Charles Love’s Race Crazy: BLM, 1619, and the Progressive Racism Movement arrives in the midst of a glut of books about The 1619 Project, Black Lives Matter, and the various incarnations of the modern woke movement. While many of these books are fine contributions to the corpus chronologizing America’s disturbing descent into tribal conflict, a decade from now, Love’s book—a brilliant admixture of deep-dive journalism and social commentary—is the book that will be remembered because of its patriotic ambition.
How is Race Crazy patriotic and how is it ambitious?
To appreciate the book, it would be helpful to explain what the book is most certainly not. Anyone looking for a polemic against left-leaning America or a screed bemoaning every policy position of the modern Democratic Party will be disappointed. It is not a “political book” in the modern sense of the term. Neither Donald Trump nor Joe Biden make any significant appearance.
It is a book that seeks to explain that there is a pernicious and stealth movement in modern America seeking to both undermine, and in some cases, “dismantle,” the basic tenets of America’s liberal traditions and institutions.
Love places himself squarely and proudly in the tradition of Jeffersonian liberalism, Madisonian constitutionalism, the redemption of Gettysburg, and the 14th amendment, as well as the titanic achievement of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. He juxtaposes this tradition of individualized liberty and personal agency with what he calls the “progressive racism movement.”
As he writes, “The 1960’s Civil Rights movement championed by Dr. Martin Luther King and other courageous advocates of racial equality, has been stood on its head. In our now race-obsessed society, one’s identity—long regarded as personal and self-created—has reverted to being tribal and genetically determined.”
As Love sees it, there are two pillars to the progressive racism movement that are deeply misunderstood. The first one is BLM.
Anyone with a scintilla of political awareness now recognizes that there is a colossal chasm between affirming the sentiment that “black lives matter” versus offering financial, corporate, or political support for the ideals of the Black Lives Matter organization itself.
As Love writes, “Corporations who donate to them are contributing to their own demise, blacks who march with them are marching for perpetually bad neighborhoods, and whites who support them are supporting their future unemployment. Do it at your own peril and the peril of the country.”
The half of the book focusing on Black Lives Matter is not just a redundant denunciation of the Marxist roots of its founders or the violence it has been said to perpetuate. Instead, Love takes a deep journalistic dive into the Black Lives Matter organization. What he discovers would shock and surprise most Americans.
Black Lives Matter, he discovers and argues through voluminous research, is just the arm of a much wider but secretive organization called the Movement for Black Lives. As Love writes, “While their anonymity is intriguing, their beliefs are dangerous. What they describe on their website is nothing short of an operational plan for takeover of the country.”
Love describes the byzantine maze of funding for BLM that is both difficult to decipher and shrouded in deep secrecy. As he vividly illustrates, “The Movement for Black Lives is a force, yet they have remained in the shadows. I hope you will do internet searches to see what comes up. You will find mentions, but you’ll be surprised how few there are and how none are associated with any person. We at least know the faces of the women who started Black Lives Matter, though they are largely figureheads today.”
He provides numerous chapters describing the Movement for Black Lives 2020 Platform, using this segment of the book as an exegesis tackling a variety of issues including incarceration, crime, drug laws, and education.
The second pillar of misunderstanding is The 1619 Project. Love is quite charitable to many of the features of the project. He claims much of it is eloquently written, fascinating, and replete with a lot of information that Americans should know about. But, he warns, “the entire Project focuses only on America’s flaws. This will bring nothing but misery to all involved.”
He then asks the question that reveals the thrust of his concern: “Why should people who hold contempt for the country be allowed to educate our children, particularly about the country they despise?”
Love’s articulation of the stakes involved when a large segment of the nation decides to embrace pseudo-historic “narratives” over well-established historic facts is both eloquent and guttural. The basic questions of American identity that American schools have traditionally served to answer—what are the self-evident truths of Jefferson, what does it mean to be a Madisonian when trying to understand the American regime, what did the Framers mean by the phrases “limited government,” natural law, or due process—are simply missing from the educational orbit of today’s educational system. The 1619 Project would double-down on this exercise in political ignorance, and a hearty embrace of 1619 curricula would have a profound impact on the experiment of self-government.
Here’s why: the real agenda of the 1619 Project is to reformulate what America has always been about, away from the traditional view that America has historically fallen short of its ideals, yet steadily working from generation to generation to inch closer to them, and towards a more radicalized and deeply cynical narrative in which racism is in the nation’s “DNA,” that oppression was not really a contradiction of America’s founding, but was the very raison d’etre for the creation of the nation itself.
As Love writes, “The 1619 Project is reframing American history to make it solely synonymous with slavery. They are succeeding at making this perspective mainstream and bringing this toxic approach to the classroom.” Love uses the word “danger” frequently, and he is right to do so.
If being an American is not grounded in established churches, divine monarchs, or rigid class structures, but instead is the fragile consequence of “a people” believing in shared truths as articulated in our founding documents, then what is the logical consequence of a generation professing no belief in these truths? A generation that has no love or veneration for our founding documents? Who believe the real story of the nation is not one of nobly struggling for liberty, justice for all, and equality under the law, but instead is a sprawling and infinite tale of permanently subjugating large swathes of the country?
When President Obama eulogized John McCain in 2018, he perfectly articulated the fragility of the American creed: “John understood, as JFK understood, as Ronald Reagan understood, that part of what makes our country great is that our membership is based not on our blood line, not on what we look like, what our last names are, not based on where our parents or grandparents came from or how recently they arrived, but on adherence to a common creed that all of us are created equal.”
The 1619 Project suggests there is no “common creed,” only a stealth employment of highfalutin language in our founding and governing documents to hide what many revisionist historians now believe to be true—that America was never truly aiming for real justice.
Instead, sophisticates of the left believe modern enlightenment is synonymous with becoming hyper-aware of the truth of ubiquitous oppression, understanding that the country has not really made great strides towards racial justice and harmony, but has merely pivoted to camouflaged forms of injustice, cloaked in systemic or implicit structures of discrimination.
As Love phrases the matter, “Where critical race theory and the Black Lives Matter Movement hold that racial problems are systemic, The 1619 Project goes further. The problem is not a few misguided, racist laws here and there. It is that slavery and its remnants are alive today.”
My criticisms of Race Crazy are few. There is but a single section on how it is now “Time to Act.” An entire section devoted to the question of “what now?” would have been welcomed.
Also, while most of the book was probably written before the recent surge in parental interest about education, it would have been powerful to see Love’s response to those who argue they simply believe CRT and the 1619 Project are merely trying to tell the complete story of America, blemishes and all, asking schools to expand beyond a sanitized version of American triumphalism.
Love is answering the call Lincoln makes in his much under-appreciated 1838 Lyceum Address, in which he states, “If destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen we must live through all time or die by suicide.”
Race Crazy is the tonic we need to avoid this national suicide.