Taxpayers should not fund library's 1619 Project programs

I am concerned about the Cleveland Heights – University Heights Public Library System’s sponsorship of seminars on the history of race relations based on "The 1619 Project.”

Many qualified scholars believe The 1619 Project presents a highly questionable reading of history. They argue that it creates a false narrative out of racial grievance; and as a student of history, I agree with them. For this reason, I object to [Heights Libraries’] public seminar about The 1619 Project [presented] at taxpayer expense.  Such a seminar risks being a one-sided, biased, and ideological approach to an important social issue in a type of setting that makes that approach appear to many as more authoritative than it really is.

A library program on this subject cannot help but classify people based on the color of their skin rather than on the content of their character. To Black children, official library sponsorship risks suggesting they will have a permanent reduced status in life no matter how much they try to achieve. To their white classmates, it risks suggesting they always will be viewed as oppressors because of skin color they cannot control, and past actions in which they played no part. Rather than leading to an honest discussion about race, The 1619 Project makes such honest discussion much less likely. That is because it encourages the worst type of racial division.

I certainly do not advocate censorship. A public library should offer books for readers interested in reading about The 1619 Project. It also should offer books written by critics. But sponsoring a public program taught by advocates can lead to indoctrination in the guise of scholarship. Our library should not become a party to that.

Some may argue that controversial topics such as The 1619 Project deserve to be discussed in a library forum. I hope they would recognize there are reasonable limits to what subjects a library should offer at taxpayer expense and in a public setting. For instance, should the library offer a forum to proponents of pedophilia just because there may be some people who advocate in favor of it? I would hope not. 

Library trustees should examine carefully what their own limits are. And I hope they will conclude after consideration that a publicly supported forum to teach about The 1619 Project exceeds those limits.

Alan Rapoport

Alan Rapoport, a longtime resident of Cleveland Heights, served on CH City Council (1980–87) and as mayor (1982–87).

Read More on Opinion
Volume 15, Issue 1, Posted 11:24 AM, 01.01.2022