Earlier this week, in its infinite (and non-existent) wisdom, the Board of Governors of the University of North Carolina denied Nikole Hannah-Jones tenure at that institution. It should be noted that as a member of the faculty she had been appointed to a chair funded by the Knight Foundation and that tenure appointment has been routine for past faculty members in this position.
It should also be noted that the Board of Governors at the University of North Carolina are appointed by the North Carolina legislature, not known to be a bastion of free thinking (or even intelligence on occasion). And it is quite clear that Ms. Hannah-Jones groundbreaking “1619 Project” which began an historic reconsideration of American history and Black people is the unforgivable sin that has resulted in her application for tenure being denied.
There are many ways to look at this travesty. On the merits, Ms. Hannah-Jones is a recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship to go along with her Pulitzer Prize and a literal boatload of other prestigious awards. It is inconceivable that any college or university with aspirations of academic excellence would treat her in such an incomprehensible and disrespectful manner.
But, of course, there is the back story. The white members of the North Carolina legislature are part of an underground band of cultural guerillas determined to maintain white supremacy and American mythology at all costs. Keep in mind that Ms. Hannah-Jones has been accused or “rewriting history” when it comes to the narrative of Black people in America.
And of course, the answer is damned right.
American history as it has been taught for over four histories has been built on a foundation of lies, myths and white supremacist delusions. American history has been an exercise in whitewashing the crimes, the genocide, the slavery and the literal theft of a continent from people who were living here. American history has somehow justified the enslavement of millions of Black human beings and then gone on to minimize the pain, misery and eternal jeopardy of being Black in America.
Damned right that American history has needed to be rewritten. The sins, crimes and wrongs that are a literal part of the foundation of this nation need to be acknowledged before true justice, equality and equity can be possible in this country. And the fact that teaching and learning the true American story can be seen as a problem demonstrates what exactly is the problem.
The problem is that too many white Americans take comfort in myths, revel in the lies and wallow in the mud of deception as long as it reinforces the crumbling concepts of white supremacy, and by extension, Black inferiority. The problem is that the so-called 1.6.21 insurrectionists were not in Washington to simply overturn an election, they wanted to stop the constant and now inevitable erosion of the myth of American exceptionalism and white supremacy.
That problem is the reason why 47 states are trying to subvert the Constitution (into which slavery was embedded, by the way) in order to limit or deny the right the vote so that a white supremacist alternate reality can last a little bit longer. And, of course, Nikole Hannah-Jones represents the voices that must be silenced so that the fantasy – which is a nightmare for everyone who is not white – can continue for as long as possible.
There is nothing that the University of North Carolina can do to ever diminish the majesty of Nikole Hannah-Jones and her life’s work. The travesty belongs to the University of North Carolina and its racist enablers.
And, in the end, the truth about America will prevail and it is then, and only then, that this country will be a better country.