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Doug DeVos podcast guest says that the 1619 Project is frightful: Dismissing the history of anti-Blackness in the US and Grand Rapids

June 20, 2022

Earlier this year, GRIID wrote a piece about a new podcast that is hosted by one of our local billionaires, Doug DeVos.

In that article about the podcast hosted by Doug DeVos, we wrote: 

The Believe! Podcast from Doug DeVos has so far featured people who are aligned with his religious views, other members of the Capitalist Class and those who defend the far right ideological values that are the very embodiment of the DeVos family. So, instead of blindly believing anything that people like Doug DeVos have to say, lets adopt solid critical thinking skills, skills which will allow us to see through the lies those in power want us to BeLIEve!

We continue to monitor the show’s content and the guests that DeVos invites. One guest caught our attention, so we thought is was important to write about what Dr. Larry Arnn, the President of Hillsdale College had to say. The main theme of the interview between Doug DeVos and the Hillsdale College President was, Why Should Students Love America?

The President of Hillsdale College engages in what most scholars refer to as American Exceptionalism. American Exceptionalism is the idea that the US as a country is unique and special and should be seen as a model for the rest of the world. This sentiment is reflected in the conversation between Dr. Arnn and Doug DeVos, since neither of them mention anything about the US genocidal policies directed at the First Nation’s people that lived here way before the Europeans invaded these lands. 

The Hillsdale President does acknowledge slavery, but just in passing. Interestingly enough, Dr. Arnn then spends a great deal of time talking negatively about the 1619 Project, stating: 

You know, the New York Times has done that fright­ful 1619 Project. And they claim that the move­ment of the found­ing of Amer­i­ca from the colonies for­ward was in the direc­tion of per­pet­u­at­ing slav­ery. 

The President of Hillsdale College then cites Gordon Wood as the leading US Historian, so as to contradict the claims made by the 1619 Project. This theme is not really explored by DeVos or his guest, since both are not interested in a serious exploration of the more honest history that the 1619 Project explores, particularly as it related to the centuries long practice of systemic racism in the US and how it has impacted the Black community in particular. 

While DeVos and his guest make backhanded comments about Critical Race Theory, they fail to mention that Hillsdale College has developed their own curriculum to counter the 1619 Project. The Hillsdale project is called The Hillsdale 1776 Curriculum, which is a very sanitized and whitewashed version of US history.

What we can learn from this episode of the podcast from Doug DeVos, is that he endorses and celebrates a view of US history that denies, ignores and minimizes the deeply racist history of the US, a history that continues til today. This is significant in two ways. First, Doug DeVos is the head of the Amway Corporation and he has contributed  millions to the Republican Party and GOP candidates that promote and push for public policy to deny public education teachers to teach Critical Race Theory.

Second, the Doug & Maria DeVos Foundation provides millions in funding to projects in Grand Rapids, like AmplifyGR. AmplifyGR operates in a predominantly Black neighborhood, which begs the question, does Doug DeVos’s belief about US history, particularly the history of racism, influence how his foundation contributions are used? If Doug DeVos vehemently disagrees with Critical Race Theory and the 1619 Project, shouldn’t the residents of the Boston Square Neighborhood be made aware of his views on racism?

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