On Sunday, the New York Times Magazine published perhaps its most ambitious work on race and slavery to date. The 1619 Project, which marks the 400th anniversary of the arrival of African slaves to Virginia, seeks to reframe the country’s thinking about slavery and how intertwined the practice of slavery has been in shaping the nation.
“This project is, above all, an attempt to set the record straight. To finally, in this 400th year, tell the truth about who we are as a people and who we are as a nation,” New York Times Magazine reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones said during a launch event for the series. The project, which is also online, so far features over a dozen reported essays, photo essays, and poems, with more to come.
Jones, whose work on race earned her the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship, was the driving force behind the 1619 Project. She added: “It is time to stop hiding from our sins and confront them. And then in confronting them, it is time to make them right.”
The series has largely earned praise from academics, journalists, and politicians alike. It has also been harshly criticized by some conservatives for talking about the enslavement of African people through “a racial lens” — meaning through the point of view of black Americans.
Some conservatives don’t like black journalists leading narratives on race
Former Rep. Newt Gingrich attacked the 1619 Project on Twitter on Sunday, tweeting that the New York Times Magazine series amounted to “brainwashing,” before taking his critiques to Fox and Friends Monday morning.
Also, on Monday, conservative commentator Eric Erickson wrote on his blog the Resurgent that the 1619 Project was a worthwhile endeavor, but one that failed when the New York Times put the project in the hands of opinion writers “who profit from stoking and fueling racial grievances.” It was a sentiment he tweeted the day before about writers profiting from “seeing things through racial lenses and keeping racial tension aflame as much as Trump does.”
At the heart of both men’s criticism is that the New York Times’ focus on race is part of what they and other conservatives see as a broader decline at the newspaper. It’s the type of criticism the institution often hears from President Donald Trump, who has referred to the newspaper as the “failing New York Times.”
Gingrich and Erickson point to a recent staff town hall meeting where executive editor Dean Baquet faced criticism for the newspaper’s reluctance to explicitly call comments by the president racist. In the meeting, Baquet said that there were times in which the newspaper’s coverage of Trump had been too harsh. He also referenced how the paper had to quickly pivot in its coverage of Russia-Trump collusion story when it became clear the Mueller investigation would not provide a smoking gun for impeachment.
A transcript of Baquet’s crisis-management meeting became its own smoking gun for conservatives over the past few days. During his Fox and Friends appearance, Gingrich closed his remarks by saying: “The New York Times’ editor, he basically said, look, we blew it on Russian collusion, didn’t work. Now we’re going to go to racism, that’s our new model. The next two years will be Trump and racism. This is a tragic decline of The New York Times into a propaganda paper worthy of Pravda or Izvestia in the Soviet Union.”
Erickson echoed these sentiments on his blog: “The inmates have taken over the asylum and those inmates are re-writing American history to make everything about race, racism, and slavery.”
In response to conservative comments like the 1619 Project having been written through a “racial lens,” New York Times politics reporter Astead W. Herndon tweeted on Sunday that the conservative backlash proves that, historically, writing on slavery and race in America has been through the opposite viewpoint. Even though “the narrative is often that black writers are somehow non-objective opinion activists for including race in political conversation,” he wrote, “deeply reported projects like 1619 are reminders that it’s the inverse — to ignore race — that is the non-journalistic, activist position.”
The reach and legacy of the 1619 Project is greater than conservative backlash
The 1619 Project, as it appears online, is sprawling and interactive. Matthew Desmond writes about how slavery shaped modern capitalism and workplace management norms. Jamelle Bouie connects the early 19th century political efforts to preserve slavery to current conservative political movements like the Tea Party and its efforts to nullify federal authority. Kevin Kruse explains how the country’s history of racism contributes to Atlanta traffic.
The series has drawn praise from political pundits, scholars, and even 2020 candidate Kamala Harris. And it represents a broader shift in how the story of race is gaining traction in newsrooms. Publications across the news media are giving more space in their pages, on their programming, and among their ranks to reporting on race.
This represents a shift in race coverage as the country heads toward the 2020 election. The media faced blowback — including from reporters of color — for not talking enough about race in the 2016 election, and outlets are now framing more of the political debates in this country around the topic of race.
Baquet in his comments at the staff town hall recognized this: “Race in the next year — and I think this is, to be frank, what I would hope you come away from this discussion with — race in the next year is going to be a huge part of the American story.”
NEW YORK CITY’S 1.3 MILLION FREELANCERS EARN $31.4 BILLION
In New York City, 1.3 million people freelanced in the past 12 months, and they had earnings of $31.4 billion, according to a study, “Freelancing in New York: 2019” released last week by the New York City Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, Freelancers Union and Upwork Inc.
Looking at just the media and entertainment sector, 61% of workers said they have freelanced in the past 12 months.
“New York City may very well be the freelance capitol of the world, and this study shows the massive impact these creative workers have on our economy,” said New York City Council Member Robert Holden, chair of the Committee on Technology.
A majority of freelancers (62%) were freelancing by choice.
