A key figure behind the “critical race theory” scare campaign admitted he doesn’t care about actually understanding it

Frequent right-wing media guest Christopher Rufo has also acknowledged that the “goal” of his campaign “is to have the public read something crazy in the newspaper and immediately think ‘critical race theory’”

Christopher Rufo, a senior fellow at the right-wing Manhattan Institute and frequent Fox News guest who has been a driving force behind the political scare campaign over critical race theory, appeared on May 18 at an event for the Claremont Institute on “Woke Capital,” during which he admitted that he is not even concerned with understanding the intellectual underpinnings of the ideas he is campaigning against.

Instead, as Rufo explained, the right has “appropriated” a label in order to achieve political victories. This in turn is consistent with the misinformation feedback loop that conservative media have set up on the issue, as part of an ongoing assault against civil rights advances and any discussions of racism as a persistent social problem.

Video file

Citation Via The Claremont Institute, May 18, 2021

CHRISTOPHER RUFO: I think with this critical race theory fight is, what we did successfully is we labeled it. People were understanding that something is going wrong in the culture, that — that certain ideologies and ideas were devouring institutions. And then we put a label to it, critical race theory — actually, they put a label to it in the 1990s; we just appropriated it.

And then we went at attacking it, attacking it both theoretically, attacking its principles and making those arguments, but also attacking it at a very practical political level, and providing political leaders with a cudgel with which to beat down these institutions.

But, you know, if you say, “Well, this all, you know, can be traced back to Hegel” — you get the most insane fighting in this academic realm. And I've noticed people trying to bait me into a lot of these fights. Well, they say, “Well, you don't even understand the true historical nature of critical race theory,” or, “You must not have read, you know, Mari Matsuda's definitive 1996 paper.”

And I just avoid these fights, and I block those people and I move on. Because, you know, there's these, like, very kind of pathetic and very, you know, angry graduate students that, you know, try to fight me on these highly technical, you know, Hegel interpretations. And it's like, I don't have time for this. I don't give a shit about this stuff.

I think the important thing is to say for these folks — and people will email me, “There are — there are people that are, you know, that are making these cases against you.” And it says, all right, well, there are some academics that are ankle-biting me on social media — while at the same time we have 14 state legislatures banning this ideology in their entire states, representing, what, 120 million Americans. And, you know, Ron DeSantis and Tom Cotton and Ted Cruz and everyone else who is fighting in the political arena. We are winning in these political fights. We can cede the academic fights to their irrelevant position.

Rufo has previously taken credit for a Trump-era executive order that restricted federal racial sensitivity trainings — an order that President Joe Biden rescinded upon taking office — as well as for working with state legislatures to restrict diversity training materials.

In reality, critical race theory is a broad academic discipline that seeks to explore how the history of racism in America still has an effect on modern life and society. In response to the ongoing scare campaign, educators and public officials in education across the country have tried to explain that critical race theory is not generally taught at the K-12 level, but rather in more advanced levels of academic study.

However, none of that really matters. Rufo has previously boasted of having turned the critical race theory label “toxic” as part of an overall exercise in political branding beyond even discussions of race, in order to “put all of the various cultural insanities under that brand category.”

“The goal is to have the public read something crazy in the newspaper and immediately think ‘critical race theory,’” Rufo has tweeted. “We have decodified the term and will recodify it to annex the entire range of cultural constructions that are unpopular with Americans.”

But more pointedly, the label “critical race theory” has really become a vehicle for conservative media and political activists to push their own toxic cultural rhetoric.

(H/t Twitter user Z3dster.)