In the twelfth episode of High Noon, Inez Stepman speaks with Mike Gonzalez of the Heritage Foundation, author of The Plot to Change America: How Identity Politics is Dividing the Land of the Free.
Before entering the think tank world, Gonzalez worked as an international journalist for many years, including covering the Mujahideen in Afghanistan and being jailed by a dictator in Panama, and ultimately landing as a columnist for the Wall Street Journal for many years. He has another book slated to come out this fall, on the organization Black Lives Matter. His work on the formation of political identities for broad racial categories like “Hispanic” and “Asian,” along with his criticism of critical race theory, has earned him the ire of the nation’s largest teachers’ union.
In this episode, Inez and Mike discuss his experiences living under a multitude of different regimes, why America is worth saving, the intellectual roots of “wokeness,” and why some critics of the legislation states are passing to try to remove CRT from public school curriculums is wrongheaded.
High Noon is an intellectual download featuring conversations that make possible a free society. Inviting interesting thinkers from all parts of the political spectrum to discuss the most controversial subjects of the day in a way that hopes to advance our common American future.
Welcome to High Noon where we discuss controversial topics with interesting people. My guest this week is Mike Gonzalez. Mike is a senior fellow in Heritage’s Allison Center for Foreign Policy and the Angeles T. Arredondo which I’m going to mess up, but I love the second part of this. The E. Pluribus Unum fellow. I love the name of that.
He is the author of a book called The Plot to Change America: How Identity Politics is Dividing the Land of the Free. Before entering the think tank world, Mike worked as an international journalist for many, many years. Including as I discovered when I was prepping for this interview covering the Mujahideen in Afghanistan in the 80s and being jailed by a dictator in Panama.
But ultimately landing as a columnist for the Wall Street Journal. He also has another book slated to come out this fall on the organization Black Lives Matter. He also has recently earned perhaps what I think is the most prestigious distinction of his career. His work has been singled out by the teacher’s union president, Randi Weingarten, is dangerous and deserving of opposition research which is high praise in these quarters.
Welcome, Mike, to High Noon.
After 2020, there were worse enemies to have than the NEA and the AFT. They’re widely disliked by the American people for what they did to our children.
I am excited that people even though it happened in such an unfortunate way that people are realizing how much power that teachers’ unions have over the public education system and the fact that they really are not prioritizing education of children in over … There are pandemic concerns initially and then also of course over their politics.
But I want to start out with a little bit more of a personal question. Your family left Cuba I believe when you were a teenager and you’ve lived in wildly different systems and countries. How has that shaped your thinking and how your book is called The Plot to Change America. How has that shaped your thinking about your country of choice, America, and also the comparative value of different kinds of systems?
I was still a preteen. I just turned 12 when we finally got the word that we were going to be allowed to leave Cuba. My parents had put in to leave in 1967 and it took five years for the regime to allow us to go. Francisco Franco and Castro who had a lot of overlap in many ways, Franco was a Galician from the Northwestern region of Galicia.
Castro too was a Galician. They both had very pro-Hispanic, not in the sense that it is used in this country since policy directive number 15 in 1977, but in the sense of Spanish origin in Spain. They both agreed on that and Franco had said to Castro, “Why don’t you let the professionals come to Spain and wait for the U.S. Visa there?”
And eventually Castro let … My parents were lawyers. My dad died. They only let us go after my dad died and they let us go. Then I was able really to see the end of fascism in Spain. Franco and Salazar being the last two holdovers of the fascist era. Really kind of soft fascism. They didn’t persecute people for their religious ideas. In fact, during the Holocaust, most Jews that made it across the Pyrenees were able to reach Portugal and leave.
The father of a good friend of mine, a man in his 80s, I talk to him often about that because he escaped in the 1940s through Spain. But I was able to see that and a rapidly industrializing dictatorship which was about to become again a monarchy.
Then I came to the U.S. which is pure freedom, and it’s still pure freedom. This idea that our social order is oppressive which is one of the bedrock beliefs of Critical Race Theory and of Black Lives Matter is fantastical is it’s just a fantasy that they have. It proves that they have not lived, they have not traveled overseas.