And 50% of freelancers did so part-time, 29% freelanced full-time and 20% did it to supplement traditional full-time work.
Other findings in the study included:
For New Yorkers engaged in freelance work, 45% of their income comes from freelancing on average on an individual level.
73% of New York City freelancers use friends, family, clients or professional contacts as a means of finding work. That figure rises to 80% for media and entertainment freelancers.
Freelancers’ primary concern is access to affordable health insurance. They also worry about managing their day-to-day finances and collecting payments for services as 74% have experienced nonpayment or late payment.
The study included 5,000 working adults in New York City. Of those 1,728 had engaged in freelance work.
New York Set To Join Michigan In Banning Some E-Cigarettes
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday he will push for a ban on some e-cigarettes amid a health scare linked to vaping — a move that would follow a similar ban enacted by Michigan and a call from President Trump for a federal prohibition on certain vaping products.
Speaking in Manhattan, Cuomo, a Democrat, said the state’s Public Health and Health Planning Council and state health commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker would issue an emergency regulation banning flavored e-cigarette products.
“Vaping is dangerous,” the governor said. “At a minimum, it is addicting young people to nicotine at a very early age.”
“We would ban all flavors besides tobacco and menthol,” he said.
The push at the state and federal levels to ban certain vaping products comes as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last week that 380 confirmed or probable cases of lung disease associated with e-cigarettes had been identified in 36 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands, with six confirmed deaths.
Earlier this month, Michigan imposed a similar ban. Bills to halt the sale of flavored vaping products have been introduced in California and Massachusetts.
Last week, Trump, appearing beside Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, announced that his administration would move toward a federal ban of flavored vaping products.
“Vaping has become a very big business, as I understand it, but we can’t allow people to get sick and allow our youth to be so affected,” the president said.
“We intend to clear the market of flavored e-cigarettes to reverse the deeply concerning epidemic of youth e-cigarette use that is impacting children, families, schools and communities,” Azar said in a statement.
In July, Cuomo signed a law that raised the minimum age for purchase of tobacco and e-cigarettes in the state from 18 to 21.
UAW Goes On Strike Against General Motors
The United Auto Workers began a nationwide strike just before midnight on Sunday at General Motors after both sides failed to agree on a new contract over issues including wages, health care and profit-sharing.
Production across the U.S. is expected to be halted, affecting nearly 50,000 worker at 33 manufacturing plants in nine states as well as 22 parts distribution warehouses until a new contract is hammered out.
“At midnight tonight, the picket lines will go up,” the UAW’s Brian Rothenberg said at a news conference in Detroit on Sunday. “But basically, when the morning shift would have reported for work, they won’t be there. The picket lines are being set up.”
Night-shift workers at a plant in Bedford, Ind., that makes transmission castings and other parts, shut off their machines and went home, Dave Green, a worker, told The Associated Press.
Green, who transferred from the now-closed GM car factory in Lordstown, Ohio, said: “This is not about us. It’s about the future.”
The strike is the first against GM since a two-day walkout in 2007.
On Saturday, union officials allowed their contract to lapse around midnight. GM leadership has sought to contain the company’s health care costs, but union leadership said workers refuse to agree to a contract that makes health care more expensive for them.
“While we are fighting for better wages, affordable quality health care, and job security, GM refuses to put hard working Americans ahead of their record profits,” UAW Vice President Terry Dittes said in a statement. “We don’t take this lightly.”
Officials at GM said in a statement to NPR that the company “presented a strong offer that improves wages, benefits and grows U.S. jobs in substantive ways,” adding that: “It is disappointing that the UAW leadership has chosen to strike.”
Kristin Dziczek, vice president of the Center for Automotive Research, an independent research organization, said both sides are looking at the prospect of a weakening economy.
“The company and the union look at the very same set of economic fundamentals and see the same writing on the wall and have different motivations,” Dziczek said.
“The company looks at that and says, ‘Well, if we hit a downturn, we want to be able to have contingent compensation, so we don’t get locked into paying higher costs if the market softens.’ That same set of economic facts drives the union to want more guaranteed and certain compensation: base wage increases,” she said.
Dziczek said the strike would have to last more than a month to affect inventory at car dealerships. But she said the impact will ripple fast across North America.
“There’s great reliance on cross-border trade in engines and transmissions and other parts to support production in Canada and Mexico, so it wouldn’t take long before Canada and Mexico were also shut down,” she said.
Some of the major sticking points include the cost of health insurance and pay raises demanded by workers. GM made $8.1 billion in profits last year.
GM has announced closing four factories and the union has been fighting those decisions. GM says the average hourly employee makes around $90,000 a year. The UAW’s Ted Krumm said the union will not make concessions.
“This strike is about us. It’s about standing up for fair wages, for affordable, quality health care, for our share of profits and for our job security,” Krumm said at a Sunday press conference.
The move to strike comes as legal troubles follow the union. A federal corruption scandal has led to guilty pleas by five people in the UAW. The FBI has raided the home of Gary Jones, the union’s current president. Some workers have called on Jones to step down amid the probe, which has accused some union officials of hiding bribes and embezzling money from the union.
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