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Guy who bootstrapped the panic over Critical Race Theory just wanted to make it a smear


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The Week



Ben Wallace-Wells recently published an excellent profile in The New Yorker of Christopher Rufo, the conservative activist who all but singlehandedly bootstrapped this moral panic. In Rufo's own telling, it all started with someone sending him an annoying anti-racism seminar in July of last year. He then read books by Robin DiAngelo and Ibram X. Kendi about anti-racism that surged to the top of bestseller lists last year and followed the footnotes therein to older articles about critical race theory. Then he went on Tucker Carlson and delivered a carefully-prepared harangue about CRT; President Trump (of course) was watching, leading to a call from then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. Trump began to attack anti-racist trainings and scholarship, numerous conservative states have passed laws attacking CRT, and here we are.

Rufo straight-up admits that it was corporate and educational anti-racist trainings that motivated his crusade, not critical race theory itself; that the primary reason he selected it as a target was its ominous sounding name; and that he neither knows nor cares about the actual substance of CRT. "Strung together, the phrase 'critical race theory' connotes hostile, academic, divisive, race-obsessed, poisonous, elitist, anti-American," he told Wallace-Wells. At a recent conference, he contemptuously scoffed at "pathetic … angry graduate students" who try to argue with him about CRT or other topics. "I don't give a s**t about this stuff," he said. On Twitter, Rufo frankly admitted that he wants to make CRT into a vacuous smear and fill up its meaning with everything he doesn't like:


That is the obvious intent of all the (baldly unconstitutional) attacks on the free speech and inquiry of academics passed in so many conservative states — supposed bans on "critical race theory" that are intentionally written so vaguely they would preclude any accurate instruction of American history or racism. GOP members of Congress recently harangued Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Mark Milley about anti-racist trainings in the armed forces. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis recently signed a bill that would require surveys of university students and faculty, and threatened budget cuts for any institution found to be "indoctrinating" students — that is, if they disagree with conservative ideology.

The staggering hypocrisy of conservatives who just five minutes ago were whining about campus snowflakes being a threat to free inquiry is indeed galling. But what may happen to America's disproportionately-minority underclass is even more important. Rufo and his allies want to stamp out any attempt to do anything about the epidemic of police brutality and return to the days when poor Black, brown, and quite frequently white people were shot to death by agents of the state and nobody in power cared at all. If conservatives aren't confronted and defeated politically that is what will happen.



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