On September 17, 2020, President Donald Trump announced his intention to create a national commission to promote “patriotic education.” The hastily convened “conference” held at the National Archives did not advance our understandings of history, but served only to mobilize white supremacist ire with its attacks on the New York Times’ 1619 Project and other historical scholarship that focuses on previously unseen groups.
In his remarks, the President called for the discrediting of decades of research and analysis by historians dedicated to presenting a nuanced perspective of the American project, including the kinds of intersectional work done by many of our members. This work uses the tools of Critical Race Theory, feminist theory, and queer theory to better understand the totality of the American experience. These are not, as the President called them, “radical ideologies,” but rather considered approaches based on evidence and argument that expand our understandings of American politics, society, and culture.
In his September 22, 2020 Executive Order on Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping, President Trump has also banned the federal workforce, the uniformed services, and federal contractors from all mentions of implicit racial and gender bias in any federally funded training or work setting.
As an organization committed to the promotion and exploration of the histories of women, genders, and sexualities, the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians opposes the twisting of the anti-racism legacies of the Civil Rights movement into a call to reject “racialized views of America.” Refusal to engage with issues of race, gender, and sexuality do not make those issues disappear. We encourage members and the general public to read the statement by the American Historical Association (to which the Berkshire Conference is a signatory).
October 24, 2020