Arkansas senator Tom Cotton describes slavery as a 'necessary evil'

The remarks come on the backdrop of the Black Lives Matter movement

Credit : Joshua Roberts/Reuters

Arkansas Republican Senator Tom Cotton on Monday said the slavery was a 'necessary evil' on which the union was built and that the USA was not a racist country. According to the BBC, in an interview with a local daily, Cotton said he was introducing legislation to stop federal funds for the New York Times’ project, which aims to revise the historical view of slavery. This has enraged the project's founder.

The remarks have been made in the backdrop of the Black Lives Matter movement, which has been getting growing support. Massive protests erupted across the US against racism, police brutality following the custodial death of African-American George Floyd in Minnesota in May.

There have been frequent clashes between protesters and the police in Portland, Oregon in the past couple of weeks. Tempers have been running high as President Donald Trump decided to dispatch federal law enforcement to Portland. The US constitution states that individual states are responsible for policing and not the federal government.

Senator Cotton has been vehemently opposing the nationwide protests. In an article written in the New York Times, Cotton called the protests as an "orgy of violence". He supported Donald Trump's threat to coerce unrest, stated the report by BBC.

The opinion piece has been widely criticised. Over 800 staffers of the newspaper signed a letter condemning its publication. They said it contained misinformation. NYT later said the article was not up to its standards. Opinion editor James Bennet has quit as a fallout of the row.

Speaking to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Cotton said: "We have to study the history of slavery and its role and impact on the development of our country because otherwise, we can't understand our country.

"As the Founding Fathers said, it was the necessary evil upon which the union was built, but the union was built in a way, as [Abraham] Lincoln said, to put slavery on the course to its ultimate extinction."

Cotton on Thursday tabled the Saving American History Act to stop funding for 1619, a programme which begins US history teaching as slave ships arrived in the US in August that year.

Though the project received the Pulitzer prize for the commentary for its founder NYT journalist Nicole Hannah-Jones, it has been flayed by US conservatives. Cotton describing called it "left-wing propaganda".

"The entire premise of the New York Times' factually, historically flawed 1619 Project… is that America is at root, a systemically racist country to the core and irredeemable," he said.

"I reject that root and branch. America is a great and noble country founded on the proposition that all mankind is created equal. We have always struggled to live up to that promise, but no country has ever done more to achieve it." Following Cotton's introduction of the legislation, Hannah-Jones posted a tweet saying if slavery is justified as a tool to achieve something, anything else could be too.