American writer and New York Times journalist Nikole Hannah Jones debated a self-proclaimed survivor of Chinese communist revolutionary Mao Zedong’s cultural revolution on Sunday about “American exceptionalism.”
Jones, the lead writer of the controversial revisionist education titled “1619 Project,” first published the project in a special New York Times Magazine issue in 2019 that argued America’s foundation began in 1619 as a “slavocracy” because some of the founders were slaveowners.
Amid numerous accounts of criticism for her work, Jones faced more backlash from Critical Race Theory opponent Xi Van Fleet after she claimed that the “very presence” of black people is the idea of American exceptionalism’s “greatest rebuke.”
“Yourself and I, an immigrant from China with 200 borrowed dollars in my pocket when I arrived more than 30 yrs ago, are the proof of American Exceptionalism,” Van Fleet responded.
Van Fleet went viral two years ago after delivering an impassioned speech to a Virginia school board claiming CRT is rooted in cultural Marxism and warned Americans the communist subversion happening in the United States classroom mirrors the Chinese Cultural Revolution, which divided China’s population by class instead of race.
“Natural rights is unique to American founding,” Van Fleet said in response to Jones asking for specifics. “Bc of it we were able to abolish slavery, Jim Crow, anti-Chinese laws … to allow individuals to succeed. What is not unique to America is slavery, which still exists today. Ppl fighting for human rights in China are jailed by CCP.”
Jones did not deny natural rights “may have been unique” but argued one-fifth of the population was enslaved and without such rights during America’s foundation.
“Further, you do not think protesters in the US face state violence and arrest? You think the US has no political prisoners?” Jones asked, adding, “I’m afraid your vision of America does not match the reality.”
Van Fleet denounced the idea that her view of America is “not a vision.”
“Mine is ‘lived experience’ under the enslavement of Communism, freedom in America, and the current Woke Revolution aiming to undo America,” she said. “Black Americans are enslaved no more thanks to the persevering principles and humanity of this country.”
Define woke revolution.
— Ida Bae Wells (@nhannahjones) February 26, 2023
In her own experience, Van Fleet has said living in America is the “biggest privilege” after emigrating to the United States in 1986 when she fled Mao’s Cultural Revolution, which he launched in 1966 until his death in 1976. Reports of the total number who reportedly died during the revolution claim up to 80 millions lives were taken during Mao’s rule.
“I appreciate EVERYONE who participated in the debate yesterday about American Exceptionalism, natural rights, slavery, and the 1619 Project,” Van Fleet said on Twitter. “The author should be challenged by us since the mainstream media no longer does its job.”
I appreciate EVERYONE who participated in the debate yesterday about American Exceptionalism, natural rights, slavery, and the 1619 Project. The author should be challenged by us since the mainstream media no longer does its job. @ConceptualJames https://t.co/t9SDv2wbPj
— Xi Van Fleet (@XVanFleet) February 27, 2023
Historians across the political spectrum have criticized the “1619 Project,” claiming it contains serious factual errors, including the premise that “one of the primary reasons the colonists decided to declare their independence from Britain was because they wanted to protect the institution of slavery.”
A Daily Wire investigative report last month showed Jones made in 2022 more than $1.2 million from dozens of private and public education institutions after delivering over 30 speeches condemning America and shaming her audiences for belonging to “one of the most unequal societies in the history of the world.”
Luke Rosiak contributed to this report.