The Arkansas Republican senator Tom Cotton has called the enslavement of millions of African people “the necessary evil upon which the union was built”. Thomas Bryant Cotton is an American politician, military veteran and lawyer serving as the junior United States Senator from Arkansas since 2015. A member of the Republican Party, he served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 2013 to 2015.
Tom Cotton introduced a legislation earlier this week
He was speaking in support of legislation he introduced on Thursday that aims to prohibit use of federal funds to teach the 1619 Project, an initiative from the New York Times that reframes US history around August 1619 and the arrival of slave ships on American shores for the first time.
Cotton’s Saving American History Act of 2020 and “would prohibit the use of federal funds to teach the 1619 Project by K-12 schools or school districts”, according to a statement from the senator’s office.
“The entire premise of the New York Times’ factually, historically flawed 1619 Project … is that America is at root, a systemically racist country to the core and irredeemable. I reject that root and branch. America is a great and noble country founded on the proposition that all mankind is created equal. We have always struggled to live up to that promise, but no country has ever done more to achieve it.”
— Cotton’s remarks to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
The Black Lives Matter scenario
This comes amid the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. The death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, in Minnesota in May sparked huge protests across the US against police brutality and racism.
Protesters and police in the city of Portland, Oregon, have clashed repeatedly in recent days. The confrontations have escalated since a deeply controversial decision by President Donald Trump to send federal law enforcement to the city. Under the US constitution, policing is a matter for individual states, not for the federal government.
Senator Cotton has been a strong critic of the nationwide protests, describing them in an opinion piece for the New York Times as an “orgy of violence” and backing Donald Trump’s threat to use troops to quell unrest.
Words of the Senator:
Senator Cotton told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette: “We have to study the history of slavery and its role and impact on the development of our country because otherwise we can’t understand our country.
“As the Founding Fathers said, it was the necessary evil upon which the union was built, but the union was built in a way, as [Abraham] Lincoln said, to put slavery on the course to its ultimate extinction.”
He added: “We have to study the history of slavery and its role and impact on the development of our country because otherwise we can’t understand our country. As the Founding Fathers said, it was the necessary evil upon which the union was built, but the union was built in a way, as former President [Abraham] Lincoln said, to put slavery on the course to its ultimate extinction.”
Nikole Hannah-Jones, who was awarded this year’s Pulitzer Prize for commentary for her introductory essay to the 1619 Project, said on Friday that Cotton’s bill “speaks to the power of journalism more than anything I’ve ever done in my career”.
On Sunday, she tweeted: “If chattel slavery – heritable, generational, permanent, race-based slavery where it was legal to rape, torture, and sell human beings for profit – were a ‘necessary evil’ as Tom Cotton says, it’s hard to imagine what cannot be justified if it is a means to an end.
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