The Washington “Policy” Center Dog Whistles on Anti-Racism Curriculum

The Black Lives Matter movement has been challenging this country to recognize an epidemic of police violence against people of color and the inherited wounds of American slavery that have left racism entrenched in our governance and economic systems. The Washington “Policy” Center (WPC), however, seems quite resistant to seeing the African-American experience through this lens. Across multiple blogs and an “in-depth review,” their Director of Education, Liv Finne, has excoriated a new teaching curriculum based on the The 1619 Project that provides a historical analysis of how slavery shaped American political, social, and economic institutions. 

The authors of The 1619 Project seek to place “the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative.” The curriculum, created by journalists at The New York Times Magazine, is being offered to teachers as an optional supplement to history courses, many of which are outdated and conveniently gloss over America’s “original sin.” The content is challenging, even gruesome, as The New York Times Magazine explains, but “American history cannot be told truthfully without a clear vision of how inhuman and immoral the treatment of Black Americans has been.”

The concept makes Finne and the Washington Policy Center very uncomfortable, as evidenced by the racist dog whistles they’ve been blowing while discrediting The 1619 Project. As Washington State experiences a disturbing surge in white nationalism and hate groups, Finne has joined her voice with Trump, Newt Gingrich, and other right-wing pundits decrying this re-examination, and more honest depiction, of our national history.

The WPC published an “in-depth review” that complains the Project is not considering the historical context of slavery because “forced labor was not exclusive to North America, but was common around the world.” Finne also wrote a blog accusing the Project of denying students “access to the rich texture of American history” and teaching them to “hate their country.” Going even further, Finne looks to be very keen on Washington State school superintendents not adopting the offered lessons, referencing an (un-documented) survey of those officials in one of her blogs. Finne claims no superintendent in the survey intends to adopt The 1619 Project materials, and she applauds them for avoiding a non-factual curriculum that contains non-seminal events.

WPC’s disgust at a syllabus that highlights the legacy of slavery and achievements by the Black community in America is disappointing, but perhaps not surprising. As we reported previously, WPC shares the same funding pipeline with another radical group with an equally deceptive name, The National Policy Institute. Led by neo-nazi Richard Spencer, the National Policy Institute is a white supremacist organization that helped organize the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, VA, in 2017. Both the WPC and Spencer received funding from the Rotella Foundation of Washington for their “work.”

The American legacy of marginalizing lives of color rages on, inflamed violently this year with the police shooting deaths of Breonna Taylor in Louisville and George Floyd in Minneapolis. The 1619 Project provides a first step in the healing of this country by admitting the painful past and examining its relationship to the present. When a white-led, billionaire-funded group like the Washington “Policy” Center fights against that message, we see where their true colors lie.