Writer, filmmaker, and researcher Christopher Rufo realized while working on a documentary that the ideology of prison gangs that leads to racial segregation in prisons holds similarities to the critical race theory (CRT) being promoted in society.
Rufo noticed that although the phenomenon of prison gangs and the development of CRT are different and disparate, by comparing the two and analyzing the outcome of gang activities in the California prison system, he would be able to draw conclusions as to where CRT could lead society.
The operations of the California prison organizations led to the creation of an environment where a person isn't an individual but is reduced to a racial category, Rufo said.
The current prison gangs in California adhere to strict racial policies and have “explicit racialist ideology,” according to Rufo. There are black nationalists, white nationalists, and kind of Latino nationalists among those gangs, Rufo said, “but a lot of it is really just pure protection and self-interest.”
When new inmates arrive in a prison in California, e.g. a jail in Stockton, they run the gauntlet of other prisoners and must make a quick decision to choose one of the prison groups: the blacks, the whites, the Latinos, or others that are combinations of different identities, Rufo said.
“And you're really chosen by these groups, you have to submit to the racial politics of the prison.”
There are separate facilities, lunch spaces, and trade networks for different identity groups in prisons, he said.
“And if you cross those lines, you're going to be in big trouble.”
The Black Panther Party, a political movement of the 1960s, recruited heavily from the prisons, Rufo said.
“Eldridge Cleaver wrote a lot about how prison shaped his politics.”
Ideological FormationThe ideologies of Davis and Cleaver were explicitly Marxist–Leninist and advocated urban guerrilla warfare as a means of overthrowing American society, Rufo said.
Rufo said Davis and Cleaver had this idea that by forming prison gangs, revolutionary cells, and kidnapping and assassination squads—which were all ideologically driven—they could create a focus in their terminology that would eventually ripple out and then topple American society and all of its institutions.
Critical Race Theory
When taught in schools, CRT is hugely destructive to kids, regardless of their racial groups, Rufo says.
This is an attempt to "inculcate new social norms," so that white students are aware of their "white privilege" and atone for it by ceding power and authority to oppressed groups, Rufo said. This also imposes white students’ complicity in white supremacy even if they have never done anything racist. By the virtue of their skin color, the students are guilty, he said.
On the other side, CRT holds that students who belong to racial minorities are inherently oppressed and have internalized their own racial inferiority because of the culture they live in, Rufo said. Moreover, it holds that their attempts to take control of their own lives to exercise their own human agency are doomed to failure because they live in a permanently and irreversibly racist society.
According to CRT, “all of our mechanisms of equal opportunity, of individual rights, of private property, are really mystifications, illusions that only serve white supremacy." The only option offered is to join the "political cause of critical race theory.”
CRT advocates abolishing all of these systems, the Constitution, and private property as the only way for an individual to achieve full racial equality, Rufo said.
The premise of CRT is that the kind of discrimination it imposes "is not truly discrimination, because you cannot discriminate against identity groups that hold power,” and that such discrimination is necessary to expose and then rectify those imbalances of power, he said.
When doing his investigation for the documentary, Rufo went to prison as a journalist to observe the prison culture penetrated by gangs and racial segregation, and he talked to incarcerated people. Based on the experience, he tried to predict where the society infiltrated by critical race theory could head.
“There is assumed endemic permanent racial conflict as the principal organizing mechanism of prison society. It is one that prioritizes brutality and ruthlessness over every other virtue. And it's also one where the kind of worst ideologies and criminal enterprises flourish. And so it's not the kind of society that we want anywhere, including in prisons,” Rufo said.
“We don't want our classrooms, corporations, or societies to resemble this in any way, at any strength.
“There have been some attempts to break up some of the racial segregation in prisons, to disrupt some of these gangs and ideologies. They've all failed. It's too deeply entrenched.”
He said it should serve as a metaphorical or symbolic warning for all of us of what could happen to our social institutions if we're not really alert to hostile ideologies before they become entrenched.