America is not a racist nation
Published November 16, 2023
Written by Jefferson
Photography by Simply American
Is America a nation founded on the principles of white supremacy?
The following is a look at Thomas Jefferson, the Declaration of Independence, and those attempting to rewrite history.
The 1619 Project, Ibram X Kendi, And The ACLU
The 1619 Project, Ibram X Kendi, and the ACLU are three loud voices working to convince us that America is a racist nation founded on the backs of slaves under the principles of white supremacy.
It would not be a stretch to say that each of these voices is teaching slightly different versions of Critical Race Theory. It is essential that we understand their arguments—and how they stack up against the words of Thomas Jefferson—so we can effectively shed light on the flaws in their reasoning.
Presently, their ideas have been incorporated into curriculum that influences young people from kindergarten through college. They are influencing society through their lectures and presentations. They are even influencing our laws through their work in the courtroom.
Below is a breakdown of the arguments of these three voices.
The 1619 Project is a historical analysis of how slavery shaped the political, social, and economic institutions of America. The analysis first appeared in 2019 as an article in the New York Times.
Author Nikole Hannah-Jones aimed to reframe American history by regarding 1619 as the nation’s birth year, rather than 1776. She further claimed in her writing that some colonists fought in the Revolutionary War to protect slavery.
“Slavery is a foundational institution.” —Nikole Hannah-Jones
Following the appearance of Hannah-Jones’ article, the 1619 Project entered curriculum used in high schools throughout the country.
Ibram X Kendi (born Ibram Henry Rogers) is a professor, historian, and the author of several books. His claim to fame is creating the term “antiracist,” which he defines as:
“In the most simplest way a not racist is a racist who is in denial and an antiracist is someone who is willing to admit the times in which they’re being racist and who is willing to recognize the inequities and racial problems of our society and who is willing to challenge those racial inequities by challenging policy.”
In other words, Kendi believes you are either an antiracist fighting for equal treatment of racial minorities, or you are a racist. The truth is that Kendi is making America hypersensitive to perceived racism.
Kendi unabashedly advocates for present day discrimination against white people because some of their ancestors may have discriminated against black people.
Slavery was wrong and discrimination is wrong.
But, telling groups of people living today that they are responsible for the actions of those who lived generations ago is equally wrong.
In his book, How to Be an Antiracist, Kendi writes: “The only remedy to racist discrimination is antiracist discrimination. The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination.”
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is an organization of attorneys that has historically fought to protect the rights of people. The ACLU stood up for Japanese Americans confined to internment camps during World War II, fought the ban on interracial marriage in 1967, and even defended the freedom of speech of a Nazi group that wanted to march through Chicago in 1978.
However, over the past few decades the ACLU has turned into an activist arm of progressives and the Democratic Party. Recently, the ACLU has been fighting for abortion rights, for laws that make elections less secure, and for the right of minors to seek irreversible transgender medical treatment.
In addition, the ACLU has joined in the debate to rewrite American history.
According to the ACLU, America was founded on white supremacy.
As evidence for this claim, the ACLU cites laws that stretch back to the 1600s:
1662: All children of those enslaved were made slaves
1667: Slaves who converted to Christianity were still slaves
1669: Slaves could be killed for resisting authority
1740: South Carolina passed a slave code with 57 provisions
1755: Georgia required all plantation owners and their employees to serve in the state militia which was responsible for enforcing slavery
The laws the ACLU cites as evidence of our “white supremacist founding” were enacted between 1662 and 1755. At that time the colonies were still under British rule.
These laws were the result of a British Empire that had shown no qualms with practicing slavery or indentured servitude. The British were following their established practices.
The Declaration of Independence was not written until 21 years after the last of those laws was enacted.
The Declaration Of Independence—How The First Draft Differs
Thomas Jefferson’s first draft of the Declaration of Independence was written in June of 1776 and presented to Congress the following month. In the first draft, Jefferson pointed to the evil of slavery as one of the reasons for breaking away from the British.
In an effort to seek compromises that would keep the fledgling states unified in their goal to overthrow the British, the original draft was edited into the Declaration of Independence we know today.
Understanding the reasoning behind the changes made to the original is important, as it gives insight into the immediate goals of the American Revolution and modifies current discourse in popular culture.
Our country considers its birth to be 1776, when the British were defeated during the Revolutionary War. At that time, slavery already was a well-established system run by the British—who made themselves enemies of the people who formed America.
In Jefferson’s first draft, he made it clear who he thought was to blame for the slave trade in the colonies: “his present majesty,” King George III of Great Britain.
Following is an excerpt from the original draft:
“[H]e has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life & liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. [T]his piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the Christian King of Great Britain. [D]etermined to keep open a market where MEN should be bought & sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce: and that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, by murdering the people upon whom he also obtruded them; thus paying off former crimes committed against the liberties of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another.”
