Republican political strategist Jason Johnson, a former adviser for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), claimed on Sunday that he does not have “white privilege” because he grew up in a trailer park.
The angry remarks came during an MSNBC panel discussion about the role of racism in the White House.
MSNBC media analyst Eric Deggans argued that President Donald Trump and White House aide Stephen Miller are “trying to expand the definition of what we would term 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, say, five years ago or ten years ago we would have clearly considered racist,” he pointed out. “If you look at the impact of their policies and the groups that years ago were advocating for these policies, you see their roots in prejudice and racism and you see why so many people of color are concerned about that.”
Johnson complained that Democrats have been calling Republicans racist for years.
“This is gone on for a long time,” he said. “It was laid out earlier in our conversation… because I’m white, I’m not supposed to have an opinion on this and I’m supposed to shut up. That’s the ultimate goal here. But I maintain my opinion, it’s not effective [to call people racists].”
“The default seems to be on the left that if you agree with a policy, yes, that may disproportionately impact a community of color that it’s automatically racist,” he continued. “And that’s just not so.”
According to Johnson, it is unhealthy “for our discourse” to label people as racist.
“What word would you prefer instead of racist and bigoted, instead of white supremacists?” radio host Dean Obeidallah asked. “Is there a word you would like us to use to describe Donald Trump’s racist, bigoted things?”
“No one’s saying you can’t speak out because you’re white,” he added.
Johnson interrupted: “You tell me that my growing up in 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?”
“Yes,” The Beat DC managing editor Tiffany Cross replied. “Because people look at you and see a white man. And I want to stress the point that nobody told you that you have to be quiet.”
“You did,” Johnson shot back. “You said you can’t have an opinion on this matter.”
“I didn’t,” Cross replied. “I’m saying when people are saying things are not racist and you are not on the receiving end of of that, I don’t believe it is your place to tell millions of people of color that something or someone is not racist. When you are not on the receiving end of it.”
“It does seem a bit out of pocket to me,” she said. “Maybe because you don’t experience this, you don’t recognize it for what we do. Even the reaction is a level of privilege: ‘How dare you say I can’t weigh in on this.’ Well, yeah, kind of… I’m saying that your opinion is uninformed.”
“I’ve got nothing else to say,” Johnson grimaced.
Watch the video below from MSNBC.
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