America really when I came at the age of 14 to the beating heart of New York City, Queens, they had me at hello. I really loved Queens. The most forgotten of boroughs. Perhaps Staten Island more forgotten than Queens. And I loved the city. I made an early error. I liked the Mets right off the bat. I corrected that within two years. I became a Yankee fan and I have since been a Yankee fan.
Yeah. We recently moved to New York and my husband is in the middle of making that decision now as to whether he’s going to adopt not as his primary team of course, which is the Oakland A’s, but whether he’s going to go see Mets or Yankees games. But you mentioned Critical Race Theory, and obviously you’ve done a ton of work including at least engaging with a lot of the intellectual predecessors of Critical Race Theory in your book.
I just want to ask you a very simple question that has become extremely contentious. What is Critical Race Theory? Because we have at this point even Ibram X. Kendi running away from the idea that he would be categorized as a Critical Race Theorist. So what is Critical Race Theory?
Yeah, a man who effervescently claimed that Critical Race Theory had been a foundational influence in his work now says, “Oh no, I don’t do Critical Race Theory.” Of course, he uses all the tropes and bedrock beliefs of Critical Race Theory. This is really something to behold. Conservatives, you included, have done such a good job of telling the American people what this is. Of getting out of the gate, of warning them.
And the American people … and this is a response to the American people saying, “What? No. No. My country is not repressive. No. We have imperfections that we want to correct,” but they intuit without reading these tracks that Critical Race Theory does not want to improve America, it wants to destroy America.
So Critical Race Theory without … I could really go on for hours because it’s fascinating. The antecedent, so you really have to stop somewhere. I stop at Kant, at Immanuel Kant as the source, the origin of this. But if you want Critical Race Theory, it emerges in the late 80s in college campuses. It becomes dominant in law schools in the 90s. Really by quashing the opposition.
And the bedrock belief of Critical Race Theory is that racism is not an individual choice. That we do not commit this sin individually of loving our neighbor because of his or her race. That racism is systemic. That racism, it lies in the institutions. It’s written into the law. It’s written into the structures and therefore that produces our concepts. Our superstructure has been produced by our concepts and our concepts are systemically racist and therefore our social order is racist. There’s a lot of other things, but that is really the root belief of Critical Race Theory.
Yeah, and it’s a belief that necessitates a type of revolution. Perhaps not a bloody revolution, but it necessitates the overturning of the old order because obviously even Kendi’s book is called How To Be An Antiracist. People don’t want especially today, they don’t want to be labeled a racist and more importantly, they don’t want to be racist. They don’t want to discriminate, unjustly discriminate against people on the basis of race or background.
So it’s a powerful tool for them, but I think that’s an important implication to highlight. If the American system is itself, the roots of the American system and all the way through today are racist, not as incidental part because human beings are flawed and tribal, but as an inherent part of the system then it kind of implies that the system needs to be not just changed over time or pruned or evaluated for changes, positive changes that could be made, but wholly remade or overturned, doesn’t it?
That’s exactly right and that is the corollary of the belief that the social system itself is oppressive. Critical in Critical Race Theory is not the word as we use it, it means practice. It means making sure that theory is put into practice. By the way, this goes back to Marx and this is Marxist. This is Marxist in all its implications. It’s Marxist in its origin and in its ideas and its beliefs.
Marx himself said I believe he wrote in the 1870s that philosophers believed that philosophy was about changing our ideas. But no, he said, “No philosophy is about changing the world.” In Critical Race Theory, its second main tenant is that it wants to change the world and this is an aspect of Critical Race Theory. Derek Cable, the godfather of Critical Race Theory is very clear about this in one of the foundational essays, “Who’s Afraid of Critical Race Theory?”
Critical legal theory or critical legal studies before it also believes that the system needs to be changed, root and branch and critical theory before it, that was also a central tenant that everything had to be changed.
What exactly is the relationship, then, with Marxism? Because obviously traditional Marxism is based on, or at least theoretically on class solidarity. In one of the things I’m looking forward—and I don’t think they’ve quite scheduled all of their conference materials yet—but I am very much looking forward to seeing whether the Democratic Socialists of America have a single panel on solidarity in the working class.
