Released on MLK Day, the Trump administration’s 1776 Commission report is a reminder of the deep white supremacist notions held within the outgoing administration and its members. A direct challenge to The 1619 Project, founded by journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, Trump allegedly created the commission to promote “patriotic education.
Established by executive order the day before the 2020 election, the 1776 Commission is another example of Trump using the highest office in the land to enshrine white supremacist propaganda into political discourse. Like his planned Juneteenth rally in Tulsa, Trump signals not only a deep disrespect for Black and minority communities of color, but a willingness to play into virulent racism.
Blasted by historians for being riddled with inaccuracies, the report failed to include basic references or footnotes. The 1776 Commission report challenges the experiences of oppressed communities in the United States as an inconvenience to the greater glory of America.
Report authors also distorted common use of contemporary ethnic and racial categories as attempts of historically marginalized groups to undermine America. Promoting a perverted history of the American institution of slavery, excusing the brutality of the institution and trashing the legacy of the civil rights movement are just examples of the report’s “findings.”
This is not only an example of white supremacist propaganda guiding Trump administration action, but a continuation of attempts to influence education and curriculum design. Textbooks and state and local curriculums have been fierce battle grounds for debate for years. A recent analysis from HuffPost found that textbooks from two popular publishers of Christian educational content teach a skewed version of history and overlap with nationalistic rhetoric.
“Christian textbooks used in thousands of schools around the country teach that President Barack Obama helped spur destructive Black Lives Matter protests, that the Democrats’ choice of 2016 nominee Hillary Clinton reflected their focus on identity politics, and that President Donald Trump is the ‘fighter’ Republicans want,” wrote Rebecca Klein summarizing the HuffPost analysis.
The commission’s creation follows Trump’s equity gag order last September. In response to the egregious action against equity and parity, the African American Policy Forum launched the “Truth Be Told” campaign.
The rhetoric in the commission’s report, like the textbooks examined by HuffPost, can be seen across the propaganda fueling the Jan, 6 attacks. Echoing the conservative obsession with identity politics, the commission distorted the impact of the concept on the country’s development. Conceptualized in the 1970s by a group of queer Black feminists, known as the Combahee River Collective, identity politics is not about leveraging power over other groups but defining it through one’s own identity and lived experience.
“We believe that the most profound and potentially most radical politics come directly out of our own identity, as opposed to working to end somebody else’s oppression,” wrote the Combahee River Collective.
Among many false flags, identity politics is thrown around as a great evil by those on the right. As of Wednesday, Trump is out of the White House, but efforts like the 1776 Commission continues the fixation on a revisionist historical imagination that minimizes, and in some instances erases, the harm inflicted at the country’s inception tunneling through the present day.