Education advocates slammed public institutions in Fairfax County, Virginia, for spending more than $30,000 to bring The New York Times Magazine’s Nikole Hannah-Jones, author of “The 1619 Project,” to speak at a Black History Month event.
During the Feb. 19 speech at the McLean Community Center, Hannah-Jones promoted her book and the New York Times project of the same name, admitting that the project rewrites history and urging her audience to support reparations and “subvert” America’s economic system, which she claimed is beset by institutional racism. She also suggested that the Confederates understood the Constitution accurately, establishing the United States as a “slave nation.”
The Fairfax County Public Library paid Hannah-Jones $29,350 for the one-hour speech, and the community center—funded through a real estate surcharge—gave her an additional $6,000. That amounts to $589 per minute, all paid for by local taxpayers.
“It’s a grave misuse of taxpayer funds to pay Hannah-Jones to peddle lies about our country,” Alex Nester, investigative fellow at Parents Defending Education, told The Daily Signal in a statement Wednesday. “Maybe instead of spending $30,000 on Hannah-Jones, the library could’ve brought in reading specialists to get kids back on track in reading, post-pandemic. Quality education is the great equalizer.”
“Hannah-Jones has a narrative and picks facts to fit her telling of American history,” Nester added. “We can criticize the failures of our country and its founders to live up to the principles they enshrined in our Constitution: namely, that all men are created equal. That doesn’t mean our Constitution is wrong. It means that men are flawed. It also doesn’t mean that the Confederates had the correct understanding of our Constitution—just the opposite.”
“So, the taxpayers of Fairfax County paid Nikole Hannah-Jones $589 a minute to spew off Marxism for an hour? Since that is a gigantic transfer of wealth, and one imposed by a small guilt-ridden minority of the whole population of the county, one must admit that there is some sort of internal consistency there,” Mike Gonzalez, a senior fellow at The Heritage Foundation and author of “BLM: The Making of a New Marxist Revolution,” told The Daily Signal in a statement Wednesday. (The Daily Signal is the news outlet of The Heritage Foundation.)
Jessica Hudson, director of the Fairfax County Public Library, defended the decision to host Hannah-Jones in a statement to The Daily Signal Wednesday.
“We were honored to host Ms. Hannah-Jones, a Pulitzer Prize and Peabody Award winning author, and creator of the landmark ‘1619 Project,’ during our Black History Month celebration,” she said. “Authors are chosen for a variety of reasons, including educational value, because they inspire a high level of interest among our diverse community members and for their ability to offer unique insight into important cultural and social issues.”
Hudson noted that the event registration “filled quickly” and the library had “a waitlist of more than 400 people.” She did not address concerns about the taxpayer funding of left-wing advocacy and questions about the potential that the library might host a conservative activist to balance out any apparent institutional bias. She did not answer questions about why the library and the community center paid such exorbitant fees to Hannah-Jones.
The Fairfax County Public Library also paid controversial “anti-racist” author Ibram X. Kendi $22,500 for an hourlong event last year, and Fairfax County Public Schools paid him $20,000 to speak at a teleconference in 2020.
During her speech, Hannah-Jones condemned former President Donald Trump as an “openly white nationalist president” and condemned the response to the George Floyd riots of 2020 as “racist progress” following “racial progress.”
She also advocated for an undefined policy of racial reparations—the transfer of wealth from one race (Americans whom the government defines as white or privileged) to another race (Americans whom the government defines as black or disfavored). She did not address practical concerns about that policy, such as how to identify which white Americans today would be considered responsible for slavery to pay which black Americans today considered victims of the institution’s legacy, or which Americans even count as white and black.
“If we start to say the inequality I see, right, whether it be class or race, is because we are a society built on anti-blackness, that the legacy of slavery, of labor exploitation, of racial capitalism shaping our society, then we support different policies,” she said. “If I think everyone has the same opportunities in America and where black people struggle it’s because of their own pathology, then I support regressive individualistic policy that doesn’t change the structure or hierarchy or inequality in our society at all.”
“But if I say everything I see has been created by government policy, local, state, federal, by private policy, then I start to support policies of redistribution,” she added.
Hannah-Jones criticized the established history of the United States as a narrative that “legitimizes the power structure that we currently have.”
“What is justice? It’s reparations,” she argued. She claimed that the economic exploitation of black people did not end with slavery, but continued through Jim Crow segregation, such that “simply ending racial discrimination in the laws as we do in the 1960s doesn’t change anything about the primary cause of black suffering, which is economic exploitation. … If we truly acknowledge what this country’s done to black people, there’s no way to believe that you don’t owe a great moral and financial debt.”
She compared “The 1619 Project” to the “red pill” in “The Matrix.”
“I like to say ‘The 1619 Project’ is the red pill in ‘The Matrix.’ You read this book and suddenly you start to question your reality and you realize all of this—all of this was created, and then you try to subvert it. I want y’all to do that,” she said.
Hannah-Jones did not respond to The Daily Signal’s request for comment on whether she thinks it appropriate for taxpayer dollars to fund her advocacy for the subversion of America’s economic system and for reparations.
The New York Times stealth-edited claims from The 1619 Project, removing the claim that the arrival of slaves in Virginia in 1619 represented the country’s “true founding.” Historians criticized the project for claiming that the Founders launched the Revolutionary War to protect slavery and for claiming that the 1619 arrival of slaves in Virginia represents the beginning of slavery in what would become the U.S. Black slaves first arrived in Florida in 1526, and slavery as an institution is nearly universal in early human societies, including Indigenous North American tribes.
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