Sherry Sylvester


America’s History Is Not Just Black and White

Nikole Hannah-Jones, author of the infamous 1619 Project, said recently that she didn’t understand why parents believe they should have a say in what their children are learning in school. She simply doesn’t get it. While most Americans agree that our children must learn the whole story of America, they oppose indoctrination and are outraged that the 1619 Project and critical race theory is showing up in our schools.

Hannah-Jones and The New York Times crowd that launched the 1619 Project three years ago have stopped fighting about whether their work is history.  After virtually every reputable historian in the country—on both the left and the right—called their work inaccurate and sloppy, they know they have lost that fight. Now they are fighting parents and conservatives.

These days Hannah-Jones and the Times carefully call 1619 a “journalism project” which apparently means it doesn’t have to be true.

Backing away from facts even further, Hannah-Jones has called the work an “an origin story.” She also says “…it is not about history, it’s about memory…”

Journalism, memory, whatever—1619 marches on. It is now a best-selling book and will soon become a movie. A children’s version has been released. 

No one who has read 1619 is confused about what it is—another left-wing, America-hating screed designed to divide us on race and to indoctrinate our children. 

The 1619 Project has always had a classroom component with teaching guides and lesson plans. It is being taught in thousands of classrooms across America now. The goal is for every school child in the country to be taught that America did not begin in 1776 with the Declaration of Independence, but instead was born in 1619 when the first Africans arrived in Virginia.

It presents all of American history in black and white. “Our democracy’s founding ideals were false,” Hannah-Jones writes, “Black Americans have fought to make them true.”

Of course, Americans of every race and creed have fought—and continue to fight—so our country lives up to the ideals laid out by the founders.  

1619 presents only two American stories—the black story and the white story. But American history is made up of millions of stories and we are learning more about those stories all the time.  

If Hannah-Jones were a historian writing real history, she would understand that what we know about our past is dynamic. It changes when real historians discover new facts that put the past in clearer focus and sometimes reverses what we thought was historical fact.  

When the British dug up Richard the Third in a parking lot in 2012, 500 years of English history had to be re-examined. Closer to home, when DNA finally confirmed in 1998 what Jefferson’s descendants had known and many people had believed for generations—that Thomas Jefferson had fathered Sally Hemmings’ children—it recast the way Americans, who may not have been paying much attention before, viewed our country’s founding and the leaders who forged the nation.  

The Jefferson-Hemmings story was not a surprise. Long before The New York Times put out the 1619 project, Americans knew that Jefferson, Washington and other Founding Fathers, despite the great country they had built, were also slaveholders who had exploited the evil of the institution they were perpetrating. By the 1960s, American children were learning in school about slavery and the long road to freedom, from Reconstruction to Jim Crow to the struggles that continue today. Despite their insistence that 1619 advocates teaching history accurately, contemporary history classes discarded “whitewashed” views of the past and phony excuses for the Confederate rebellion decades ago. 

Jefferson’s DNA test inadvertently ushered in a new way of looking at history that changed the way we see ourselves. His story was part of what moved millions of Americans to want to know more about who their own ancestors were. Inexpensive DNA tests have allowed millions of Americans to look more closely at their genetic ancestry resulting in a 276 percent jump in the number of people who reported identifying with more than one racial group in the 2020 Census. According to Pew Research,  easy access to DNA tests have given Americans a much broader perspective on who they are and where they come from. Almost 20 percent report finding racial links they were not aware of. These findings are expanding what we know about America’s past. 

Writing history requires collecting facts and painstakingly stitching them together to build something that gets us closer to the truth of times past. It is not memory or myth and it is certainly not a politically driven agenda pretending to be a “journalism project.”  

Real history is the exact opposite of The New York Times 1619 Project and Americans have rejected it. When it comes to history, they want so much more.   

Sherry Sylvester is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Texas  Public Policy Foundation.




Demography is Still Not Destiny for the Left

When the Census 2020 numbers were finally released late last month, Texas Democrats jubilantly joined the national press in celebrating that the number of white people in the U.S. had declined over the last decade — 8.6% nationally and 5.3% in Texas. Predicting the data would make a huge impact on the redistricting in Texas, some gushed that Republicans must face the “demographic reality that the state is growing in ways that put the party’s [GOP] stranglehold in question.”

Now that the maps have been released, the left is screaming that they have been robbed because there are no new Hispanic or Black opportunity districts—a tough blow for identity-politics sycophants. The irony is that these so-called “opportunity” districts actually isolate minority candidates, depriving them of the opportunity to demonstrate their appeal to a broad base of Texans which would give them a springboard for a run for statewide office—as we are seeing this cycle with state Rep. James White, R-Hillister.

Analysts are still looking at what the racial and ethnic data in the 2020 census means, since the census questions changed in 2020. Over the last decade, we have also begun to identify ourselves differently. Six times as many Texans described themselves as “mixed” race and “other” on the 2020 census than did so in 2010.

But whether there are more or fewer white people in Texas won’t make much difference to the political prospects of the left. It has been betting on its demographic ship to come in for decades, but each time it issues a “Blue Wave” warning, it fails to make landfall.

The left keeps losing and it doesn’t have a clue why.

A post-2020 election autopsy report leaked last year concluded that “…there was a pronounced differential turnout effect among Latino voters in Texas that hurt Democratic candidates up and down the ballot.” The report also found that “Republicans did a better job of getting their African-American voters out than Democrats did.”

