Last week, I told you all about a teach-in on campus—the seminars, free for students to learn about culture and race or just an opportunity to start a dialogue on how different topics present themselves in our lives. I enjoyed it all and what we talked about really got me thinking about identity and how I define myself as a whole. But, the seminars also brought up something that I hadn’t heard of before, something that seemed big… Chances are, you haven’t heard about it either.

So let me share it with you.

It’s called the 1619 Project: here’s a link to more information, but I want to tell you what it is and then tell you why I’m telling you. First of all, the project brings in the year 1619 as the year that  the first “enslaved Africans” were brought over in a ship off the Virginia Colony. Rather than the year 1776 as America’s independence, the project proposes that it could be 1619, as much of our fiscal society’s capitalism stems from the institutional selling of African people as slaves; this ties into the concept that democracy and fighting for rights also plays into the spirit of freedom and free will this country stands on. Ultimately, the Project puts forth that America’s founding helps contribute to a perpetual cycle of racism,

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More or less, this is what the seminar came down to discussing in the first two sessions I made it to. Why do I bring it up though? Well, because it brings into question the way every one of us considers our own culture’s and the way we think in general. Here, let me explain.

Not only is there a 1619 Project, there is also something called the 1776 Initiative. With a link here, this opposition goes into the inaccuracies within the original project, the nature of blame it perpetuates, and a polarization of black people against non-black people. The goal of the Initiative is to “offer alternative perspectives that celebrate the progress America has made on delivering its promise of equality and opportunity and highlight the resilience of its people.”

With these two different projects, it offers you two different perspectives on America’s past with slavery and how that impacts our present day society—one holds onto it as something that essentially isolates and hinders black people even as time goes on, while the other holds onto it as something that we all need to be conscious of as we move forward with this past in our every day lives.

I bring the question to you: how do you feel about both of these?

When I first heard about the Project, it made sense to see where Nikole Hannah-Jones came from when she created it; slavery is a part of history we talk about in our textbooks, but not something we really try to understand in comparison to our World Wars or Revolutions. Hard to grow up learning from textbooks in primarily white classrooms and not notice this. That being said, it was only when I started researching the 1776 Initiative did I realize something that I hope you all see in these two opposing campaigns as well.

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Both the Project and the Initiative come from a place of minority status and generational trauma that impacts people like me even today. Where they begin to differ is how they go about speaking of this trauma and the directions we can go in from it.

It all comes down to how they frame the narrative.

Even though I bring this up as a part of Black History Month, it does have to do with the way we live in respect to our own lives on a daily basis. People tell us that there are two sides to every story, and there are. Just like there are also three and four and so many more sides to that same story… It just depends on who you ask. But the way we react to things like trauma or even setbacks like a missed job opportunity, failed classes, family splits, etc. it all comes down to the way we frame it.

Bad things happen to good people, I think we’ve all established that by now. But sometimes they bring good with it—at the very least, they bring growth.

When it comes to slavery, America might be one of the few countries that always seems to be called out for their part to play even though slavery occurred within many other countries as well. This is not me saying it is okay, because it is isn’t. What I am saying is that there are ways we can take something that has happened and use it to change how we move forward, even in smaller scale ways. This could mean we’re more cautious when it comes to our own bodies, more ambitious when it comes to jobs, or even more independent when it comes to relationships.

One way or another, the way we see the world or experience our lives is not always so black and white—even if that’s what the 1619 Project seems to paint on the surface.

Photo by Philippe Leone on Unsplash

Now, in all the scenarios I bring up, not a single one can match the impact of another, nor is one necessarily worse than another. But, consider this: for one person, losing a job might not hurt them a ton because they have money or supporters to fall back on; for another person, it could mean homelessness at the very least. Every single thing that happens in our lives could impact someone else very differently than it does us.

Even while we may work to broaden or challenge our own perspectives, sometimes the impact may not change. Some things will hurt one way or another. What we can hope for is to let that impact influence what we decide to do with how and where we take our next steps.

So, after all that information, I will let you ruminate on all this until next week and if you have any questions, feel free to explore or hit those links above. And as always, if you think of anything you want to share or add to the conversation, you are always welcome to do so.

Have a wonderful weekend. Happy Friday everyone.

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