Far-left MSNBC host Joy Reid invited Senior Manhattan Institute Fellow Chris Rufo on to her show on Wednesday evening to discuss Critical Race Theory.
Reid repeatedly cut off Rufo, who is an expert on the issue, during the 15-minute interview. Rufo struggled to complete more than a sentence or two throughout the entire interview without being cut off, shouted down, or talked over.
JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Raucous school board meetings are one result of a national campaign by political operatives to eradicate curriculums on racial and other forms of equity, which, mind you, is not the same thing as Critical Race Theory. One of those operatives, critical race theory opponent Christopher Rufo joins me now. And, Christopher, thank you so much for making some time to be with us this evening.
CHRISTOPHER RUFO, CRITICAL RACE THEORY OPPONENT: Well, thank you.
REID: Thank you.
Okay, so let’s start out, do the elephant in the room. So, you and I started off on a little bit of a Twitter beef. I talked about you, I quoted you in an article that one of our great journalists here at NBC had quoted you in a piece, and I quoted that on TV. And then you tweeted that you wanted to come on the show, and said I didn’t have the courage to put you on. Now, I will just note that Twitter, it’s for — it’s a hyperbole zone. So, I — whatever. It’s all water under the bridge. But I just want to just get to a couple of little factual things. Why would I need courage to have you on? Are you like an expert in race or racial history? Are you a lawyer? Are you a legal scholar? Is that part of your background?
RUFO: Yeah, I’m a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, where I’m running their initiative on Critical Race Theory. And the reason that I reached out on Twitter to you — and I appreciate you having me on.
RUFO: I enjoy this kind of cross-partisan dialogue. But the reason is not just because you were attacking me on air, which I think is fine. It’s politics. That’s fair game.
REID: Well, one second. Just — I wasn’t attacking you. I was reading your quote. So that’s what I did. I read your quote. But go on.
RUFO: Sure, but you were reading it with the framing, calling me a political operative, which I’m not. I’m actually a think tank scholar. But let’s put all that aside. The problem that I have is that you have really spread four, I think, key false pieces of information about Critical Race Theory.
RUFO: You have claimed in recent weeks that critical race theory isn’t being taught in schools. You have claimed that most American public school students learn what you call Confederate race theory and are taught that slavery was — quote — ‘not so bad.’ You have claimed that state legislation will prevent schools from teaching about the history of racism. And, finally, you have claimed that Critical Race Theory isn’t rooted in the philosophical tradition of Marxism. And I think that all four of those claims are wrong, and I’d love to discuss them tonight.
REID: Okay, let’s go through some of this, all right. So, the first thing — and we’re going to talk about the politics, because I’m going to challenge you on whether or not you’re a political operative. I read your — this is your talking points memo that you have put out that definitely seems to be working, because you have seen people like Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio use a lot of the verbiage that you suggest and a lot of the framing that you suggest that they should use in talking about Critical Race Theory. I also watched your video, very highly produced, like, well-produced video, in which you make a lot of claims, some of which I just want to go through very quickly. First of all, I found a couple factual errors. When did you say — when do you say that Critical Race Theory was created?
RUFO: So, critical theory was created in the 1960s.
REID: Well, Critical Race Theory is something different.
RUFO: And then Critical Race Theory was based in the late ’80s…
REID: Well, critical theory is different.
RUFO: … the late 1980s and early 1990s.
REID: That’s actually not true. So, I went on Harvard University, which is where Critical Race Theory was born, at Harvard Law School. It actually happened in 1981, Professor Derrick Bell and some of his students, including Kimberle Crenshaw. So we have confirmed that. So that’s actually not true. Let me go through one other thing, because you make a lot of allegations, my friend, a lot of allegations. You talk about, particularly in your video, that people, these professors, these professorial types who even acknowledge are academics, that they are looking to do such things as replace equality with equity, which is a conservative charge that — since I was in high school, they have been saying that — to ending individual property rights, and even to committing reverse genocide or calling for reversed genocide. I know you’re a filmmaker by trade. You’re a documentary filmmaker.
REID: Yes, you use the term reverse genocide in your…
RUFO: No, that’s actually — no, that’s factually incorrect.
