September 18, 2020

Manisha Sunil, West End Strategy Team; Phone: 202-417-0171

Trump Administration’s 1776 Commission Is “A Minefield of Racist Dog Whistles and Nods to White Nationalism”

WASHINGTON — Yesterday, President Trump announced the establishment of the “1776 Commission” to promote “patriotic education.” The commission stands in opposition to efforts by some educators to teach a more honest and inclusive view of American history – one that better acknowledges the traumas of slavery, systemic racism, and colonization. In response, Maureen O’Leary, advocacy associate for Interfaith Alliance, released the following statement:

President Trump’s announcement was a minefield of racist dog whistles and winks to the far right. He has moved his culture war into the classroom – making the sensational claim that ‘left wing mobs’ are indoctrinating students ‘into abandoning their values, their heritage, and their very way of life.’

It is clear whose ‘heritage’ the president is interested in protecting. When white supremacists rallied to protest the removal of Confederate statues, they used the terms ‘heritage’ and ‘way of life’ in defense of their own militant racism. When President Trump uses these words, he is not oblivious to their context. Implicit in his speech was the message that acknowledging the legacy of slavery and racism in our national narrative is inherently anti-American.

America has never been perfect. We have time and again failed to live up to the promises enshrined in our Constitution. But we have achieved greatness when we have prioritized our higher ideals over the status quo. Now, at a time when Black Americans and their allies are crying out for racial healing, we have the opportunity to dig deep – to unearth the buried parts of our past and begin the hard work of reconciliation.

Papering over our failures will only comfort the privileged while denying others their history and their heroes. Reaching for a more nuanced understanding of our past and our future is the work of patriots. This is what President Trump fails to recognize – that acknowledging our historical wrongs does not make us weak, it makes us stronger.

If you are interested in speaking with Maureen further, please contact Manisha Sunil at or 202-417-0171.

Interfaith Alliance is a network of people of diverse faiths and beliefs from across the country working together to build a resilient democracy and fulfill America’s promise of religious freedom and civil rights not just for some, but for all. We mobilize powerful coalitions to challenge Christian nationalism and religious extremism, while fostering a better understanding of the healthy boundaries between religion and government. We advocate at all levels of government for an equitable and just America where the freedoms of belief and religious practice are protected, and where all persons are treated with dignity and have the opportunity to thrive. For more information visit