At their upcoming conference, they have been so wholly taken over by perhaps this child of Marxism that denies class solidarity and instead tries to build racial solidarity and sees the world as divided racially rather than along the lines of class. So, how did that focus change intellectually from the focus on income and wealth to and the disadvantages or advantages of those things to this focus on identity?
The change really begins in 1920s and 30s. It is not felt until the 50s when it begins to influence the new left because Stalin hated all this and for example Antonio Gramsci, one of the founders of this cultural Marxism was not really translated into English until the late 1950s, but it’s really in the 20s with George Lukács and Antonio Gracmsci and then later Max Horkheimer in Germany who begin to say Marxism has been misunderstood. It is not meant to be economically determinant.
You have to go back to the early Marx in which he talked about the totality of human activity. Not just the economic exchanges, but it’s not just a satisfaction of material wants, but it’s satisfaction of cultural wants, satisfaction of other wants. Of love, of human interaction and they call these revolutionaries of a revolution, George Lukács in Hungary, Antonio Gramsci in Italy, Mark Horkheimer in Germany begin to call economically determinant Marxism vulgar Marxism as if they’re sophisticated.
But as I said, it kind of remains dormant except in scholarly debates until the late 50s when this reflowering of Gramsci and Lukács and Horkheimer begins to really have an impact. And then Herbert Marcuse comes in and really delineates it. He really speaks to it. He says it is the ghetto population, his words, that will be the revolutionaries. He says he observes the riots, he says it is the American worker.
All of them are very down on the European worker and the American worker. They will not rebel. They will not overthrow the bourgeoisie. What Marx and [inaudible 00:13:51] had called for a past revolution because of the contradictions of capitalism is not happening. So they begin to look at … Lukács, Gramsci, and so on, begin to look at cultural and totality of human experience. And then Marcuse recognizes the minorities, the word of the left.
He says the people of other colors and races that will be the ages of revolution. He says very importantly their consciousness is not revolutionary. The new left, which Marcuse really influenced in the 60s believed that the intellectual needed to be, the vanguard, the one that gave these new revolutionaries a revolutionary consciousness. But it is at that point, during those stages that I have delineated that we go from what they call full-grown Marxism, dialectal materialism to the cultural Marxism and the totality of the human experience. Sorry for the long answer.
No, I think it’s very necessary history and it really shows how traditional Marxism or what I guess was labeled vulgar Marxism always ran up on our shoals in the United States and you have Marxist revolutionaries sort of lamenting this for more than a century about the United States that, in fact, class warfare works particularly poorly here.
But we do have this great Achilles heel, especially at the black American experience. I don’t want to broaden it out to race because as we’ll touch on in a minute, you construct in your book the very interesting history of how these alternative large racial groups like “Hispanic and Asian” were very consciously and politically formulated but, we do have this great sort of shame of America which is the fact that despite the words in our Declaration of Independence, we were born into the global world with slavery and then later with Jim Crow.
It seems to me that this is a much more potent form of revolutionary fervor in America exactly because we are a diverse nation that as the name of your fellow seat at Heritage indicates. E Pluribus Unum is our challenge here in America and we have not always met that challenge. Do you worry that this form of Marxism is going to be much more powerful in the United States than the vulgar form ever was?
I’m going to say that by the way, E Pluribus Unum is the child of a Swiss immigrant descendant here who worked in the 1770s. So already the founding generation understood that it was out of many. The official seal was going to be something that demonstrated that we had French and Irish and Germans and English and Scots. Which to us, Oh my God, that’s not diverse.
No. That was very diverse to them back then, and you’re right. We also had Africans here at the time. We also had Indian Americans and the Indians; Native Americans are not taxed yet. They’re not really living… Not all, some were. And there are many freemen who vote if they have the requisite. They pay their requisite taxes and their requisite property. Especially in the 1770s, that begins to wither away as the lovers of slavery begin to really wage a campaign against the black race in the 19th century.
But this is real. We have slavery. We have Jim Crow. We have segregation. These are real sins and they’re ever-present in our minds. And in fact, it is the guilt that is felt. The guilt especially that is felt in the 60s as we begin to realize, we’ve had 100 years almost of legally enforced discrimination with segregation.