REID: Hold on a second. What — you did. You did. And so — I’m not — we can’t play it, because we’re not going to pay you to play your video.
RUFO: Sure. But hold on, Joy. You can play the tape.
REID: But that’s what you talk about. So, wait. What is your evidence? What is your evidence? What is your — one moment.
RUFO: You can play the tape. This is a term — the term is actually countergenocide.
REID: One moment. Countergenocide.
RUFO: And it comes from — it comes…
REID: And what is your evidence of that?
RUFO: And it comes from a book called “Rethinking Ethnic Studies,” which is rooted in the Critical Race Theory tradition. It’s not my term that I’m loading onto it. I’m simply quoting a book that is cited in California’s model ethnic studies curriculum. I think that’s horrible. You think that’s horrible. We can agree about that. But you can’t misrepresent where it comes from, who is promoting it.
REID: And model ethnic studies is not Critical Race Theory. Let me go through one other thing. You say that Ibram Kendi, Dr. Ibram Kendi, who is a college professor, you call him the guru of Critical Race Theory. So, we reached out to him. I have interviewed him before. So we reached out to him, because you say he’s the guru of Critical Race Theory. You named him a lot in a lot of your — both in your manifesto or your talking points memo, but also in your video. We reached out to him. And we asked him, are — we asked him if he’s a Critical Race Theorist.
He said: “I admire critical race theory, but I don’t identify as a critical race theorist. I’m not a legal scholar. So I wasn’t trained on Critical Race Theory. I’m a historian. And Chris would know this if he actually read my work or understood that Critical Race Theory is taught in law schools. I didn’t attend law school, which is where Critical Race Theory is taught.” It’s really the only place it’s taught. We — NBC has looked into everywhere, and it’s not taught in elementary school.
REID: But hold on a second. This is the second thing he said, which is strange to me that you…
RUFO: Well, Joy, let me respond.
REID: Wait. Wait. Hold on. Hold on. Hold on. I have a question. Hold on. Hold on. Hold on.
RUFO: This is not a monologue. This should be a dialogue, right? Am I right?
REID: Well, it’s my show, so it’s how I want to do it. So, let me read you one more quote from him, because you have made a lot of claims about Critical Race Theory saying that white Americans are inherently racist, that racism is inherent to whiteness. And that is one of the core charges that you’re making about these sort — what you consider like sort of woke studies in school. This is what Ibram Kendi has said, in his own words.
He said: “We have been taught that racist is essential to who a person is. It’s a fixed category. It’s in someone’s heart. That`s one of the reasons why people are unwilling to or unable to admit the times in which they’re being racist, because it’s not just admitting I was being racist in that moment. Basically, we’re tattooing racist on our forehead for the rest of our lives.”
Isn’t that the opposite of what you’re arguing?
RUFO: Well, I will say two things. First of all, it’s very interesting to me that so many people are now running away from the race of — the label of Critical Race Theory.
REID: No, that’s — he’s not a critical race theorist.
RUFO: Hold on.
I`m going to quote two critical race theorists, Barbara Applebaum, with the book “Being Good, Being White” . She says — quote — “All white people are racist.” Robin DiAngelo, who’s another critical whiteness studies scholar…
REID: She’s not a critical race theorist. Nope.
RUFO: … says that — quote — “All — white identity is inherently racist.”
RUFO: So, what you’re doing is you’re playing a series of word games.
REID: No. No. That’s ironic.
RUFO: You know that critical whiteness studies is a subfield of Critical Race Theory.
REID: No, it’s not.
RUFO: How these things are all deeply interrelated.
REID: No, they’re not. They’re not. They’re just not.
RUFO: And I’m not going to let you play word games. And this is — this is really, I think, the most essential thing.
REID: It’s funny. Hold on.
RUFO: Hold on.
REID: No, no, no, no. I will not hold on.
RUFO: Let me respond at least once. I haven’t gotten a full sentence out.
REID: No, no, no, because I’m not going to let you — see, one of the things that you — and I don’t know. You probably never watched me on TV. Just we didn’t know who each other were not so long ago. But I don’t allow people to just make up and say lies on the show. It’s just not really right to do that and let people hear…
RUFO: Yes, sure.
