Nikole Hannah-Jones, staff writer at The New York Times and lead essayist in The New York Times Magazine’s “1619 Project” tweeted that she finds the common rebuttal of presentism—the popular practice of condemning those of different times and cultures for not magically acquiring the evolved beliefs and values that those who have had the advantage of decades and even centuries of experience, observation and enlightenment—that those criticized were of their time “offensive.”
“I mean, Hitler was a man of his time. Bin Laden was a man of his time,” the Pulitzer Prize winner tweeted. “It’s a justification and unnecessary.”
This is the quality of analysis and thought we now receive from the best of American. journalists, one who has been deemed worthy of the occupation’s highest honor.
First, it is profoundly unrealistic and unfair to expect those raised in a culture with long-established values to determine on their own that such values are flawed or based on faulty assumptions and information. This should be intrinsically obvious to anyone capable of critical thought.
Second, the journalist’s analogy is so terrible it hurts. She apparently doesn’t comprehend what ” of his time” means, which may explain why, in her ahistorical essay for the Times, she couldn’t distinguish between the implications of evidence that some colonists wanted independence from Britain to protect the institution of slavery, and her false statement that “one of the primary reasons the colonists decided to declare their independence from Britain was because they wanted to protect the institution of slavery.” Hitler and Bin Laden obviously lived in their times, but neither were representative or typical of their times, which is why they are regarded as among history’s monsters.
Third, pointing out that Aristotle, Sir Thomas More, Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson approved of slavery because they lived in a culture that believed it is just does not aim to justify the practice now, but to explain why it is unjust to judge those figures harshly for doing so.
Fourth, the perspective she finds offensive is absolutely necessary to understand and appreciate history, ethics, human character, and the complexities of the towering figures who constructed the foundations of civilization.
This is the caliber of intellect and integrity being exhibited by the leaders of the current attack on American history and culture based on the false pretense that they are eliminating “systemic racism.” Hannah-Jones, in response to a critical New York Post story, tweeted this:
It would be a perfect way to characterize the current freak-out, bur not for the reasons she thinks.
17 thoughts on “Ethics Dunce: Nikole Hannah-Jones”
Word just came in — The American Museum of Natural History has requested New York City remove the statue of Teddy Roosevelt at the entrance.
The City agreed. The removal date has not been set, nor has it been revealed what they will do with it once they take it down.
I am unutterably sad.
They’re closed and unable to generate any revenue. I say we shut down the contributions and let them go bust.
Why are you sad? They didn’t object to all statue of him, they didn’t object to having a statue of him, they wanted to remove one specific statue with unfortunate implications. Have you seen pictures of it?
Yeah, VG I’m going to discuss exactly this later. Misreporting is part of the problem. It’s not just a statue of Teddy, it’s a statue that undeniably has white supremacy overtones that are the fault of the sculptor, not TR (Though Teddy was, in fact, a white supremacist, as was the culture of his time). I had not seen the statue in prior reports. If there was a statue of TR having anal sex with moose, would the Times report, “Museum removes statue of Theodore Roosevelt”?
I’d hope they run pictures. Seeing that would be a bucket list item.
I have seen it and photographed it several times. The figures next to TR are not supposed to be real people, they’re supposed to be allegorical, same as the ethnographic figures on the Albert Memorial in London, and signify his friendship with the historically marginalized African-American and American Indian communities. I’m disgusted the museum, which has held firm until now, especially in the face of mob abuse, chose now to fold. Mark my words, there will not be a new statue of TR to take this one’s place.
I think the statue should stay, but that real/allegorical distinction doesn’t help. What is the allegory saying? If they were real people, I’d think it would be less offensive. It still places the white guy in a permanent position of dominance. This is art history and cultural history, and the statue conveys attitudes of the time as well as statuary styles. But suing the images of a black man and a native American as props isn’t a defense.
I admit, I found it a bit “of its time” as well, and a potential target for whiners. However, I think it should stay in order to not reward mob tactics. What would they put in its place, anyway? Teddy charging up San Juan Hill on Little Texas, gun drawn? Teddy in presidential suit standing next to the globe? Teddy as local police commissioner? Forget it. Teddy’s day is done, although the museum said it will name a hall after him. Maybe the Lenape can hold a ritual on the empty plinth, to purge the white man’s influence.
Teddy’s day is done . . .