And that guilt can be manipulated by those who want to not appeal to our best ideals of all men are created equal but who want to change the country. Who want to change America. Who don’t like capitalism. Who don’t like many of the aspects, the classical liberalism. Political liberalism. And that is the challenge that we have to understand slavery, understand Jim Crow, understand all these bad things but not allow our guilt to be manipulated by people who want to change America.
We have to reinforce the ideals of America. We have to go back to what Martin Luther King said. He came to the steps of the mall to cash a check, a promissory note. The promissory note was the promise of the founders. Frederick Douglass spoke in those cadences. He said the Constitution was a liberty document.
What he reproached his fellow Americans was that they were not living by it. That is the right approach. Frederick Douglass has the right approach. Martin Luther King has the right approach. Let’s live by our principles. The principles, let’s demand the same thing that Douglass and King demand. Let’s live by the principles of the Constitution. Let’s not call the Constitution and Declaration illegitimate. Which is what Critical Race Theory does, which is what Nicole Hannah Jones of the 1619 project does, which is what Black Lives Matter does, which is what Robin De Angelo does.
Let’s stand it up on a pedestal and say, “Lets live up to these principles. Not tear it down.”
We’ve just been discussing what I think is rightfully set aside as a unique experience of Black Americans who are in many ways Native Americans. I don’t mean in the racial category. I mean to the fact that they were native to the United States. Not voluntarily. They were, in fact—black slaves were the only Americans who were not voluntarily a part of the American project.
I think even though I reject Critical Race Theory with regard to all these kinds of racial issues, I think I understand sort of the Langston Hughes perspective or at least I can emotionally understand it. I don’t think that it’s productive. But I do understand it. But you point out in your book in two successive chapters that the corresponding identities, when we talk about people of color as a general group, as though they’re similar and have similar interests, what we’re really doing is trying to generalize that black American experience to first to what you call essentially a fake category of Hispanics.
Largely immigrants and then their children and children’s children who come from Spanish speaking countries which are of course wildly different and all over the globe. And then also to the category of Asians or AAPI, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders.
Right, right, right.
So how did those categories get created? What were the incentives involved in creating them, and what were the sort of political motivations behind trying to create these identities which you write in your book really didn’t exist in a sort of organic way in America beforehand?
No. Hispanics, I’m here in the United States when Hispanics was created. I remember my uncle coming in one day in Queens and saying, “We’re now all going to be called Hispanics.” That was a shock to all of us. We thought of ourselves as Cubans on our way to being American. We didn’t need this weigh station.
What is interesting as I discuss in my book, The Plot to Change America, the people, the activists who insisted and it was sustained insistence against the bureaucracy that these categories be created and it was a campaign that waged for many, many years in the 1970s, they had read, they were influenced by critical theorists and they were influenced by the new left.
And they understood what Marcuse had said in 1965 that it is the categories of other colors that are going to lead to revolution. Critical Theory is a way to do that. Again, we go back to Marcuse who says liberation depends on the consciousness of servitude. So what Critical Theory does is that it analyzes society as being this system, this superstructure of oppression, and it tells the member of the newly created categories, “You are the oppressed and you have to have this awareness of servitude, this consciousness of servitude in order to overthrow the system.”
So the creation of the categories is very much a part of this. When people say, “Well, no this is just a recognition of a newly diverse America because the immigration law changes in 1965, that is just a misreading of the historical record.” The first national advisory committee on race created by the U.S. Census is 1974. 1974 is marked by two things.
First my arrival on the shores of New York and second, by the fact that it is probably the smallest amount of the foreign birth in the population in U.S. History. It’s around 4.5%. So, less than 1/3 what it is today.
So there was no hugely diverse population in 1974 to create a new national advisory committee on race for the U.S. Census. They had already tried to in 1970, they tried to throw out the 1970 census because it did not include a Hispanic category. It included Mexican-born, Cuban-born, and I’m actually, I don’t think that’s a bad idea. I think we should ask if you were born in Portugal or Peru in the U.S. Census, I would cap it at the third generation.
If by the third generation we’re not Americans, all indistinguishable, then there’s a problem. But I am interested in knowing what is the population of the foreign-born, where are they from, where are their parents from and even their grandparents. It’s hugely helpful to researchers. But not if you’re going to have pair it off with the creation of categories of the oppressed, of the victims who you’re going to nurture grievances with, in order to overthrow the American system.
