In a 20-minute video published on YouTube on July 20, Nikole Hannah-Jones—of the “1619 Project” and the UNC-Chapel Hill tenure controversy fame—gave a softball interview to “Black News Tonight’s” Marc Lamont Hill. (I watched it so you wouldn’t have to; you’re welcome.) It’s worth paying close attention to this interview because Hannah-Jones is an important, celebrated figure of the modern Left, and the things she says offer some insight into our current moment.
In response to the first question from an adoring, slobbering Hill—“What do you make of the assaults on . . . not just your work but your character, your intelligence, your integrity, and [how] the Right has just been beating up on you for months now? . . . Why now?”—Hannah-Jones engaged in a bit of throat clearing about how she’s been doing 1619-type work on racial inequality for “20 years.” She then says,
I think what was so unsettling about the ‘1619 Project’ was to have a project that became very popular that really tried to unsettle this established narrative about American exceptionalism, this idea that we were a nation founded on freedom, that was really marking our origins not with 1776 and the Declaration but with 1619 and the introduction of African slavery into the colonies. And so I think that this has become clearly part of the culture wars, and the ‘1619 Project’ is being used as a tool to stoke white resentment. . . . And I am the black woman who got this project published in the New York Times. I don’t think I’m the image of what someone expects a New York Times reporter to look like or to comport herself, so I think I’ve just become a target and [a] symbol in the culture wars.
As the kids say, there’s a lot to unpack there.
Let’s begin with her reflexive impulse to air her resentments with the world. Abraham Lincoln, 150 years ago, in a letter to his junior law partner, William Herdon, provided a sound rebuke to just this sort of victimhood-centric, navel-gazing bellyaching: “The way for a young man to rise, is to improve himself every way he can, never suspecting that anybody wishes to hinder him.”
Now, once Hannah-Jones has recovered from her fainting spell after hearing such sexist language—why would Lincoln say “man” when women are just as capable as men?!—she should heed those wise words. Nobody is holding you back but you. And to the extent one thinks she is being held back, whether it be by particular persons, institutions, or systems, that belief will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Life is full of failure and there is always a way to blame others for it. But it’s toxic and destructive to indulge in blame; it breeds an ugly, society-wrecking resentment, about which I’ve written previously.
And not only that, but what does “a New York Times reporter” look like? Can Hannah-Jones even explain what she means by such a statement? The Times is perhaps the wokest place on planet Earth right now, so if it doesn’t have the kind of diversity Hannah-Jones craves, then who’s to blame? White men in Nebraska? It’s all just silly “I’m-an-underprivileged-victim” posturing, especially since, as Wilfred Reilly has convincingly argued, it is precisely those like Hannah-Jones—i.e., those who are expecting racist abuse—who “are empirically and measurably privileged (in the world of academia at least).”
Then we get Hannah-Jones’s nonsense about how her pet propaganda effort—the “1619 Project,” which was roundly criticized by five highly accomplished historians—is being used to “stoke white resentment.” This is the kind of psychologized, identity-based “rebuttal” that makes impossible the dialogue, debate, and deliberation necessary for a self-governing republic like ours to function and threatens the integrity of the nation itself. It simply does not occur to Hannah-Jones that what animates people to oppose her and the Times’ irrational and unhistorical venom is love of the country it libels, not some infatuation with the skin color of leftist propagandists.
But this is exactly why the only thing the Left can do in the face of a black Republican like Senator Tim Scott (R-S.C.) is to smear him as an “Uncle Tom.” After all, what else can they say, having abandoned reason as a common meeting place to deliberate about securing the common good in favor of identity politics as a principle of political action? Indeed, if anyone is obsessed with race, it’s Hannah-Jones, who appeared on something called “Black News Tonight!”
Hannah-Jones goes on to lie about critical race theory, claiming it’s just about doing “a truthful accounting of history” but also that it’s not being taught in schools. I’ve already addressed that, so I won’t belabor the point except to say that she and her ilk are sophists. They use words as weapons, not to apprehend the truth but to gain power; they rape language for their own private gain. They need to be stopped.
When asked by Hill how she responds to people like Megyn Kelly, who called her work “anti-historical” and “dangerous,” Hannah-Jones replied, “I don’t really have a response to someone like Megyn Kelly; she’s not actually worthy of me responding to, frankly.” Hill—after a brief pause in which he considered pressing on that non-answer and being an actual journalist —breezily ended that portion of the interview with, “Fair enough,” thus declining the invitation of his conscience. (“Democracy dies in darkness.” Err, or something.)
Later, Hill, who must have felt guilty for that abdication of journalistic integrity, uncomfortably decided to try harder. So, he inquired about something Hannah-Jones said on Ezra Klein’s podcast in 2019: “You said that Cuba had ‘the least inequality between black and white people, largely due to socialism.’ Obviously in the last week or so, we’ve seen protests in Cuba. What do you make of the statement you made then, and what do you make of what’s going on now?” Hannah-Jones obfuscates, claiming the Right has taken that statement “out of context.” But when she tries to provide that context, she just winds up confirming that she had said exactly what Hill quoted her saying—and actually making it worse (if you can believe it).
[If] you look at certain indicators—how integrated are the schools, what’s the life expectancy gap between black and white people, things like universal healthcare [and] universal college—that, of the multiracial countries in our hemisphere, Cuba has the least inequality in those areas. And that is because of socialism because the government controls all of those things. The government has said if you need health care, we will provide it; we don’t have that in the United States. When the government controls every school that you go to, the government can decide that you will go to the same schools together because there’s not an option for private school.
So, not only did Hannah-Jones fail to explain away the exact position that Hill quoted back at her in his heroic act of journalism (even a broken clock is right twice a day), she revealed her inner tyrant: “We are coming for your children; we want them when they’re impressionable so that they will be good progressives forever.” Remember when that nutcase law professor (but I repeat myself) from Harvard said the exact same thing? This isn’t going away; nowhere is safe.
Finally, we get perhaps the biggest whopper of them all. After stating that the Right’s media “don’t adhere to the same ethical standards of journalism” as her preferred outlets, she unironically says, “The New York Times can’t just take a quote out of context and write a whole article around it without providing that context, without contacting . . . the person who said that.”
Does Hannah-Jones read her own paper? (Is asking that somehow racist?) Someone should get her up to speed on what the Times printed about then-Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Or Nick Sandmann, who never even provided a quote that could have been taken out of context. Or how about the transparently false story about how President Trump said World War I veterans were “losers”?
The premise of every single one of those stories was later proven to be a monstrous lie. Justice Kavanaugh didn’t rape anyone. Sandmann is now a millionaire thanks to that libel. And President Trump, as we know, loves the troops. If going 0 for 3 on some of the biggest stories of the day is what it means to have “standards,” count me—and the rest of America—out.
All in all, the interview revealed, surprising precisely no one, that Hannah-Jones is a thin-skinned racist with a victim-martyr complex who loves socialism and wouldn’t know a fact if it walked up, introduced itself to her, and offered her a six-figure-salary job to “teach” journalism at Howard University.