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Opinion: The 1619 Project and critical race theory rewrite history through the lens of ‘wokeness’

SHARE Opinion: The 1619 Project and critical race theory rewrite history through the lens of ‘wokeness’
The Founding Fathers pictured in this 1819 painting.

The Founding Fathers are shown signing the Declaration of Independence in this 1819 painting by John Turnbull. The push to include Critical Race Theory in schools in not a comprehensive view of American history, writes Utah Rep. Chris Stewart.

Wikimedia Commons

From Day 1 in office, President Joe Biden has instituted a wide variety of far-left legislation. This historically radical agenda sends an unfortunate message to the American people: Nothing is more important than the dictates of social-justice ideology. Apparently, that even includes the education of our kids. 

Last month, the Education Department proposed a rule that would repurpose the American history and civics education programs — longtime bipartisan projects — as a means of promoting a partisan, divisive agenda known as critical race theory. 

Many of my Republican colleagues in both the House and Senate have written letters to the department expressing their concern. Today, I write to express my grave concern as well. Utah’s educational system does not exist to rewrite history through the lens of wokeness. 

Driving this radical, perverse campaign is the “1619 Project.” This project seeks to “reframe the country’s history” by redefining the birth of our nation not as the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, but as 1619, the year slaves first arrived in North America. It characterizes our country as fundamentally racist, and its lead essayist insists “anti-black racism runs in the very DNA of this country.” This disruptive, inaccurate retelling of history is destructive to the teaching of our youth. 

Twelve renowned historians wrote a letter to The New York Times, which originally published the “1619 Project,” and stated that the “remedy for past historical oversights is not their replacement by modern oversights,” and that they are “troubled that these materials are now to become the basis of schools curriculums.”

One Pulitzer Prize-winning historian characterized the project as “so wrong in so many ways.” Another said that it presents an “unbalanced, one-sided account” that “left most of the history out.” Even the World Socialist Web Site called the project a “racist falsification” of our country’s history. America’s Department of Education cannot rightly prioritize a project with such resoundingly inaccurate research. 

The evil twin of the “1619 Project” is critical race theory. Thankfully, Utah’s parents seem to understand the dangers of this theory. One parent of five mixed-race children said, “We are creating this blame, shame and guilt. But people of color — that is victimizing us as well, making us seem like we are oppressed, like we are downtrodden or there is a reason we sat in the back of the classroom.” America is the land of equal opportunity for all, and this divisive, unscholarly teaching undermines that fundamental principle of our culture. 

In fact, critical race theorists explicitly reject equality. They promote equity – the redistribution of resources based on circumstance. Essentially, they are advocating for reformulated Marxism. To these neo-Marxists, equality provides “camouflage” for white supremacy and “the patriarchy.” Yes, that’s right. According to these theorists, the principle defended in the Constitution, as well as the reason we fought the Civil War, is racist. 

This movement does not do much to hide their underlying motives, either. Ibram X. Kendi, who directs the Center for Antiracist Research at Boston University, stated that “in order to be truly antiracist, you also have to be truly anti-capitalist.” In the words of Christopher Rufo, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute who is deeply familiar with this issue — identity is the means; Marxism is the end. 

Young Utahns deserve an understanding of civics and American history. That includes accurate, scholarly teaching of our successes and failures — not activist propaganda that solely focuses on our country’s past flaws. This only serves to split our nation. 

Fortunately, Utah’s great state leaders are aware of this educational poison. This is an issue that can’t be fixed at the federal level, and it is encouraging to see my friend, Gov. Spencer Cox, say that critical race theory will not be taught at Utah schools. 

America is the greatest force for good in human history. Let’s teach future generations of Utahns how that came to be — falls, triumphs and all — so that they can continue making progress.

Chris Stewart represents Utah’s 2nd Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.