REID: But hold on.
RUFO: But let me at least get a full sentence in. Am I right or wrong?
REID: Wait. Wait. Wait. Robin DiAngelo is not a critical race theorist. And I want everyone to know that. Robin DiAngelo — I don’t know who the other woman is. But she’s not. But let’s just go through a minute, because whiteness and racist, whiteness and racist.
REID: Where did the term whiteness come from?
RUFO: Sure. And I think this is an important point.
RUFO: And I hope you will let me actually get a full paragraph out about this.
REID: Go for it.
RUFO: Whiteness — whiteness is the idea that there is some kind of metaphysical category in the world, that all white people are reducible to this essence of whiteness. Then what happens is that they load all of these negative connotations. They say that whiteness is, by definition, that includes white fragility includes white privilege, includes internalized white superiority. And then what they do is, they try to impose these reductive racial categories onto individuals. And I actually agree with Kendi’s approach, I think that we should fight race essentialism. But the problem is that Critical Race Theory enshrines racial centralism. And you see it in schools.
REID: But you said he is one.
RUFO: And I will give you three examples of Critical Race Theory being taught in schools.
REID: No. One — hold on one second. Wait. Hold on one second. Hold on.
RUFO: In Cupertino, California — in Cupertino, California…
REID: No. These are in your talking points. Sir, Chris, these are in your talking points. And I know what you’re going to say, because you said it with Marc Lamont Hill. You repeat these same things. They’re in this manifesto. People can read it online. Let me just go for a second. On the subject of whiteness, are you aware, since you say that I guess you’re — you’re sort of a quasi-historian in your thinking, that whiteness was actually formed in the United States, that whiteness didn’t even exist as a thing? Europeans were all European. They considered themselves Italian or Polish or whatever. When the colonists came here, they actually created the idea of whiteness. This is from the — from the Smithsonian.
RUFO: I agree with that.
REID: As a way to distinguish themselves from what they called the savages, the natives, and from black people from Africans, who, even if you had a little African in you, if you’re Plessy, who’s seven-eighths white, if you are African in any aspect, that you are reduced of rights. So, people that you don’t like that are doing this sort of wokeness training, are saying, whiteness has always had power. There used to be a saying: I’m free, white, and 18. It was commonly said in the ’50s and ’60s — ’40s, ’50s and ’60s. So, whiteness has power. So people who don`t — who want to decouple whiteness from power, that’s what you’re annoyed by, right? Let me play a little bit of what you said. You did a speech.
REID: Hold on. You did a speech at the Claremont Institute in which you talked a little bit about how you really feel about the academics of it. Here it is.
This is cut — I think this is — is it three? Yes, go for it. Play it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUFO: I’m a white guy fighting critical race theory.
QUESTION: Do you identify as white?
RUFO: I mean, I’m an Italian American. So, you tell me. … Lumping people into white, black, Asian, as you suggested, is such a crude and broad categorization.
There’s these like, very kind of pathetic and very angry graduate students that try to fight me on these highly technical Hegel interpretations. And it’s like, I don`t have time for this. I don’t give a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) about this stuff.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: So you don’t give an S about this stuff. You’re really just having a campaign to take everything that annoys white Americans and white conservatives.
RUFO: No, that’s not right. No, that’s not right. No.
REID: Hold on.
RUFO: I mean, you played my highlight reel. You played my highlight reel. Give me a chance to respond.
REID: You want to make a campaign and stuff everything in there that people will get annoyed…
RUFO: No, that’s absolutely wrong.
REID: And you want to stuff it all into critical race theory, right?
RUFO: What I don’t think is right is that forcing 8-year-olds in Cupertino, California, to deconstruct their racial identities…
REID: That’s not critical race theory.
RUFO: … and then rank themselves according to power and privilege — power and privilege — it`s intersectionality theory, which was invented by Kimberle Crenshaw.
REID: That’s intersectionality. It`s a separate thing. Intersectionality is a separate thing.
RUFO: Which is part of critical race theory,
REID: No, it’s not, dear.
RUFO: You had her on your show. You know this.
