Washington Post Essay by Malinda Maynor Lowery
Tom Cotton wants to save American history. But he gets it all wrong.
by Dr. Malinda Maynor Lowery
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) recently proposed “saving American history” by refusing to tell the truth about our past. His legislation would limit federal education funds for schools adopting or adapting the New York Times’s “1619 Project” in history courses. To justify his objection to truth-telling, Cotton claimed he was honoring the Founding Fathers’ view of slavery as a “necessary evil.” As the coronavirus pandemic worsens and protests continue across the country over racial injustice, Cotton is proposing both bad history and bad policy.
Cotton’s remarks and his proposal to revise history obscure the violence, death and displacement that slavery caused in both Black and Indigenous communities. Reclaiming shared histories that are forgotten or misremembered is essential to the success of systemic reform. Too often, we discuss Black and Indigenous histories separately, when in fact an honest reckoning with American history demands recognizing the shared history of slavery and the other structural forces that have shaped and constrained both groups. Filling incomplete narratives of the past requires amplifying the voices and experiences of Black and Indigenous communities.