Ted Cruz Pretty Sure Critical Race Theory Same Deal As KKK Burning Crosses
Texas GOP Senator Ted Cruz out-Cruzed himself Friday when he addressed a predominately (safe journalistic term for “pretty sure entirely") white audience at the conservative Faith and Freedom Forum and declared critical race theory as "every bit as racist as the Klansmen in white sheets."
He started out with small, mundane lies: "Critical race theory says America is fundamentally racist and irredeemably racist. Critical race theory seeks to turn us against each other." Critical race theory's primary objective isn't promoting cultural and racial resentment. That's Fox News.
CRUZ: Critical race theory is bigoted, it is a lie and it is every bit as racist as the Klansman in white sheets.
Historian Kevin Kruse responded in an MSNBC op-ed to Cruz's “painfully obvious" nonsense. It's like an esteemed food critic reviewing the new Burger King chicken sandwich. This isn't the best use of his time, but it's still informative.
The Ku Klux Klan's ideology began with the premise that racial differences were an obvious biological and scientific fact and that all human activities had to be organized around that fact; critical race theorists take as their starting point the belief that race is a fiction, that it's an invented concept that has no basis in biology or science.
CRT contends that systems and institutions are racist, not individuals. (Although a MAGA rally might test that theory.) Structural racism is about power. It's more than people disliking each other because of their skin color. Conservatives will often ludicrously claim that racism didn't really exist prior to Barack Obama dividing the nation. Everyone got along swimmingly when Black folks knew their place. The power structure benefitted white people and demanded victims of racism remain silent.
The Klan was a violent white terrorist organization that once wielded significant political power. They controlled police departments and acted with impunity, often skating on obvious criminal acts, including murder. Despite what Republicans claim, Black Lives Matter and antifa have nowhere near that level of political influence. They are not an “invisible empire," as the Klan was described in the 1960s.
The January 6 insurrectionists contained a disproportionate number of former military and police officers. That is the more significant, looming threat to national security. The QAnon-friendly GOP is turning Americans against each other with baseless conspiracy theories about the 2020 election and COVID-19 vaccines.
As Essence Political Editor Malaika Jabali explained, critical race theory "is a form of legal scholarship that responded to a pervasive ideology that the law/legal decisions were colorblind." Ignoring racial disparities in the criminal justice system is what's actually racist. If you believe Black people just plain commit crimes at a greater level than white people, then you're the one who's soaking in white supremacy.
Critical race theory, by the way, and despite what you may have heard on Fox News, is taught at the post-graduate level. It's not some rising tide of “wokeness" in public elementary schools. Republicans want to connect critical race theory with Black Lives Matter, as if every BLM protester is a radicalized college student. It's mind-boggling because the public reaction to police violence is based in objective fact. The shit is on video! Meanwhile, a clearly radicalized contingent of Republican voters believe conspiracies so absurd that even CNN's Jim Acosta can only describe them as “bullshit."
Comparing critical race theorists to Klan members is inaccurate even if CRT was overtly racist, which it's not. A fairer “both sides" comparison would be well-educated racists in suits, like Stephen Miller or Tucker Carlson, who Cruz defended when Carlson insulted the military. (Cruz would later join that party, because he's not even uniquely awful.)
Unlike Cruz, Kruse supports his arguments with evidence and delivered the following receipt:
In South Carolina, Judge J. Henry Johnson told a grand jury in 1958 that both sides of the civil rights struggle were to blame for racial turmoil in the region. "The NAACP is just as bad as the KKK," the segregationist asserted, because he believed both as "violence inciting organizations." (Cruz might be interested to note that the judge also disparaged Communists, who he said tended to be "first or second generation Americans with names ending in X, or Y, or Z.")
The Klan's racism wasn't just a theory. The KKK is estimated to have murdered as many as several thousand Black people just during Reconstruction. This wasn't random violence, like last summer's riots, which especially dumb Republicans insist is the same as an attempted coup. The Klan's violence was strategic and insurgent. It resulted in harsh segregationist laws to “control" Black people and eventually forced six million Black southerners to flee their homes (the Great Migration), cementing white rule in the former Confederate states. Right now, in Georgia and other Republican-run states, we're seeing history repeat itself.
If Ted Cruz truly opposes what the KKK represents, then he's on the wrong side.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."