Sorry, Mitch, History Doesn’t Work Like That. Be Assured Your Sins Will Find You Out.

Last week, Senate MINORITY Leader Mitch McConnell held a press conference after he toured the Regional Biocontainment Lab at UofL. During the press conference, McConnell spoke about the 1619 Project. The year 1619 is a pivotal year for the United States because it was the year Africans were first brought to the colony of Virginia, beginning the worst crimes against humanity and America’s original sin. McConnell stated, “I think this is about American history and the most important dates in American history. And my view — and I think most Americans think — dates like the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Civil War are sort of the basic tenets of American history. There are a lot of exotic notions about what are the most important points in American history. I simply disagree with the notion that The New York Times laid out there that the year was one of those years. I think that issue that we all are concerned about — racial discrimination — it was our original sin. We’ve been working for 200-and-some-odd years to get past it. We’re still working on it, and I just simply don’t think that’s part of the core underpinning of what American civic education ought to be about.”

While Mitch’s comments shocked some, I was not shocked at all. Many white people think just like Mitch. They think you just “get past” slavery. They want to treat history like a buffet, skipping over the items that do not appeal to them and only dining on the parts of history that they enjoy. Many white people only like the pieces of history where they are painted as the victor or the benevolent white people coming to “save the savages from themselves.” They only want the parts of history that paint them in the best light. But history doesn’t work like that. You don’t get to cling to the parts you love and skip over the parts you don’t. Reading his comments, I wonder how the Civil War was seen as a pivotal moment in history but not the beginning of slavery? You do not have a Civil War without slavery. However, Mitch wants to skip over slavery and get to the Civil War part because many white people fought in the Civil War, and he can point to that and say, “See. See how good we are.” He wants to gloss over the part that LED to the Civil War. But history doesn’t work like that. To understand this nation, you must take in the totality of everything that made America what it is today, and the foundation of that is the year 1619 when the privateer The White Lion brought 20 Africans ashore to Jamestown, Virginia.

However, I understand Mitch’s desire to just skip over slavery. If I was directly related to slaveowners, I might want to skip over that part too, Mitch. Two of McConnell’s great-great-grandfathers, James McConnell and Richard Daley, owned at least 14 slaves in Limestone Country, Alabama. All but two of them were Black women. So perhaps Mitch wants to just skip over slavery because he is directly related to those that enslaved people. Perhaps Mitch is opposed to reparations because he may have to give up some of this family’s ill-gotten gains.

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