Before the election, national identity still divides the United States

“U.S. presidential elections can always attract international attention, but this year is extraordinarily exaggerated: few leaders in history have dominated the news cycle like Trump did, making almost every corner of the planet nervous.” General election polling day is coming, ” The New York Times described it on the 2nd. In fact, the corners of the earth are too far away. In the United States, many people are already worried that the election will bring chaos, violent conflict and even “civil war.” In the past few years, the state of social division and political polarization in the United States has continued. This is why the presidential candidates of the two parties are making a fuss about the “state”-one side slogans “rebuild our country”, the other side Said “We are fighting for the soul of this country”. But in the eyes of observers, no matter who is elected president, it is difficult to bridge the gap. How deep this gap is can be seen from the debate about whether the United States was founded in 1776 or 1619. Behind this seemingly absurd question is the trajectory of the evolution of American society and history. It highlights the “America” ​​within the United States. The concept and identity of the divergence are huge.

“Is the United States founded in 1776 or 1619?”

“We understand the meaning of voting better than anyone.” According to the US “Boston Globe” report, as voting day approaches, many organizations across the United States are making the last effort to mobilize African Americans to actively vote. In Boston, a group calling itself the “1619 Project” is doing this. In their view, the “Black’s life is also a fate” movement and the COVID-19 disaster in the African-American community are enough to persuade more African-Americans to vote.

The Boston voting group was established in September of this year, and its name is to recognize the historical fact that the first African slaves arrived in the colony of Virginia in 1619 as historians say. What’s interesting is that an educational project in the United States is also called “Project 1619”, and the name has similar meanings, but the difference is that the controversy it caused is huge.

Many people still remember that September 17 this year is the United States Constitution Day. President Trump deliberately delivered a speech at the National Archives on that day, announcing the establishment of an organization called the “1776 Committee” (1776 was the “Declaration of Independence” Year of signing). In his speech, Trump stated that teaching children “critical racial theory” is equivalent to “child abuse.” He specifically mentioned the “1619 Project” initiated by the New York Times, calling it an insult to American history.

“Project 1619” is a “Reshaping American History” project initiated by The New York Times in August 2019. The project believes that the year when the United States was really established was 1619. That year, the first batch of African slaves were welcomed on the American continent and slavery was established.

“Is the United States founded in 1776 or 1619? This sounds like a question on the test paper, but it has become an issue in the 2020 U.S. election.” An October article in the British “Financial Times” stated that As race relations and social tensions have intensified, high-profile criticism of the “1619 Project”, Trump intends to get the Democratic presidential candidate Biden into trouble. This provides an excellent opportunity to label Democrats as “anti-American.” Republicans know that Americans are often very patriotic and willing to accept the Puritans’ view that their country is a “shining mountain city.”

In late October, Biden responded in an interview with the media. “I don’t think he understands what happened in 1776.” Biden criticized Trump for announcing the establishment of the “1776 Committee”: “‘The United States is an ideal. We think these principles are obvious. We never really realized it, but I have never stayed away. I think we should be honest, let our children know what actually happened, admit the mistakes we made, and avoid repeating them.”

Biden’s statement is similar to former Democratic President Barack Obama, who stated at this year’s Democratic National Convention that the US Constitution is “not a perfect document” and that it allows inhumane slavery. But Obama went on to say, “Embedded in this document is a North Star that guides future generations…It is a democratic country through which we can better realize our lofty ideals.”

Compared with the well-worded response of the Democratic leaders, the “liberalism-led” school approach is more direct. Schools in all 50 states intend to include the “1619 Project” in their curricula. According to a report released by the Pulitzer Center, a non-profit international news organization based in Washington, more than 4,500 schools in the United States have begun to adopt the “1619 Project”, including schools in Washington, DC, New York, and Chicago.

According to US Newsweek, the Chicago Public School District, one of the largest public school districts in the United States, should be the first school district in the United States to publicly adopt the “1619 Project”. In the second month after the project was proposed, Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson wrote on Twitter: “Every Chicago public high school will receive 200 to 400 copies of the New York Times’ 1619 project, as Help rebuild our understanding of slavery and understand how we are still affected by it today.”▲

“Closely matched symptoms” of the same era

Some commentators stated that the “1619 Project” was actually part of the American “ethnic research” and “historical awakening” movement, with the purpose of correcting history distorted by the white-centered view of history. The remarks of American civil rights activist Doris Wyatt are representative. She explained how Native Americans and African Americans built the foundation of the United States, and then immigrants from Mexico, Japan, China, the Philippines, and India. “Unfortunately, this history is not taught to students in schools. It is because they did not do so, many people think that the founders formed the government and created our country. Those are two different things.”

Zhang Wenzong, an associate researcher at the American Research Institute of the China Institute of Modern International Relations, said in an interview with a reporter that slavery in the United States is its original sin. The tensions in race relations in the United States are behind the political, economic and social interests and traditions of ethnic minorities. Clashes and contests between the social and political structures dominated by whites. This issue has been developing and fermenting since the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, and it is now highlighted again, reflecting the tension of American race relations and the collision of the two lines of liberalism and conservatism, and the collision of the two sets of philosophies into a new period of frequent contradictions.

Zhang Wenzong said that political struggle reflects the contradictions at the social level, behind which is the embodiment of identity politics. It is also Americans of different ethnic groups and identities who are constructing the entire national history. In the past, the United States was able to reach a compromise on these issues. Now, due to various reasons, this consensus is loosening and disintegrating.