REID: Yes, she — yes, she invented both things. She invented both things.
RUFO: And here’s the bottom line, Joy. What you have done in tonight’s segment is exactly what I’m fighting against.
REID: One more thing. No.
RUFO: I’m fighting against the manipulation of language. I’m fighting against language deconstruction.
REID: Right. You’re fighting against wokeness. And you don’t like corporate wokeness, et cetera. I get it.
RUFO: And I’m trying to basically load all of these euphemistic terms with subversive content…
REID: I get it. Right.
RUFO: … because, otherwise, you just say whatever you want, and then you back away from it, and you dance around it.
REID: Yes. Yes. Yes.
RUFO: It’s not going to happen.
REID: Let — let me — hold on. Chris…
RUFO: Parents all over this country, they know what’s happening in schools. They know what’s happening in their public institutions.
REID: One second, Chris.
RUFO: And you’re seeing people revolt against this divisive identity politics.
REID: Yes. That’s…
RUFO: And you can dance all you want…
RUFO: … but you’re not going to stop people from understanding what’s happening in their classrooms.
REID: I actually — I actually appreciate that you said that, because, Christopher, what you basically — and you admit it yourself, that you have taken all of these sort of wokeness moments, corporate wokeness, the corporate sort of woke money, woke capital, the things that annoy conservatives, and you have stuffed it all into the name critical race theory.
It’s really like — it’s like Christopher Rufo theory. You stuffed it all in.
Here`s what you said.
You tweeted this: “The activists…”
RUFO: Hey, listen, I — Christopher Rufo’s theory sounds fantastic.
REID: Hold on. Hold on one second.
I’m going to read you to you, and then you can respond to it. I’m going to read you to you, and then you respond to it.
“The activists are realizing that their ideas, once put into practice, are generating discontent,” which as you just described.
RUFO: I think that’s true.
REID: “Their racial coalition is also breaking apart. Asian Americans in particular are revolting against CRT,” which is really Christopher Rufo theory, because you made it up, “is punishing them more than any other group.”
Then you said: “We have successfully frozen their brand, critical race theory, into the public conversation and are steadily driving up negative perceptions. We will eventually turn it toxic, as we put all the various cultural insanities under that brand category.”
REID: “The goal is to have the public read something crazy in the newspaper and immediately think critical race theory. We have decodified the term and we will recodify to annex the entire range of cultural constructions that are unpopular with Americans.”
Aren`t you just taking wokeness stuff that annoys you and calling it critical race theory?
RUFO: No, not at all. The idea of the codification and decodification of language comes from the critical pedagogist Paulo Freire. And my strategy is to take these…
REID: Now you`re doing pedagogy, Christopher?
REID: Come on.
RUFO: To take these techniques and use them against their own ideology. And I will tell you, Joy, my strategy has been enormously successful.
REID: Oh, among conservatives.
RUFO: According to “The Economist” magazine poll, 64 percent of Americans now know what critical race theory is…
REID: No, they know what Christopher Rufo theory is, Chris.
RUFO: … of which — of which — of which — of which 58 percent…
REID: They know what you…
RUFO: … of them think that it — view it…
REID: You made up your own thing. My friend, you made up your own thing. You admitted you were going to do it.
RUFO: Let me finish one sentence.
REID: And I’m going to give you credit for one thing. You did create your own thing. Not a lot of guys in their 30s have created their own thing, labeled it something that already existed as a name, slapped that brand name on it, and turned it into a successful political strategy. You have done that. It’s creating a lot of hell at school board meetings, but you did accomplish that. So, Christopher Rufo, thank you, man. Thank you for being here. Really appreciate you.
RUFO: Well, Joy, I appreciate it. And I will give you the position as the most prestigious Christopher Rufo theory scholar in the world.
RUFO: I hope, next time, you give me at least a chance to complete two sentences. I think it would be a lot more fun. But we will try again next time.
REID: Well, not if you’re going to do talking points. They were your talking points.
RUFO: Yes, we will try again.
REID: So, people can read your talking points online, because they’re online as well. You can read all of them. Thank you very much, Christopher. OK, Christopher Rufo.
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