After the horrific police killing of George Floyd, Black Lives Matter protests devolved into riots across the country and the divisive anti-American narrative of The New York Times‘ “1619 Project” gained more traction (Oprah Winfrey recently announced she would team up with the Times to bring the project to the silver screen). Robert L. Woodson Sr., a veteran of the 1960s civil rights movement, condemned both the riots and the 1619 Project. He has fought to empower the black community for decades, and he told PJ Media that the riots and the 1619 Project actually harm the cause of helping inner-city blacks.
“Low-income blacks are the collateral damage” of the riots, Woodson told PJ Media. “It’s really damaging. Many of the businesses that are being torched are black-owned businesses. In my own neighborhood of Philadelphia, they burned down a grocery store that employed ex-offenders and a center that treated dialysis patients.
“I don’t know what this has to do with social justice,” he quipped.
Woodson, who founded the Woodson Center in 1981 in order to help residents of low-income neighborhoods address the problems of their communities, chastised the leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement and insisted that the 1960s civil rights movement never worked hand-in-glove with violent rioters.
“We were very careful to have standards as to who was able to claim participation. There were standards of character and standards of behavior,” Woodson said. “To be in the company of people who are burning buildings makes them complicit in what they’re doing. They’re no longer peaceful protesters.”
He condemned other civil rights veterans as “complicit” with the riots “because they’re not speaking out” against them. Woodson lamented the fact that most black leaders did not speak out against the vandalism of statues, even when vandals targeted the monument to the 54th Massachusetts Regiment (the first black Union volunteers in the Civil War) and the statue of former slave and magnificent orator Frederick Douglass. “There was no outcry,” he lamented.
Of the rioters, Woodson insisted, “Their target isn’t injustice in America, it’s America itself. They have stopped all pretense of being interested in social justice for blacks. They’re after civil society itself.”
He also condemned the 1619 Project for giving a pseudo-historical justification to the rioters.
Woodson noted that when Claremont’s Charles Kesler wrote in The New York Post “Call them the 1619 riots,” 1619 Project Founder Nikole Hannah-Jones, responded (in a since-deleted tweet) that “it would be an honor” to claim responsibility for the destructive riots.
“She took that tweet down, but nevertheless, she claimed it,” he explained. He also referenced Hannah-Jones’ statement that the destruction of property does not count as violence. “Violence is when an agent of the state kneels on a man’s neck. Destroying property, which can be replaced, is not violent,” the 1619 Project founder stated.
“I think that she has given aid and comfort” to the rioters, Woodson told PJ Media. “I no longer believe that peaceful protesters can distinguish themselves from rioters if they don’t disclaim that relationship. If they don’t condemn what these rioters are doing, they’re complicit.”
The Woodson Center recently launched a program called “1776 Unites,” which combats the 1619 Project’s claim that America’s true founding came with the arrival of the first black slaves, rather than with the Declaration of Independence.
“We know that the fundamental principles of this nation, its virtues and values, have been an important foundation on which we can promote the changes in troubled communities,” Woodson said.
While the 1619 Project seeks to “present America as a criminal organization founded on slavery,” 1776 Unites explains that “slavery was America’s birth defect, but America is not defined by its defect but by the promise of 1776.”
He noted that the 1619 Project attributes “the problems confronting black America today, the black-on-black crime and raising children without fathers” to “the legacy of slavery,” concluding that “all whites are villains and privileged and all blacks, therefore, are victims.”
Yet 1776 Unites aims to challenge “the assumptions that blacks in the past have been defined by oppression.” Woodson noted that “when we were denied access to hotels, we built our own.” 1776 Unites includes a team of 20-25 black and white scholars who champion the black Americans who used the free market to build their own prosperity, often facing stiff odds. It also includes “community activists whose lives embody” the spirit of redemption for inner-city communities.
“There’s a move afoot in black America to recognize that the problems we’re confronting are internal and can’t be solved by external means,” Woodson told PJ Media.
He mentioned the Alliance of Concerned Men, a Woodson Center affiliate that brokered a truce in the Washington Heights area of Washington, D.C. “There was not a single violence incident in the last 65 days there, at a time when everything else is chaos.”
Rather than blaming “structural racism” or some alleged hidden “white supremacy” for the problems in the black community, Woodson and the Alliance of Concerned Men help communities to “develop themselves from within.”
This alternate patriotic vision presents a strong contrast to the anti-American Marxist view of the 1619 Project, which encourages a rejection of capitalism as a form of hidden “white supremacy” and fuels violent and destructive riots. Not only is 1776 Unites a more positive and peaceful force, but it also encourages community building, rather than attacks on American society.
Woodson told PJ Media that Bombardier Books will publish many of the 1776 Unites essays in a book, and that the program is developing children’s curriculum to combat the noxious impact of the 1619 Project, which has smuggled itself into school curricula in all 50 states.
The Woodson Center and 1776 Unites present an important alternative to Black Lives Matter and the 1619 Project when it comes to pro-black philanthropy.
Woodson lamented the fact that so many businesses contribute to the official Black Lives Matter movement, which espouses a Marxist platform calling for the abolition of capitalism.
“I want to know why corporate America would fund an organization that has as its goal the abolition of capitalism,” he told PJ Media. “That’s like handing people the rope to hang you with.”
He also condemned the Democrat politicians who run so many inner-cities. “Either they have profited from the spoils of the racial wars or they are in the government of these cities that have failed poor blacks over five decades. They’re using race as a ruse in deflecting attention away from their failures of the running of these cities,” he argued.
Tragically, the riots create a vicious cycle.
“The more that police have to devote their attention to protecting downtown means there are fewer of them in their neighborhoods,” Woodson explained. “The more blacks kill themselves, the more the accusing finger is pointed at ‘institutional racism.’ Black Lives Matter activists are exacerbating the situations that are resulting in black deaths and they collect a bounty from corporations for their role in exacerbating the problem.”
“It’s like a fireman starting a fire and then they get paid to put it out,” he lamented.
Fortunately, those who are rightly worried about the devastation in black communities have an alternative to Black Lives Matter. Concerned Americans should donate to the Woodson Center and the 1776 Unites project. True hope for black communities does not come from dismantling the American project in freedom and justice for all, but from empowering black leaders in those communities to harness America’s opportunities.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.