The reason why I keep going back to this is because I love America. America is worth loving. Not only do I have my immigrant story, which we have discussed here, as an American leader and I have become a foreign correspondent and I’ve traveled the world, I’ve lived in seven countries at least a year. Asian, Latin America, Europe, especially Europe and Asia. This is pretty, pretty good here. Again, imperfect.
Nothing on earth will ever be perfect. We have our flaws, but it is worth not throwing out the baby with the bathwater.
It seems like you’re saying that it’s not really even though your book uses the phrase identity politics, it’s not really the identity part, but the politics part that’s the problem, right? In the sense that I think in the closing chapter you talk about what your identity as a Cuban has meant to you. You mention smoking cigars once a week. These have always been, and of course there are some tensions and always have been going back to even the America that you were talking about in the founding where you have tensions between Scots, Irish, and English and Swedes and Germans.
These are different national groups, but those small and national identities or backgrounds, they do have something relevant to say about us, I think. My own family background certainly informs how I think about things. I know yours does, but it’s this zero-sum idea of grievance and oppressor and oppressed that seems to engender a type of identity politics that the second piece of it that is really pernicious for a country that has so much diversity and has so many people from different backgrounds.
It seems to be creating a much sorer spot than it needs to be.
That is what is new. That’s the new element. It doesn’t arise organically. It is put in place on purpose. You mentioned the founding and the Scots Irish. The Scots Irish who begin to arrive in this country in 1713, with what’s called Queen’s Anne’s War, and begin to arrive in great huge numbers throughout the 1700s, nobody likes them.
They arrive in Boston. They burn down the ships, they burn down the church. The governor of Pennsylvania brings them there to create a buffer zone between the Quakers and the Indians. And they’re so quarrelsome, the Scots Irish, that he writes a letter to friend saying, “Oh my God what a horrible idea I had.”
So they pushed them further south to Virginia and in Wintersburg. So you can’t practice Presbyterianism here. We’re an Anglican colony. If you want to practice your Presbyterianism, your church’s colony religion, you got to take it to the mountains. Guess what? They’re still there. They’re in Appalachia. So this is just a small vignette.
And the last thing that anybody thought was let’s take the Scots Irish and tell them, “You are victims, and you have grievances and you have to overthrow the American system.” No, what you have instead is Andrew Jackson, the young son of these two Scots Irish immigrants who becomes an American patriot, fights in the revolutionary War. Two of his brothers died in the Revolutionary War.
Then is a hero in the Battle of 1812 in New Orleans and becomes our first populist president. That is the immigrant story. Andrew Jackson is the really the immigrant story and then you have a succession of that you have with every immigrant group that comes in. Nobody says to the Ellis Islanders this.
Nobody says to Armenians and the Syrians and the Greeks or the Jews and the Pols and the Hungarians who come in through Ellis Island between 1793 and 1924. Millions of them, “Oh my God they’re treating you very badly. Overthrow the U.S. government. You’re victims.” Nobody does that. Why?
Because it’s insane to do so. What you do is you bring them in. You say, “No you are an American,” and better Americans did that. The best Americans did that. Said, “No you are an American. If you want to be an American, you may have been born in Salerno, but you can become an American.”
That is really the formula. What we’re doing today is, and the people doing it, you have to say they’re close to evil if not evil. And they have a dickens of a time doing it. There was a very famous, which I wrote about, interview with the head of Voto Latino, María Teresa Kumar, she says this.
She says, “I have a very difficult time telling my constituents you don’t understand the systems of oppression that you live under. We have to teach them that they live in oppression.” This is done as you said and it’s for a political purpose, but a nation cannot do this. No sane nation does this. Pol Pot did this. Pol Pot entered Cambodia and denigrated everything that had come before him.
So much so that he calls his first year Year Zero. The Bolsheviks hate Russian traditions. The Castroites hate Cuba. Said, “Whoa. It’s everything is corrupt and bad.” And the 500 years prior to 1959. But only people who want to revolutionize and change a country do this. In other words, not sane people.
