SHOTS FIRED: '1619 Project' Author Slams Teachers' Unions for Harming Kids

Racism expert Nikole Hannah-Jones denounces union opposition to in-person instruction

January 5, 2022

America's foremost expert on racism is lashing out at one of the Democratic Party's closest allies. Nikole Hannah-Jones, the New York Times journalist and author of the controversial "1619 Project," slammed teachers' unions on Wednesday for the "harms" they have chosen to inflict on America's children.

"We have to be able to talk [about the] harms of remote learning in a society where vaccines are available for all teachers without being accused of being anti-union or anti-teacher," Hannah-Jones wrote on Twitter. "We can disagree on what is the best thing to do when there are no good options without that accusation."

Hannah-Jones delivered her righteous tirade on a day when some 300,000 children in Chicago were shut out of their classrooms because the members of the Chicago Teachers Union voted overwhelmingly to reinstitute remote learning, which studies have shown has a significant negative impact on students.

The union does not have the authority to close the schools, but the vote prompted local officials to make the call as negotiations continue on a plan to resume "student learning." Days earlier, union leaders had threatened to strike if local officials sought to reopen the schools, citing an "unsafe" work environment due to COVID-19.

Throughout the pandemic, teachers' unions throughout the country have consistently pushed back against efforts to get children back in classrooms despite numerous studies showing that poor, black, and Latino students are disproportionately harmed by school closures and remote learning. Ignoring this science, the Chicago Teachers Union argued that efforts to return to in-person learning were "rooted in sexism, racism, and misogyny."

Hannah-Jones was assailed by critics for questioning the union's decision but continued to point out that conditions have changed dramatically since the height of the pandemic. Perhaps it was time, she argued, for teachers to start prioritizing the well-being of their students.

"With a staff that is 91 percent vaccinated I just don't think it's useful to have the identical conversations that we were having a year ago, especially when we know the impacts remote learning has had on our most vulnerable," the racism expert wrote. "This was a different conversation when business were shut down and teachers were expected to go into work. But people—including teachers—are eating out, having family gatherings, traveling, and we have to have a different conversation now."