1619 Project couldn’t get more cartoonish even as a Disney project — oh, wait
A recent episode of a Disney+ cartoon show has woke kids performing a skit around the theme “Slaves built this country.”
The installment of the “Proud Family” series — in which the kids find out the founder of their town was a slave owner — is a cartoon version of the 1619 Project, although the 1619 Project is cartoonish in its own right.
Hulu is streaming a documentary (using the word loosely) version of the New York Times production, hosted by the 1619 Project’s creator, Nikole Hannah-Jones.
A just-released episode is devoted to the idea that slavery created American capitalism and is about as subtle as the Disney+ cartoon, relying extensively on the commentary of the Marxist academic Robin D.G. Kelley.
If there were any doubt about the radical agenda of the 1619 Project — which has made a pretense of a neutral pursuit of the historical truth — the Hulu show should remove it.
It argues that, as Hannah-Jones puts it, our “economic system was founded on buying and selling black people.” Imprinted by this legacy, American capitalism is brutish and exploitative to this day. In fact, there is a direct line from antebellum cotton plantations to 21st-century Amazon warehouses.
Yes, there’s very little difference between, say, Joshua John Ward, the king of the rice planters who owned more than a thousand slaves in South Carolina, and Jeff Bezos.
The point is that the only way to fully reject racism and the legacy of slavery is to reject American capitalism. QED.
This is poisonous dreck.
Slavery has been a fact of human existence throughout recorded history. Why did it suddenly create capitalism a couple of centuries ago in a few select places, namely the Netherlands, Britain and the American colonies? Why didn’t the Egyptians create it? The Romans? The Vikings?
It is true that slavery and cotton production played a large role in the American economy, but they weren’t determinative. As Phil Magness of the American Institute for Economic Research points out, slave-produced cotton and its derivatives accounted for 5% or 6% of gross domestic product prior to the Civil War.
Are we supposed to believe that absent this sector of the economy, the growing financial and industrial might of the United States would have evaporated?
Important voices in both the rapidly growing North and relatively stagnant South saw a stark contrast between the economic systems of the two regions.
In the North, Abraham Lincoln observed, free workers made the most of themselves, while the mandarins of the slave South undertook an “effort of some to shift their share of the burthen” of labor “on to the shoulders of others,” and work itself was considered “vulgar and ungentlemanly.”
Radical Republican Thaddeus Stevens believed, “If the South is ever to be made a safe republic, let her lands be cultivated by the toil of the owners or the free labor of intelligent citizens.”
For his part, the influential apologist for the slave South George Fitzhugh argued that the doctrine of laissez-faire is “at war with all kinds of slavery.”
If slavery was the basis of capitalism, one wonders, why did the capitalist North dare wage a war to destroy the seedbed of its own prosperity? Why didn’t the region that was the great source of capitalism win the war based on its superior economic might rather than getting ground down by a more financially proficient and productive North? Finally, how did American capitalism survive the end of chattel slavery?
For the anti-capitalists, the answer to the last question is easy — slavery, in effect, never went away.
Whatever one thinks of working conditions or wages at Amazon, though, obviously people working there are free to work elsewhere, free to start their own businesses, free to quit the workplace altogether.
That would seem a stark difference with chattel slavery, but it’s not necessary to grapple with these or any other challenging questions if the show you are producing is, in essence, a cartoon.