Let’s turn a little bit to the more modern threat and more modern let’s say clashes that develop out of this politicization of identity. Obviously, you’ve been a frequent writer on the subject of Critical Race Theory in the schools. You’ve worked with Christopher Rufo to produce some great backgrounders over at the Heritage Foundation which are essays over at the Heritage Foundation that listeners can read.
But so some of the bills that states have been attempting to pass to forbid these kinds of creeds in the public school, those have been getting some pushback not just from proponents of Critical Race Theory, but from people who oppose Critical Race Theory, but think that these bills are in some way illiberal and I’m going to quote from a New York Times op-ed that appeared about a week ago written by David French, Camille Foster, Thomas Chatteron Williams and a fourth guy whose name has dropped out of my head.
But this is what they wrote. “These laws, meaning these anti-CRT bills threaten the basic purpose of historical education in a liberal democracy. But censorship is the wrong approach, even to the concepts that are the intended targets of these laws.” And they essentially argue that the Civil Rights Act plus Democratic action, small D democratic action i.e. parents going to their school boards are enough to counter this kind of material in the schools.
What’s your opinion on what is necessary to counter it and on, I’m not asking you to pine on the language, legislative language necessarily of these several dozen bills at this point, but on the general concept of the state legislature getting involved in these kinds of battles?
Well, let me start with … Let me challenge. That’s not your premise. I wouldn’t say that David French is against Critical Race Theory. I haven’t seen it. I’ve seen a lot of evidence to the contrary.
Thomas Chatterton Williams and Camille Foster have been strong, I would say strong opponents of Critical Race Theory.
I think that the best laws are the ones that identify where the Civil Rights Act is violated by the implementation of Critical Race Theory and say, “Well, you can’t do that. It’s against the law and therefore, you will not be allowed to violate Title VI.” Title VI of the Civil Rights Act says that you cannot discriminate against a student because of his or her race or national origin.
And I think that’s right and proper, and I think that’s a good law and I think it should be implemented and what we are seeing with a lot of the trainings in curricula that use elements of Critical Race Theory is that they do separate students by affinity group.
In fact, one of the aspects of this is Critical Responsive Teaching, also CRT which says that you must teach all subjects to students in a different way because of their category. So it becomes, it’s most absurd with Hispanics and Asians which is made up. It’s synthetic. You have Mexicans and Argentinians and Cubans and Chileans who are very, very, very different and their offspring in the United States are going to come from very different backgrounds.
The language that’s spoke the most in South America, is Portuguese, not Spanish. Then when you get to Asians, oh my goodness. It is Americans of Indian and Pakistani and Korean and Asian and Chinese and Indonesian and Filipino origin. So what is it about an Asian American that you teach math differently to?
They’re doing quite well in math, by the way. Many of the Asian American subgroups. So anything that does that, that separates students by these categories violates Title VI. Anything that teaches that tells any kid that there is systemic racism and because of systemic racism they won’t be able to succeed and if they do even succeed individually, they will be perpetuating white supremacy and systemic racism that should be banned.
So all the laws that do this, that approach it in this manner, I must tell you to just acknowledge that I have helped a lot of these states, I forget how many to be honest with the legislative language. I travel to Baton Rouge to testify in the Louisiana state house. I helped New Hampshire and some other states in the crafting.
What we always say is this is the best way to go. My cowriter, my coauthor Jonathan Butcher and I are currently writing on a paper detailing, going through this criticism which again I must say that it is deceptive. Deceptive and the French article and the [inaudible 00:37:06] article is somewhat deceptive. The op-ed that the Washington Post ran by Kimberly Crenshaw was completely deceptive.
She did not deal with the issue at all. She said that critics of Critical Race Theory don’t just want history to be taught. I assure you that nobody working in my space, that is the case for. We want more history to be taught. I love history. I think students should have a firm grounding in history.
That includes slavery. That includes Jim Crow. That includes segregation. So these bills are not at all as Kimberly Crenshaw claimed banning the teaching of history. By the way, just as an aside, I think that we should also teach history in its global context. We should not be so narcissistic as to think we created slavery.
The country where I was born, Cuba, had slavery. Much later than the United States was only abolished in 1888. I personally as a child met a woman who had been a slave because slavery was abolished so late in Cuban history. As [inaudible 00:38:15] says we’re the only country that has political abolitionism.
