The 1619 Project Centers Black Lives So Anti-Blackness Rears Its Head
From the last piece discussing the entitlement white people have to be included in Black women’s spaces, we now again come across people of color who feels that spaces for Black people’s history, excellence — anything that centers Black people is also unfair to them. They use the same white supremacist technique of whataboutism and combine it with the oppression olympics/erasure and, since they are people of color, not everyone will realize they are regurgitating white supremacy dogma.
The release of the 1619 Project focuses on the history of the U.S. through Black people on the 400th anniversary and it makes an insightful case that slavery founded the U.S and shaped aspects of this country that still exist today.
It’s a powerful, painful look at our stories and our pain.
Natalie Diaz, in a since deleted tweet, stated that ignoring the history of Indigenous democracy, which predated the U.S. founding, is erasure. Creator of the project, Nikole Hannah Jones replied to the tweet correctly countering that writing about the history of Black people does not detract from what Native people went through.
The project’s focus is on enslaved African descendants and the pivotal role they had in many aspects of this country’s formation.
Another individual said that we just can’t seem to let go of the Black-White binary.
Rather than binary, it is arguably a spectrum — dark to light. This is why anti-Blackness exists. White supremacy rewards white, white passing and lighter skin to varying degrees. The farther away you are from Black skin, the better treatment you receive in this society — as long as you also follow the white society rules. This is white supremacy/white privilege.
The hilarious and painful part is the utter lack of self-critique these people of color have. It leaves us questioning if we are in a different reality, because we see the internalized white supremacy coming out of them— yet they don’t.
The anti-Blackness/misogynoir that has people of color like Natalie Diaz resenting that they are not included in projects created by a Black women, written about Black people for Black people is why many make the distinction of Black people or people of color. It’s the tweet equivalent of Toni Morrison being asked why she doesn’t write white characters. It implies that focuses on Black people’s histories, particularly when done by Black people (because white people doing the same thing win awards and a heralded) is of lesser value.
With anti-Blackness/misogynoir Black women are expected to write and create outside of Black people’s experiences.
Why not just have a Native writer create a project detailing the history? That is also a project of value and people did ask Natalie Diaz why, instead of devaluing an important project about Black people’s journey, let it propel you to create/pitch a project that captures Native people’s journey?
Although there were some that agreed with Natalie’s claim of erasure there more people, including Native people, who supported the project and it’s creator and did not see it as erasure.
Those complaints give the impression that every time one marginalized group is the focus it is to the detriment of other groups because it is a spot and moment where they are not at the center is a white supremacy idea. The idea that there are finite “spots” and, if Black people took it, show your anti-Blackness off by crying erasure. Buying into this lie does not but shackle us in the cyclical nature of us vs. them and “them” will always end up being another marginalized group.
When a group outside of whiteness is centered, without erasure, we should all cheer and let them shine. As diversity increases, so does the opportunity to tell unique fresh stories outside of the white gaze.
Natalie Diaz, after deleting the tweet that originally started it all, tweeted out:
Notice how, just like a white person doubles down on an ignorant, hurtful comment they’ve made, she stands by her “critiques”. She then minimizes and trivializes people’s pain over her tweet as distractions, getting in the way of “meaningful dialogue”. The response below wonderfully points out where the issue is.
People need to do the work to address not only their internalized white supremacy — which we all have — but their anti-Blackness. Those who don’t only look foolish asking a white person to do it.
In the end even if every white person reflected and dismantled their ingrained white supremacy and privilege, little would change. Because Black people and people of color who haven’t broken free of it would keep it alive and flourishing in their lives. We all need to be doing the work.
And if you want to see stories about your marginalized group, do the work. Stop relying on Black women to do the work for you. It is not their responsibility to speak for you, nor should you want that. It is the responsibility of all us who are marginalized to help uplift each other’s voices. That’s what should happen with the 1619 Project.
And it’s what should happen when we see a project for Native people. Their stories in their voices. You should want nothing less.