Christopher Rufo, debates Joy Reid on the definition of Critical Race Theory.
JOY REID: 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. 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.
CHRISTOPHER RUFO: Well...
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" (sic).
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...
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 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.