As Jefferson wrote, this violation of human nature itself, this violation of the inherent and inalienable right of “liberty,” was forced upon the colonies by their British rulers.
After all, The White Lion, a ship owned by the British, brought the first slaves to the colonies in 1619.
In the final few sentences of the grievance against the king, Jefferson says “… [the king] is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, by murdering the people upon whom he also obtruded them; thus paying off former crimes committed against the liberties of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another.”
In other words, it was the British king who deprived slaves of their liberty and imposed the British institution of slavery on the colonists—most of whom did not want slavery to begin with.
As tensions between colonists and crown rose, the British king encouraged the slaves to rise up against the colonists, unconcerned that it was he who bore responsibility for allowing slavery to exist in the first place. In effect, according to Jefferson, the king was urging the slaves to hold a group of people responsible for his own actions.
Jefferson and our founders blamed the slave trade—and the evil of slavery coming to the New World—on the British. It was an offense so horrendous it was deemed worthy of being included as a reason to undertake a bloody revolution.
Kendi’s present-day advocacy for current and future discrimination against those who were not the ones who committed the past crimes, is essentially what Jefferson levied against the king as a reason for declaring independence and breaking away.
Kendi promotes returning to an old system we fought a revolution to get away from. Whether he realizes his argument is in line with the practices of the old slave-trading British Empire, is anyone’s guess. Regardless, it is antithetical to the ideals proposed and advocated for in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.
“De-colonization” is a buzzword used routinely by antiracists and adherents to ideologies such as Critical Race Theory. Kendi, by advocating for a return to the British Empire’s tactics, is attempting to re-colonize the US and discard the ideas of the founding fathers.
Likewise, the arguments of the 1619 Project and the ACLU—which claim that slavery and/or white supremacy were a part of America’s foundational documents—are disingenuous. It is hard to read the first draft of the Declaration of Independence and reach their conclusion.
Ending Slavery Was A Process
Putting an end to slavery was a process, like a divorce. When a married couple goes through a divorce, they divide their assets. As one person moves out, the couple’s physical separation happens more quickly than the resolution of assets and custody issues, which can linger for a generation after a divorce is finalized. In addition, many people experience an emotional grieving period that goes beyond the day the divorce is initiated or completed.
Similarly, ending slavery took time.
Jefferson’s grievance against slavery did not make it into the final draft of the Declaration of Independence, but including it in the first draft initiated a process which led to the abolition of slavery.
As war approached against the strongest military in the world, thirteen divided colonies did not stand a chance. Compromises had to be made in the name of unity in order to avoid annihilation. Not all colonies wanted to split from the British.
South Carolina and Georgia were strong supporters of slavery. To keep them from splitting or siding with the British, edits to the Declaration of Independence had to be made, culminating in Jefferson’s grievance against slavery being removed.
Another example of a concession taking place to win over the more British-sympathetic colonies centered on inalienable rights.
Jefferson’s original draft stated, “… from that equal creation they derive rights inalienable and inherent, among which are the preservation of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” This was changed to “… they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights…”
“Inalienable and inherent rights” was the wording in the original version. The compromise was to add the word “certain” in front of those inalienable and inherent rights to create unity by appeasing the more British-leaning colonies.
Interestingly, modern Americans understand the removal of the slavery objection watered down the Declaration of Independence and was done to uphold racist institutions. Rather, the removal was done because the more “American” colonies had to appease the more “British” colonies; without unity they could never have built a military force capable of winning a war.
Any remnants of slavery or white supremacy could be attributed to British roots which would slowly disappear over time. In effect, the colonies tabled the slave trade discussion. Later they made an agreement to potentially end the slave trade in 1808.
Was this perfect? No. But in order to form “a more perfect union,” compromises had to be made. “Perfect” is an unattainable goal, but the founding documents allowed for the progress that eventually did away with slavery altogether, at a faster rate than any other nation in history.
In 1808, President Thomas Jefferson, a slave owner, signed the act that abolished the slave trade.
A Nation Of Laws, Not Of Men
The 1619 Project, Kendi, and the ACLU are attempting to rewrite history. They are portraying American history in a way that better fits their narratives. In Kendi’s own words, he justifies present and future discrimination in the name of combating past discrimination.
It is essential that we, as Americans living today, understand these arguments so we can point out the flawed reasoning of the modern-day race hustlers.
Rather than radically transforming this nation in the name of misguided narratives, let’s instead refer to the founding documents. Let’s understand that no other country in history has a collection of documents that have secured the level of opportunity, liberty, and happiness as seen in these United States of America.
We are a nation of laws, not of men. Many of the men who played crucial roles in the founding of America were hypocritical and flawed. Greatness does not require perfection, and men are not perfect. We follow a set of laws and principles that protect us against those human flaws and allow for further progress toward a more perfect union.
Benjamin Franklin acknowledged the challenge of achieving such a union when he (was believed to have) said, “A republic, if you can keep it.”
“Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.” —George Orwell, 1984