What most Texans know about liberals is that they strongly support abortion and they oppose gun rights. Because the majority of Texans are on the other side of those issues, the left’s candidates start out with two strikes against them. Add in their attack on the Texas oil and gas industry—the source of millions of jobs in Texas including many worked by Hispanics—and they are in a bigger hole. That’s one reason they took such a beating in South Texas in 2020.

Then there’s the left’s disdain for businesses, which ultimately is an attack on every Texas business owner, both large and small, regardless of race. Texans know our state is the nation’s job creator because of low taxes and reasonable regulations, which the left consistently vows to reverse.

As if that isn’t enough, remember that a majority of Texans also support school choice, ending taxpayer funded lobbying, and lowering property taxes. Majorities don’t want boys playing on girls’ sports teams and they don’t want their kids to be taught racial division in public schools. It makes no sense to most Texans—regardless of what color they are.

Despite opposing virtually everything most Texans support, the left continues to insist that somehow it is being robbed. But the right to draw the maps was won in the 2020 election—in which the left was soundly defeated. As for gerrymandering, it began in Massachusetts in 1812 and has been used in every election since. It wasn’t invented by Texas conservatives.

Census 2020 won’t bail out the left in Texas. Behind all the hoopla, elections are always about policies and ideas—and all of the left’s are bad.


The problem with “Abortion Barbie”

“Abortion Barbie,” the jab directed at state Sen. Wendy Davis, made it to California recently when a passionately pro-life Texas woman paid for posters depicting Davis as a Barbie doll with a baby in utero to be posted around the Los Angeles neighborhood where Davis was holding yet another out-of-state fundraiser.

The term “Abortion Barbie” was originally coined by RedState Editor Erick Erickson to describe Davis’ over-the-top pro-abortion positions. Democrats wailed in outrage, saying the attack reeked of sexism and would hurt Republicans among female voters. They’re right that it’s sexist — the equivalent of a “dumb blonde” joke. But they’re wrong that it will do much damage among women who vote Republican. 

I’m a lifelong feminist and hate trite putdowns as much as the next woman, but I’m also a conservative Republican, and it’s virtually inconceivable that I could be persuaded to vote for a big-government-supporting tax-and-spender like Davis, no matter how much I identify with her sneakers.

But the smashmouth conservatives who are recycling the term “Abortion Barbie” should stop. It undercuts our message and credibility.

We Texas conservatives proclaim to be people whose principles are rooted in faith. If that’s true — and I believe it is — then we must demonstrate both the principles and the faith.  

There is no way for us to hold the moral high ground if our tactics include name-calling and sexist attacks, even though those tactics are often used against us. Instead, we have to be who we say we are. 

Democrats may be as committed to their own faith as we are, but they have consciously decided not to include faith in their political story. Remember the boos at the 2012 Democratic National Convention when it was proposed that a reference to God be restored in the party platform?

By contrast, we conservative — most of us Christian — Republicans make a point of bringing our faith with us when we enter the public square. We think it’s a good thing.

When we do that, we must hold ourselves to the standard of behavior that is required of Christians — to love our enemies and do unto others as we would have them do unto us. 

I’m not a biblical scholar, but I’m pretty sure there’s no loophole in the Golden Rule for politics.

This does not mean that in the seemingly endless battle for the hearts and minds of Texans that we do not hit back or give as good as we get, and then some. We cannot abandon the basic tenet of political war — that no shot go unanswered.  But we do not have to answer tit for tat. We have to be better. 

Granted, it’s not easy. Our liberal opponents frequently litter their arguments with name-calling and condescension, for which they often get a pass.

You will recall there was no particular outcry of sexism when Sarah Palin was called “Caribou Barbie.”

Recall also the behavior of the women who showed up at the Capitol in support of Davis’ pro-abortion filibuster last year. If you think they were a tolerant group of young women who were simply passionate about an issue, then you weren’t there. They were hateful, in the true sense of the word — filled with hate for the legislators who disagreed with them. Their contempt was echoed on the Senate floor when Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, now the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, delivered a cheap shot suggesting that she was being ignored by the chair because she is a woman. Her crowd-pandering and opportunistic comment has become part of her narrative, even though it wasn’t really true. Virtually everyone was being ignored.    

Democrats are so hopelessly behind in Texas that they often flail madly, trying to strike some kind of chord with voters. Their fast-talking spokesmouths have adopted sarcasm and hatefulness as a communications strategy, hoping they might somehow manage to climb out of the mid-40s in polls by November. Hard to blame them, given their desperation.

The conservative communication job is harder. We are the majority, and we are the people of faith. The onus is on us to lead with our principles. 

I’m in no position to cast the first stone. Last session, I stood outside a particularly maddening committee hearing in which outnumbered Democrats rambled on for hours, alternating between falsehoods, hyperbole and cheap shots.

I asked the conservative Republican committee chairman afterward how he managed to remain gracious in the face of the Democrats’ deliberately obstructive behavior.

“I just keep loving on ’em,” he said.

It seemed to me that punching out a few lights was a more appropriate response, and I said so.

“Just keep loving on ’em,” he repeated, smiling. “It confuses them.”

So there you have it. Follow the Golden Rule. It’s not only a top commandment, but it can be a good political strategy, too.