“The 1619 Project” creator Nikole Hannah-Jones called the wave of education gag order bills across the U.S. dangerous, adding that the sentiment is a reaction to the racial reckoning of 2020 following the murder of George Floyd.
“These laws are about a social anxiety and we need to be clear about that,” she said at a Tuesday virtual event hosted by non-profit advocacy group PEN America. “This moment we’re in right now was inevitable. It is a backlash to the protests of 2020, this feeling that these racial justice efforts have gone too far.”
She cited historian Timothy Snyder, who studies the way countries lose democracy — with one of the first steps being, “laws that really try to restrict a national understanding, that try to mold this collective memory of the country in a way that only glorifies power.”
Lawmakers in Arkansas, Iowa, Mississippi and Missouri have specifically targeted Hannah-Jones’s work in legislation, proposing cutting funding to schools and colleges that taught “The 1619 Project,” which originally ran in New York Times magazine.
Work created by Hannah-Jones and fellow panelist Ibram X. Kendi was referenced by Senator Ted Cruz during last week’s confirmation hearing of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. Cruz questioned Jackson about critical race theory, a framework that is often distorted by conservative lawmakers. Kendi is the author behind “Antiracist Baby” — one of the books Cruz used as a prop in his questioning of Jackson, asking her if she thought babies were racist. Sales of the book spiked shortly after.