This is prominent in many aspects. For example, in mid-October, Biden and two Aboriginal congressmen participated in an online event celebrating the “National Indigenous Day”, while Trump’s campaign team went to Philadelphia to celebrate “Columbus Day.” According to media reports, the White House previously prohibited federal agencies from conducting racial sensitivity training on “white privilege” and “racial critical theory.” Some officials referred to this training as “non-American propaganda.”

“Choose 1619 or 1776?” The US “Christian Science Monitor” recently published an article saying that this is a good question to think about as election day is approaching. However, “Do we have to choose one of the two?” The article wrote that the United States Constitution mentioned the need to “organize a more perfect federation” at the beginning. The United States has also been moving towards a more perfect country. From a perspective, it is possible to choose either 1619 or 1776. You must know that one of them shows the unfulfilled promise of the other, and the necessity of moving forward.

Such thinking is obviously too idealistic. In the eyes of experts, the movement to re-narrate history stems from the changes that have taken place in American history since the 1960s. “The historians of the baby boom generation challenged the notion that history textbooks should focus exclusively on the president and congressmen. They believed that this approach ignored a large number of American life experiences. This generation of historians also considered certain aspects of American history. These descriptions-the United States has always been moving in the right direction and has always corrected its long-standing weaknesses and listed them as challenges.” Princeton University scholar Julian Zelitzer wrote an article.

Julian said that historians from the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s have incorporated racism, male supremacy, and class conflict into people’s understanding of the United States. “We do not classify presidents and parliamentarians as isolated figures that symbolize the country. Instead, we portray them as politicians who are closely related to society, culture, and social movements that govern the country.” Julian wrote, “Yes, many are very outstanding. Historians of the United States have discovered that the United States is not as’exceptional’ as other generations have believed. Like everywhere in the world, the United States is being shaped by the same painful and ongoing conflicts and obvious injustices.”

According to the Washington Post, one day historians will conclude that the White House’s approach and the “1619 Project” are symptoms of a close “match” of the same era and that the two “feed” each other. Just like the era when racism was raging in the past, the pessimistic racial essentialism that led the “1619 Project” came to the fore in this gloomy era. ▲

“1776 Federation” “1620 Project”…

The “1619 Project” focused on the impact of slavery on American history and the contribution of blacks to American development. The initiator of the project and New York Times reporter Nicole Hannah Jones once stated that the collection of historical essays, poems, novels, and photo collections on various aspects of contemporary American life all point to the establishment of the United States from slavery. The maintenance of the system, that is, the primary motive of the American Revolution that year was to preserve slavery, which has led to racial discrimination in American society to this day.

When the “1619 Project” was proposed, it coincided with the 400th anniversary of the birth of slavery in the United States. Once it was released, it aroused fierce debate in the American historian and widespread criticism from political critics. Objectively speaking, the “1619 Project” is also controversial among American progressives and centrists. A number of well-known historians wrote to The New York Times with “strong reservations” on the conclusion of the project, requesting the New York Times to correct the facts and accusing the project of putting ideology above historical perception. “New York Times” editor-in-chief Jack Silverstein declined to issue a correction. However, the “1619 Project” still made some adjustments to the content of the homepage, but its core foundation-American history originated from slavery has not changed.

After Trump placed the project in the media spotlight, California under the Democrats quickly announced the launch of new anti-racism classrooms and teacher training programs in various school districts, and the California Department of Education officials publicly expressed support for the promotion in schools in the state. Project 1619″. In addition, the California Department of Education is also formulating the first statewide “ethnic studies” general curriculum model in the United States.

As the main weapon to counter the “1619 Project”, Trump has not announced how the “1776 Committee” will operate. However, the conservative media “National Review” stated that the committee has precedents for reference, such as the Bicentennial Administration of the American Revolution established by Congress in 1973, and the 1987 US Constitution 200 presided over by Chief Justice Warren Berg. The National Anniversary Commemoration Committee, etc., conduct historical education to citizens by organizing and monitoring activities to celebrate historical events.

However, prior to the “1776 Committee”, as early as February this year, there was a civil organization “1776 Federation”, expressing the hope “to shape the future of the United States by looking back to the good old days.” The organization released a curriculum plan against the “1619 Project”, which was jointly developed by the American civil rights leader Bob Woodson and the American Enterprise Institute scholar Ian Rowe, using teaching courses, extracurricular activities, reading guides and other resources to tell “more A complete and inspiring historical story of African Americans”.

When writing the new course, the “1776 Federation” stated that the organization pays special attention to outstanding representatives of African Americans, rejects the victim culture and presents the story of African Americans who have prospered by embracing the ideals of the founding of the United States. According to reports, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos believed that the “1776 Federation” curriculum “sounds really great.” She said that although the curriculum is best determined by the state and local education departments, it can be discussed. A course that truly respects history and builds on it”.

Consistent with the purpose of the “1776 Union”, Republican Senator Tom Cotton proposed a bill called “Save American History” in July this year. The bill proposes to restrict federal education funding for schools that adopt or rewrite the “1619 Project” in history courses. Because Cotton called slavery a “necessary evil” in the founding of the United States in an interview, he became a target of public criticism. Cotton responded that he was only describing “the views of the founding fathers.”

In addition, the National Association of Scholars in the United States initiated a “1620 Project” specifically aimed at the “1619 Project” to refute the views of the “New York Times” through articles, blogs, and video interviews. For Cotton’s “Save American History” proposal, the agency expressed strong support. It is worth mentioning that when mentioning the beginning of American history, many people would think of the story of dozens of Puritans arriving in the Americas from the United Kingdom by sailing the Mayflower. That year was 1620.