Nikole Hannah-Jones, race theory and the Holocaust


Nikole Hannah-Jones at the 2016 Peabody Awards PHOTO/Wikipedia

On the evening of November 18, New York Times staff writer and 1619 Project director Nikole Hannah-Jones addressed an audience at New York University on the subject of the Times’ initiative marking the 400th anniversary of the landing of the first African slaves in Virginia. NYU President Andrew Hamilton introduced the event, stating that the 1619 project had the trademarks of “the best pieces of journalism.” The event was moderated by Fordham Professor and MSNBC commentator Christina Greer.

There was not a single statement made by Hannah-Jones that evening, on historical issues, that withstands serious examination.

She presented her personal opinions—and, in the absence of historically informed substance, that is all they were—on the “undemocratic” character of the American Revolution and Constitution. The white working class opposes social programs because of a conscious desire to “punish black people,” she claimed, adding that “whiteness” is in the best interest of white people: “So we hear again and again, why are poor white people voting against their interests? Well, it’s assuming that whiteness isn’t in your best interest. And it is. And they know that. And so we cannot rid ourselves of that.”

Jones never explained what this “best interest” actually is. The assumption underlying her ungrounded assertion is that racial self-identification is a self-supporting interest in itself—indeed, the supreme interest that overwhelmed all others.

The intellectually bankrupt, historically false and politically reactionary character of Hannah-Jones’ race-fixated conceptions found its most disturbing and chilling expression when she turned to the subject of the anti-Semitism and genocide carried out by the Nazi regime in Germany. Hannah-Jones stated:

I’ve thought a lot about this. I’m reading this book now comparing what Nazi Germany did after the Holocaust to the American South or America. And one thing you realize is Germany, though they didn’t initially want to, dealt with a cleansing of everything that had to do with Nazism and in some ways had a reckoning of what the country did. But that’s also because there’s really no Jewish people left in Germany, so its easy to feel that way when you don’t have to daily look at the people who you committed these atrocities to, versus in the United States where we are a constant reminder.

It is hard to know where to begin with Hannah-Jones’ head-spinning combination of ignorance, historical falsification and anti-scientific race theory. Failing to work through the implications of her opinions, Hannah-Jones came dangerously close to endorsing the conception that genocide, by ending the daily encounter of Germans and Jews, was a solution to inherent racism. Hannah-Jones does not, of course, support genocide. However, she argues that once the Nazis killed the Jews, it eliminated the source of the underlying racial problem and, therefore, anti-Semitism disappeared in Germany. In the United States, on the other hand, racism has persisted because whites still have to look at and interact with blacks. There is nothing in this twisted narrative with which a Nazi would disagree.

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