There you have it then. The very essence of the present opposition. Just like Lothrop Stoddard said. The Rising Tide of Color that would eventually overrun Anglo-Saxon culture. It is a curious and a strange phenomenon: it’s the way ressentiment functions. The powerful yea-saying man, the man of attainment, the man of action, becomes the hated figure.
The Little Brown Folk — our little brown brothers is how Chomsky once put it, ironically encapsulating the way the ‘Teddys’ saw the rest of the world — band together like Lilliputians and entwine him with so many fibres he becomes immobilized. Fibres of guilt. Fibres of shame. That mass effort is Marxian undermining and requires a socialistic philosophy.
I should have understood all this before. It all just suddenly hit me.
Aren’t you even going to say ‘hello’ to me someday? 🙂
Wow, this is a tough one. America was ‘made great’ by virtue of the fact that it went out and claimed what it wanted. Roosevelt nicely illustrates the Nietzschean man-of-action. Completely aware of his superior status and superior attainments, all others are (more-or-less) obstacles or assistants in executing ‘the white man’s will’.
Wherever went that Anglo-Saxon man though, there Civilization was indeed established.
But I need to get this straightened out: now, if there are similar uses of power, or if this dynamic of power is still applied, at the least those on the receiving end when they see the faces that dominate them see Blacks, perhaps a few Asians, an American Indian, a woman or two, a woman of color certainly, and a lesbian and some gays and perhaps even a transvestite!
Ah Brave New World that has such people in it!
How curious! The dethroning of the White Man eventually heralds the coming of the socialist republics.
It still places the white guy in a permanent position of dominance.
What face should now occupy the saddle (so to speak)?
Make America Great Again . . . is therefore a phrasing that in itself is improper.
This is going to take a while to sort through . . . 🙂
Hello Jack and Valkygrrl —
I have to respectfully push back. Yes, I’ve seen it — I lived two blocks away from it for more than twenty years and saw it every day on my way to work.
I have never had a racialist interpretation of that statue. At the time of TR, America was a colossus that went through the globe, bringing the civilizing virtues of the West. Now, we may be uncomfortable with the fact that much of the non-Western world was not as advanced as the West during the era of Roosevelt, but it just happens to be true.
This is a conqueror, it’s a leader to Enlightenment.
Finally, since Roosevelt and his family were so influential in the foundation of the AMNH, if museum leadership said we need to replace it with a different statue of the great man, or find some other way to keep his spirit alive at the entrance … I would be just as unhappy, but certainly more forgiving. However … there is no word of that.
Cowardice and erasure. Not good optics for a museum.
Sorry — meant to say:
This is NOT a conqueror, it’s a leader to Enlightenment.
Yet she is not offended by those lovely 17th century Ghanians who sold the slaves to Europeans and turned the captured women into “Handmaidens” for Asante men.
Apparantly, the Libyan slave markets in 2020 don’t offend her either. I suppose slavery is ok unless white Europeans practice it.
Frankly, I’m surprised she considers Osama Bin Laden a bad guy. He wanted to destroy America. I assumed she’d consider him a heroic ally.
Nikole Hannah-Jones is a woman of her times. In fifty years, if still remembered, she will be reviled by her successors for her hateful words; her apologists will cite her ignorance and point out her good works and better intentions. Such is the wheel of time.
Let me compare this to E.M. Arndt’s Catechism for the Teutonic Soldier and Warrior, 1813:
Freedom is where you can live, as pleases a brave heart; where you can live according to the customs and the laws of your fathers; where you are made happy by that which made your most distant ancestors happy.
Aristotle believed in a condition of natural slavery. That certain people would always be inclined to serve, not to rule nor to lead. The idea is completely sound and has not been refuted because it is sound. Our modern systems, and definitely American consumer-democracy, works with the same general idea. In a sense we have perfected it. They establish at the center of culture and economy a system whose primary purpose is to purvey Bread & Circuses to the masses. This is quite literal. To be reduced to a ‘consumer’ and to establish the consumer at the very base of civilization is to rather creatively establish *slavery* (lack of agency) as a desired norm. Walter Lippmann develops this idea through the writing of his that I have read.
It actually takes critical thinking to stand outside of the systems we have created to be able to recognize how clever and in a sense how cynical they are.
The activities and rebellions of the present do not have much really to do with what they say they have to do with. Those are just *accidents*. They grab onto these events and engage in activism in order to work toward the establishment of the socialistic order they desire, and the one they imagine is an ‘evolution’.