The year of 2020 has been a political whirlwind and has even caused Americans to question the very origins of our great nation.
The presence of slavery in our historical past does not negate all else that was established and the new nation that was forged from small beginnings that would spark a War of Independence between the budding colonies and the formidable Kingdom of Great Britain.
As bleak as some elements of history are, they cannot be rewritten and uprooted because this encapsulates the assumption that the inherent evil ties of slavery in our country apply to everyone. There is no doubt that racism and prejudice will always exist because America is not perfect, but its institutions do not set out to discriminate and neither do its laws. Our rights as equal citizens are protected legally under the Constitution and are spelled out in the Declaration of Independence and although not legally binding, it still holds power.
Despite the impression that the media has made in recent times following the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests, our country was not solely founded on the aspect of slavery. Forming judgements about the past based on present standards only triggers great discord and unforeseen consequences when we, as Americans, are made to abhor the very country that we reside in. To say that we have not progressed as a nation in this way from our initial beginnings is entirely false.
Commemorating other aspects of history, as seen by the 1619 Project, should not be looked down upon; however, allowing our history to essentially be rewritten will only spell disaster, which we have already previewed in recent times. If Americans, especially young Americans, knew the significance of what was established by our founders, there would not be such a hasty effort to dismiss it in its entirety.
This begs the question of what comes next in the future and how our history as a nation is presented not only in schools, but throughout the rest of time. The New York Times itself directly states this and aims to reframe what led to our country’s founding by “placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative.” There is no dismissing the horrors and atrocities of slavery that were suffered by thousands of African Americans and the ripple effects that it produced but the 1619 Project begs the question: which part of history will we use to define everything that we stand for as Americans?
Our country is incomparable to others because of what we have become and what we stand for, which anyone who has traveled outside of the U.S. can attest to. We have the freedom of expression, to peacefully assemble and protest, to practice our religion of choice, voice our opinions through speech and the press, be seen as equal in the eyes of the government, the right to a fair trial, the freedom to travel, to vote, to start a business, to access information, and the list goes on. Americans take for granted the basic rights that we exercise as citizens day in and day out. With that said, I implore Americans, especially young Americans, to not allow past ties with slavery to override and overshadow our country of freedom and opportunity that our founders labored to provide for us today. As said by David Webb, “our skin is an organ. It does not think, it does not formulate ideas, it is merely the genetic result of our parents. Our ability to use our brain in a free society such as in Americans is why we have overturned the blight and the negative aftermath that began with colonial slavery.”