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The Acton Institute continues to practice White Supremacy by attacking the 1619 Project

September 25, 2019

White Supremacy is an historically based, institutionally perpetuated system of exploitation and oppression of continents, nations, and peoples of color by white peoples and nations of the European continent, for the purpose of maintaining and defending a system of wealth, power, and privilege.

The above statement is a definition of White Supremacy, by the longtime activist and writer Elizabeth Martinez. The statement also reflects the very same kind of ideology that is perpetuated by the Grand Rapids-based Acton Institute.

The Acton Institute denies that structural racism exists and has perpetuated that lie since the organization was founded. They continue to deny the existence of White Supremacy and structural racism in the content on their website and who they invite give lectures or be part of the Acton University. The irony of their denial of White Supremacy is in fact, evidence that they perpetuate White Supremacy.

A recent example of how the Acton Institute perpetuates White Supremacy is with their recent interview with Ismael Hernandez, founder of the Freedom and Virtue Institute. Hernandez was invited to be part of the Acton podcast for the purpose of denouncing the 1619 Project

In the Acton interview with Hernandez, he says, “It is disheartening to see the New York Times initiate this project. It perpetuates this notion that there is still an ideology of White Supremacy and structural racism.”

Hernandez goes on to say that the 1619 Project, “is a form of paternalism” and “makes people passive, specifically black Americans.”

Lastly, the founder of the Freedom and Virtue Institute says, “The 1619 Project is really a disservice to the new generation of African Americans.”

In contrast to the White Supremacist views of Hernandez and the Acton Institute, it is worth listening to what the creator of the 1619 Project, Nikole Hannah-Jones, has to say. In an article from ColorLines, Hannah-Jones says the 1619 Project: 

“aims to reframe the country’s history, understanding 1619 as our true founding, and placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are.”

Nikole Hannah-Jones was also on CBS earlier this year, in this short interview, where she talks about African Americans fulfilling the US experiment in democracy.

There is also an interesting article from the Nation Magazine, just last month, talking about how conservatives organizations, like the Acton Institute, are upset with the 1619 Project.  Again, Nikole Hannah-Jones is quoted by saying:

Our Declaration of Independence, approved on July 4, 1776, proclaims that “all men are created equal” and “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” But the white men who drafted those words did not believe them to be true for the hundreds of thousands of black people in their midst. “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” did not apply to fully one-fifth of the country. Yet despite being violently denied the freedom and justice promised to all, black Americans believed fervently in the American creed. Through centuries of black resistance and protest, we have helped the country live up to its founding ideals. And not only for ourselves—black rights struggles paved the way for every other rights struggle, including women’s and gay rights, immigrant and disability rights.

Unfortunately, the Nation article doesn’t really address why conservatives are so upset by the 1619 Project. In the case of the Acton Institute, their attacks agains the project are rooted in their free-market capitalist fanaticism. The fact that the brand of capitalism that has been practiced in the US is rooted in the theft of indigenous land and the enslavement of Africans, is something that the Acton Institute will not accept. The Acton Institute doesn’t deny that slavery existed, but they want to control the narrative about what the legacy of slavery is in the US and how the system of capitalism has continued to exploit and do other forms of harm to African Americans.

It is impossible to separate White Supremacy from Capitalism or Capitalism from White Supremacy. This is the assessment of numerous scholars and organizers, and it is the message that Ibram X. Kendi is communicating in his most recent book, How to Be an Anti-Racist. Kendi says, “I think in order to truly be antiracist, you also have to truly be anti-capitalist.”

People in Grand Rapids should know who practices and perpetuates White Supremacy. It’s not just the neo-nazi groups, it is a multi-million dollar organization with fancy offices and is run by a Catholic priest.

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