August 18, 2019

Jason Johnson, former Ted Cruz staffer and privileged white man, joined AM Joy today to discuss a litany of topics, including the amount of influence unapologetic white nationalist Stephen Miller has in the White House. When Donald Trump's racism came up, he tried the typical avoidance technique of "let's talk policies and politics and not about all the horrible racism coming out of the White House because I know I can't defend it so I am going to make you move on" bullshit.

Suffice to say, it did not go well.

ERIC DEGGANS: Miller has a tremendous amount of influence. These profiles also say that he systemically replaced people within the hierarchy of Department of Homeland Security and other areas with allies of his and allies of the President and he also has a practice of calling lower level employees and inviting them into meetings that their superiors are not aware of so he can pressure these lower level employees into enacting policies and procedures he wants without their supervisors' knowledge. He's been able to expand his influences at these profiles to a tremendous degree.

One of the things that's happening here is the president and Stephen Miller seem to be trying to expand the definition of what we would turn acceptable discourse about issues that are connected to race. They want to narrow the definition of racism so that they're able to talk about these policies and enact measures that normally saying five years ago or ten years ago we would have clearly consider racist. I have a book that talks about how media outlets and political outlets seems to be an example of that using strategic racism to mobilize voters in a way by enacting immigration policies. Most scholars know that this has been on the wish list for white supremacists to organizations and people believe in white premium supremacists. If you look at the impact of their policies and the groups that years ago were advocated for these policies, you see their roots and prejudice and racism and you see why so many people of color are concerned about.

HOST: You brought up a really good point. I want to go on to Jason. You were talking about whether it is fair or effective. I can assure you the president has used the word "racism" in very unfair ways to try to be effective to mobilize his base. He called Elijah Cummings racist, he called "The Squad" racist, he called Senator Elizabeth Warren a racist. He has called President Barack Obama a racist. Hollywood, he calls a racist. African nations, he calls them racist. The 2017 protests in Charlottesville, the violent protesters there and David Duke. So going to your point, Jason about fair versus effective. The President has weaponized the word racism. He calls Democrats "socialists" all the time; why doesn't the same thing apply to him that you brought up earlier?

JOHNSON: It does. But let's be very clear, it did not start with Donald Trump. I recall it being argued that Mitt Romney was a racist. I recall it being argued that George W. Bush was a racist. This has been going on a long time and I maintain my point earlier, even though what was really laid out clear earlier in our conversation, it was amazing, the honesty. Because I am white, I am not supposed to have an opinion on this and I am supposed to "shut up." That's the ultimate goal here. I maintain my opinion, it is not effective. We ought to talk about the actual policies and actions and the default it seems on the left is that if you agree with the policies, yes. that may disproportionately impact the community of color, that's automatically racist.

It is not so. I am just simply arguing in the marketplace of political discourse, it absolutely...and I did not say I was worried about Democrats and Republicans. I am talking about people in the middle. People we need to engage in this discourse. Even when we use these labels really cause people to put filters up and not listen. I think it would be healthy for our overall discourse, particularly for this point in time when we had historic levels of polarization that we go to the heart of the issue and sets some of the labels aside.

DEAN OBEIDALLAH: Jason, what word would you prefer, instead of racism and bigoted? Is there a word you find more politically correct, that you would like to use to describe Donald Trump's racist bigotry? I want to know. Because you're saying--and no one is saying you can't speak out because you are white. I'm saying you have white privilege. God bless you, I used to have white privilege before 9/11.

JOHNSON: I would argue -- you tell me my growing up at a trailer park in northeast Texas, being the first person in my family to go to college, working two full time jobs to put myself through college and that's white privilege?

TIFFANY CROSS: Yes, because on sight, people look at you and see a white man. Again, I want to stress the point that nobody told you..[JOHNSON INTERRUPTING] I understand that. Nobody told you that you had to be quiet.

JOHNSON: You did. You did.

CROSS: Let me just correct what I said. Let me correct what you heard and what I said. I am saying when people are saying things are not racist and you are not on the receiving end of that, I don't believe it is your place to tell millions of People of Color something or someone is not racist when you are not on the receiving end of it, as have many communities of color in this country. It does seem a bit out of pocket to me. And the fact when you say that, when you point that out, maybe you don't experience this or recognize it for what we do. And the reaction that people get, even that is a level of privilege. Like, "How dare you say I can't weigh in on this?" Well, yeah, kind of. It's like me having an opinion of something happening in your family. No one is telling you to not have an opinion. I am saying your opinion is uninformed.

HOST: I want to give Jason a chance to respond. If you want to say something on the point that Tiffany raised, go ahead.

JOHNSON: I got nothing else to say.

As a general rule, if you are part of the group doing the oppressing, you don't get to tell members of the oppressed group what is racism and what is not. Republican white men, take note.

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