I haven’t finished reading through the entirety of The 1619 Project so far (with more to come) but it appears to be an ambitious and useful endeavor by the New York Times. There’s a pdf in the layout of the hard copy available as well, if you find the web design as irritating as I do. I don’t endorse the whole thing—for one thing it’s a whole slew of different essays by different writers and is likely to be of uneven quality for that reason and for another as I said I haven’t finished reading it all yet—but it does seem to be a powerful and useful piece of public-interest journalism-history.
Unsurprisingly, there is a good deal of criticism from the political right. Ashley Feinberg’s Slate roundup is called Who Got the Maddest About the New York Times’ Slavery Coverage? which pretty much gives the idea: the conservative marketplace is competing for the title of most outraged. Again.
I was reminded, for some reason, of a different article from the New York Times Magazine fifteen years ago: Faith, Certainty and the Presidency of George W. Bush, by Ron Suskind. It took the headlines for the phrase about the reality-based community, but I thought it was notable for the line from Mark McKinnon about Times readers and not-Times readers. That whole article is worth re-reading, though, from this vantage point. Anyway, the point of that line was that all the non-Times-readers liked the President and didn’t like Ron Suskind and his ilk. With the implication that they understood that Ron Suskind and his ilk didn’t like them. There was the line drawn.
I hope the connection to this week’s sequence is obvious—a conservative marketplace persona wants to be seen by that marketplace as perceiving himself as attacked by the Times, and as responding to that attack with outrage and attack. I’m going to make another connection that’s a little more tenuous, so I’m asking for your patience and forbearance for a bit. OK?
So, back before the 2018 midterm, I listened to a very frustrating NPR piece that was about the Republican Party’s attempt to get the votes of Latinx-Americans. Much of the piece was focused on which policies were popular or unpopular within that community. It was well-researched and well put together, and it never mentioned racism in any way. It did not discuss the possibility that many Latinx-Americans will not vote for Republicans, not because of policy disagreement but because they believe that Republicans hate them and their families.
Why is the Party breakdown among American Jews so lopsided? Yes, American Jews tend to think of themselves as liberals and espouse liberal ideas, and to eschew the label conservative and its mindset, but why is that? Is it inherent in the siddur? I don’t think so. I think it’s in large part because the Republican Party seemed to be a welcome home for anti-Semites for decades. When one Party hates you and your family (or at least you perceive that they do) then you identify with the other one. And even more so with African-Americans in the post-Civil Rights Movement US. There have always been Republicans who aren’t racist (although it’s a little difficult to reconcile Conservatism to overthrowing racism) but since 1968 at least, one of the Parties has been a comfortable home for segregationists and white supremacists and it hasn’t been the Democrats.
This, by the way, is what was the matter with Kansas. Do y’all remember the perplexity in some circles about why people in the Plains seem vote against their economic self-interest? I suspect it was because they became convinced that the Democratic Party hated them and their families. Was this perception unfair? I mean, obviously I think so. If someone hates White Christians, or even White non-Coastal Christian Men, I would think that person would have been somewhat uncomfortable in Bill Clinton’s Democratic Party. But since that time, well, maybe there are some such haters in the tent, trying to take their turn. But whether it’s fair or not, the perception is tremendously important.
Which is why The 1619 Project seems to me to be such a spark for talking about Parties and race in this country. The NYT is trying to reframe or recontextualize our historical knowledge, which seems, on the one hand, to be a relatively objective journalistic enterprise. But the base of the Republican Party perceives that the NYT hates them, and so the marketplace that relies on that base responds to the series as an attack on them. But that marketplace is so tied to the actual Republican Party that much of the African-American community not only perceives that response as an attack on them but as evidence that the Republican Party hates them and their families.
And I don’t think you can cross those kinds of lines with appeals to policy.
Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,