But the compromise does not count black people as three-fifths of a person. That is a misrepresentation of the compromise. For purposes of determining the number of representatives for each state in the House (and direct taxes), the compromise was that the government would count only three-fifths of slaves (not all of them from the Southern states). Free blacks, of which there were tens of thousands, were counted on par with whites. It was not about race but about servitude. What is rarely acknowledged is that the Constitution avoids affirming the legitimacy of property in persons. As we know from Madison’s notes, this was intentional.

Vazquez ends her article by reassuring the reader: “The commission does not have authority to enforce the recommendations it has made for educators.”

All that for nothing?

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Andrew Austin

Andrew Austin is on the faculty of Democracy and Justice Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay. He has published numerous articles, essays, and reviews in books, encyclopedia, journals, and newspapers.

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