Kentucky certainly isn't immune to battles over the new bogeyman of "Critical Race Theory" that Republicans are misusing and purposefully misrepresenting, as Senate GOP minority leader Mitch McConnell believes it's the issue that will give him the Senate majority 20 months from now.
The University of Louisville has issued a rare rebuke of one of its most famous and powerful graduates, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, over McConnell’s comments on Monday about the significance of slavery in American history.
Taking questions at a U of L event, McConnell was asked about his stance on the New York Times Magazine’s 1619 Project, which seeks to “reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative.”
The name of the project refers to the year enslaved Africans were first brought to American shores.
“There are a lot of exotic notions about what are the most important points in American history,” McConnell said Monday. “I simply disagree with the notion that the New York Times laid out there that the year 1619 was one of those years.”
On Thursday, a senior U of L administrator and the head of the committee overseeing the university’s new antiracism initiative snapped back at McConnell in a university-wide email.
“To imply that slavery is not an important part of United States history not only fails to provide a true representation of the facts, but also denies the heritage, culture, resilience and survival of Black people in America,” V. Faye Jones, U of L’s interim senior associate vice president of diversity and equity, said in the email.
She continued, “It also fails to give context to the history of systemic racial discrimination, the United States’ ‘original sin’ as Sen. McConnell called it, which still plagues us today.
“What we know to be true is that slavery and the date the first enslaved Africans arrived and were sold on U.S. soil are more than an ‘exotic notion.’ If the Civil War is a significant part of history, should not the basis for it also be viewed as significant?”
Jones added that U of L President Neeli Bendapudi shares her view: "President Bendapudi, Provost (Lori Stewart) Gonzalez and I reject the idea that the year 1619 is not a critical moment in the history of this country."
McConnell, a 1964 U of L graduate, has long been a booster of the university and maintained close ties to it. In 1991, he established U of L’s McConnell Center, a nonpartisan program that “seeks to identify, recruit and nurture Kentucky’s next generation of great leaders.”
Bendapudi, who was hired in 2018, has embraced an “antiracist agenda” for the university and added the word “antiracist” to U of L’s formal mandate from the legislature to become a “premier metropolitan research university.”
Bendapudi has said such an agenda should not be controversial.
“To me, anti-racism is extremely simple,” she told WDRB in October 2020. “A racist idea is when you say that one race, by itself, is superior or inferior to another. So, anti-racism is the very simple premise that your race does not confer any inherent inferiority, or superiority, to somebody.”
McConnell of course wants a fight over this, knowing it will help the KY GOP defeat Gov. Beshear in 2023. The larger issue is that President Bendapudi is right, but Republicans will just say that anti-racism is racism because it makes white people the villains and thus "inferior" in the eyes of other folks. It'll never end, it's the battle America's been fighting for 400 years, and it just ebbs and flows depending on how this current generation of mostly white electorates feel.
And so it goes.