So all of these things need to be taught. The awfulness of slavery needs to be taught more. Frederick Douglass needs to be taught more. Even W. E. B. Du Bois, with whom I completely disagree. Who ended up joining a communist party before his death. I think he should be taught. A very influential figure. So, what we advise the bill writers is to not ban the teaching of it. I think children should be taught how to recognize poison ivy.
But ban the implementation when it violates existing law, when it violates the 14th Amendment, the equal protection under the law clause.
It also makes it easier, it gives parents another tool to try to leverage into the system their disagreement or register their disagreement with these kinds of lessons and you only need … It’s surprising to me actually that … It’s not surprising, but it should be surprising that David French would go this route because he above all should know that no matter how many victories, for example, Constitutional victories you win on an issue like free speech in public universities, in court, if at the end of the day there’s a very small percentage of people who are going to have the time, the resources and the gumption to carry a federal constitutional suit all the way to fruition and frankly just like universities ignore a lot of the decisions on First Amendment grounds, they essentially settle.
Once every few years, they rewrite their policies with new words and the whole game begins again. So it’s funny to me that he would be unaware of how ineffectual, even if you have a strong federal case which these are novel arguments under the Civil Rights Act.
I think you’re right. I think that if we take the bare words of Title VI, some of what has been implemented in our schools is a violation of our Civil Rights law, but it remains to be seen whether those lawsuits will be able to be successful and even if they are, a very small percentage of people are ever going to be able to carry those kinds of lawsuits, don’t you think?
And French should know this. As you said, he’s a litigator. He should know … I think he was a litigator. He should know how difficult it is for parents to do this. How costly it is, what it costs to their children in terms of social costs. This is … No. We can’t put the onus on parents. Parents need our help. Parents are rising up and speaking out, but they need the help of their elected officials.
I think that, and I think you agree with this, that the natural sovereign in education is the school board. I’d rather see the 14,000 school districts taking action in these areas, but I think it’s fine for state legislators to do things that’s helped them. Some of the bills are better than others, perhaps. But is it a good faith effort to help the parents?
This is a parent-led protest. They’re setting up committees of correspondence. Just like the colonists did. Just like Sam Adams did in Boston in the has 1760s and then it extended to the other 12 colonies. I think parents are rising. I’m crisscrossing the country. I’m speaking … These are not meetings that I set up.
These are people who call me who ask me to come and speak at their meeting. Hundreds of people. 650 in Waukesha, just west of Milwaukee. 500 in Denver. 300 in Loudoun County. I am going to be visiting many, many cities in this fair land starting in about three weeks. This is people who want me, and this is a parent-led grassroots thing. They not be left to them however to wage expensive lawsuits.
So what is it going to take for parents to be able to succeed? These parents that you’re talking about that you talk to all around the country? What is it going to take or rather what combination of policies is it going to take? Because as you lay out in your book, as we know, this didn’t start a year ago with the riots last summer.
The tenants and principles, the underlying premises of Critical Race Theory, these have long been a part of the academy. They’ve long been a part of schools of education where teachers get their master’s degrees. They’ve been part of teacher trainings for years if not decades. What tools do parents need to make this kind of revolt successful?
Well, first they need to lose their fear. Lose their fear like Pols lost their fear when John Paul visited Poland in the 1980s and the Pols came out and looked at each other and said, “We shouldn’t be afraid of Jaruzelski. We shouldn’t be afraid of Andropov.” And within six, seven years, the Soviet Union was gone. Poland was a free country.
I think that parents need to pick up the phone, call the principal, go to the school board meetings. I think that their leaders need to listen to them and I think that one solution, this is not the whole solution but it’s got to be a part of it is school choice. I think different states need to begin to realize, just like Bill Barr said. Bill Barr, Attorney General Barr. In late May had a very good speech in which he laid it out.
He said, “We have an establishment clause. This has now become a state religion. Critical Race Theory is a state religion under Biden Harris.” Prior to that, I didn’t call it a state religion. I did call it an official state ideology. They have made it so. This all because of Harris, by the way. This is all I would say Biden/Harris.
