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.