Get serious: Talking reparations, monuments, and more
What does it mean to confront the truth? To not be complacent in an unjust system? To seek justice for those who’ve been oppressed by that system for over 400 years?
Acclaimed New York Times Magazine writer Nikole Hannah-Jones grappled with these questions—and more—during a discussion with Times columnist (and local resident) Jamelle Bouie at The Haven on February 17.
“So much about the society that we’ve developed has been touched by [slavery], but we treat it as very marginal,” says Hannah-Jones, who also spoke at the Rotunda with UVA President Jim Ryan earlier in the day. Charlottesville “is a place that’s clearly still grappling and struggling with that legacy. And so I think it was important to have that conversation here.”
Hannah-Jones, who originated the magazine’s ongoing 1619 Project on the legacy of slavery, connected the project’s work to the years-long controversy surrounding the city’s Confederate statues, which she described as monuments to white supremacy.
“I just find it appalling that black folks pay to maintain statues to white supremacy and enslavement,” she says. “If you can’t get rid of monuments to people who fought [for slavery], then you’re not actually serious about making larger repairs.”
Hannah-Jones also addressed economic reparations for the descendants of slaves, saying “you cannot repay centuries of stolen capital without capital.”
After reading Before the Mayflower: A History of Black America in high school, Hannah-Jones says she could not stop thinking about the mass erasure and misrepresentation of black history. After years of reporting on de facto school segregation and other racial justice issues, she pitched the 1619 Project to paint a broader picture of the long-lasting impact of slavery.
Hannah-Jones said 1619 has been criticized by some as “too pessimistic,” and she does not think there is a real desire for change, as “people aren’t willing to do the work,” especially when it personally affects them.
Yet she encouraged community leaders, activists, and others to keep up the fight.
“We do have to believe we can destruct the system that we have,” she said. “If you don’t believe it, then you can just sit comfortably where you are.”
About the 1619 Project
The 1619 Project was launched by The New York Times Magazine in August 2019, with a special issue devoted to tracing the legacy of slavery in America (which began 400 years earlier), and its impact on our current inequalities. The multimedia project now includes a podcast, teacher resources, and a forthcoming book, and aims to “reframe the country’s history,” the magazine says, “by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative.”
Quote of the Week
“Fairfax needs to resign…Granting Fairfax the honor of speaking at the gala sends an exculpatory message I do not believe is merited.”
—Charlottesville-based Dem super-donor Michael Bills, who withdrew a sponsorship when Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax was invited to speak at the Blue Commonwealth Gala
Charlottesville’s state Senator Creigh Deeds was one of four Democrats who voted to reject a bill that would ban the sale of assault weapons in Virginia. The bill had been supported by Governor Ralph Northam, and its failure is a rare victory for a gun-rights crowd that has loudly voiced its grievances in recent weeks. Deeds, whose district includes rural areas in Bath County, continues to earn his reputation as one of the most gun-friendly Democrats in the legislature.
Tessa Majors update
A 14-year-old middle school student was arrested in New York City February 14 for the fatal stabbing of Barnard freshman and St. Anne’s-Belfield alum Tessa Majors. The teen was charged with one count of intentional murder, one count of felony murder, and four counts of robbery. He will be tried as an adult.
Hajo Funke, a German professor specializing in far-right extremism, was supposed to spend a semester teaching at UVA—but his visa has been delayed indefinitely, reports the Cavalier Daily. The professors who hoped to collaborate with Funke speculate that his work on far-right politics, criticism of Unite the Right, or a recent passport stamp from Iran might have caused the delay, but the consulate has kept mum. Foreign students and professors have had increasing difficulty entering the country since Trump took office, reported The New York Times in June.
State Senator Amanda Chase, who recently called Democrats “traitors” for passing modest gun restrictions, is the first Republican to announce a 2021 candidacy for governor. She says she has “brass balls’’ and will fight “the liberal, socialistic agenda that has taken control of the Capitol.” Chase says she’ll run as an independent if she can’t secure the Republican nomination, which actually might be a smart electoral play—Republicans have not won a statewide election in Virginia since 2009.