The White House also said the Biden Harris administration. Harris believes in equity. She believes that there should be an equal treatment of Americans because of their race. They want to go back to an equal treatment of Americans because of their race. She does. Equity calls out for that. So I think the American people need to do more of what they’re doing. I’m very encouraged by what has taken place.
I’m extremely encouraged by how said the left is. Our woke overlords, for that is where they are. Our establishment is very woke. Not just our government, but our elite cultural institutions, the media, Chuck Todd. All of them are very woke and I think that they’re really in high [inaudible 00:45:30]. They’re saying, “What? What? The natives are restless? The people are rebelling? The parents are turning out and they want to say that this is AstroTurf?”
No. It’s grassroot. I tell you. It’s grassroot. I haven’t seen this in a very long time and the opposition to it is AstroTurf. 300 leftist groups get together last week to get their talking points in order. By golly, they need to get their talking points in order because they’re running around schizophrenic all over the place, saying, “CRT’s not being used.”
I have. I’m battling on Twitter with people saying, “CRT’s not being used anywhere.” And then same breath the next day they come out. It’s like, “But if you criticize CRT you’re racist.” Well, which is it? Really? They’re being sophists. So I’m very encouraged, both by the energy I see on the ground and the hysteria I see among our woke overlords.
One of the benefits of being a woke overlord though is access to, as you point out, access to a lot of pots of money in the various federal bureaucracies. The knowledge of how to work those federal bureaucracies and how to approve benefits to either groups or individuals that work on their political team.
How can we counter some of that institutional influence? Because you write a very compelling tale that we don’t have time to go into here about how a lot of these identity politics, interest groups are very, very cozy with various agencies and almost have a revolving door in terms of getting grants and then when the right administrations are in power, going to go ahead and head up those agencies and channel more grants to all the same organizations that they head up.
We have something strong on our side. We have human nature. You and I have had this conversation before. The left, especially the Marxist left, promises liberation the same way that Christianity promises liberation. Christianity promises liberation in the afterworld. And tells us constantly that this world, we’re not going to get liberation here. It’s flawed.
Marxist promise liberation on this earth. You and I have talked about it before. [inaudible 00:48:12]. And as you put it and I borrow this all the time and I never give you credit, the new man never shows up. And that’s the problem. The new man never shows up and then the Marxist become very angry and they use coercion.
Marcuse, going back to Marcuse, has rights repressive tolerance 1966 saying we cannot allow, once we take over, we cannot allow conservative ideas to be repeated, flourish. Facebook, Twitter, Google. Repressive tolerance. We have human nature and we work with human nature. We know that it is not because of the benevolence of the baker, the butcher, and the brewer; then we get our beef and our beer and our bread.
We’ve devised a system that works with human nature and self-interest and that’s what we have prosperity and affluence, and the other side is only good at producing bread lines. So I am counting … You’re right. I’m not being polyandrist. They do control the institutions. Do control the leverage of power.
We have the human element on our side. We have human nature on our side. And we have the fact that the American people are uniquely some would say exceptionally attached to liberty something that social scientists and foreign visitors have remarked since Ellis Island and arrived on our shores.
Well, on that and usually for this podcast, unusually optimistic note. I have a lot of pessimists on. But you and Christopher Rufo are the great optimists and perhaps that’s why you’ve both been so successful in utilizing your work to push back against some of these ideas. Mike Gonzalez, thank you so much for coming on. You can find more of Mike’s work over at the Heritage Foundation’s website.
You can also purchase his book, The Plot to Change America: How Identity Politics Is Dividing the Land of the Free. And as I said, he has another book on BLM coming out in I believe this fall. Mike, would you want to give us the name of that book and where listeners can purchase it?
September 7th, BLM: The [Making of a] New Marxist revolution, presale on Amazon. I like it to sell at least as well as The Plot to Change America. So presale is right now. In it, I detail the Marxist nature of the leaders of BLM, the founders and the women who lead it, and of the organizations. Obviously, take no issue with the concept. The concept that black lives matter is very dear to my heart and to yours.
This has been enormously fun for me. I very much admire the work you do Inez. So thank you very much for having me on.
Well thank you very much for joining us and thank you to our listeners. High Noon with Inez Stepman is a production of the Independent Women’s Forum. As always, you can send comments and questions to [email protected].
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