PROVIDENCE – A racially charged tweet by Rep. Patricia Morgan Tuesday has inflamed social media, with Black Lives Matter Rhode Island calling on the speaker of the House to strip Morgan of her committee appointments.
In her tweet, Morgan writes, “I had a black friend. I liked her and I think she liked me, too. But now she is hostile and unpleasant. I am sure I didn't do anything to her, except be white. Is that what teachers and our political leaders really want for our society? Divide us because of our skin color? #CRT”
CRT refers to critical race theory, a largely academic topic taught at the university level that holds that the impact of slavery continues to reverberate today, with implications for the courts, the criminal justice system and public education.
Morgan, the former minority leader of the Rhode Island House, unsuccessfully sponsored a bill this spring that would restrict the way schools teach the role of race in American history, a move that provoked heated criticism from educators, parents and other Rhode Islanders.
Rep. Morgan did not think her tweet was controversial
In an interview Tuesday, Morgan said she honestly didn’t think her tweet was controversial.
“I’m sad that this is the way our country is going, that we are judging people by their skin color, not their character,” she said. “I didn’t think it was controversial.
“I like my friend,” she said. “She’s funny and strong and smart. Whenever we got together, we had a good time. We enjoyed each other’s company.”
But, Morgan said, when she bumped into her friend at a Christmas party, she felt snubbed.
“I was happy to see her. I wanted to catch up, but she was very cold.”
Asked if she tweeted the opening salvo in a potential race for higher office, Morgan said no.
“Dr. Martin Luther King said he wanted a country where people were judged by their content of character. That’s what I am fighting for. How can that be controversial?”
Morgan’s tweet lit up Twitter, drawing more than 3,000 responses, mostly negative.
Actor, activist George Takei responds on Twitter
The tweet drew a response from George Takei of Star Trek fame, who wrote, “I had a white friend. I liked him and I think he liked me, too. But then Pearl Harbor happened and whites became hostile and unpleasant. I am sure we didn’t do anything but they sent us to camps anyway. And now they don’t want to teach about this because it makes kids feel bad.”
Corey Jones, a candidate for Providence City Council, tweeted, “This comment is divisive. Rep Morgan you need to resign and retire from public service. It has nothing to do with her being black or you being white.”
BLM RI calls for Morgan's removal from committees
Harry Tuttle, executive of Black Lives Matter, called for Morgan’s immediate removal from the House Environment and Natural Resources Committee, House Health and Human Services Committee, House Labor Committee, and the House Municipal Government and Housing Committee.
In a statement, he wrote, “This comment is offensive and deeply insulting to the Black and Brown community. If Rep. Patricia Morgan truly believed we shouldn’t be divided by our skin color, she wouldn’t have made this divisive of a comment, along with the many other similar comments she has made in the past.
“Not to mention the piece of legislation she introduced, that if passed, would ban Critical Race Theory in Rhode Island classrooms. Rhode Island should no longer tolerate ideologies, by any political party, that are hateful and divisive–in the media, in policy proposals, and in our everyday lives. We are disappointed to see elected officials who say they are progressive seek compromise with people who make comments like these.
Shekarchi: 'No place for divisive remarks'
Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, in an interview Tuesday, called Morgan’s comments “embarrassing and terrible.” Gorbea is running for governor next year.
“At bare minimum, she should apologize and retract it,” Gorbea said. “I hope this is not a political ploy. I hope this is not using race for political purposes. What’s ironic is that she is making this statement during the third day of Kwanza. It’s very, very disrespectful. It’s very disappointing and reprehensible and ignorant.”
House Speaker Joseph Shekarchi issued the following comments: “There is no place for divisive remarks by any House member. I condemn any such comments.”
State Rep. Brandon Potter, D-Cranston, tweeted, “I think you know I like you, and I think you like me. I remember when you presented your CRT bill, @JoshuaJGiraldo offered to sit w/ you & discuss why it was so offensive and misinformed. I hope you take him up on the offer. I refuse to believe you can’t be better than this.”
Morgan tweeted back, “I like you, as well. I did speak with him (state Rep. Joshua Giraldo). I disagree with judging others by their skin color and don’t want our children being compelled to judge society and themselves by race.”
Critical race theory is a nationally divisive educational topic, with conservative leaders waging campaigns across the country, including in Rhode Island, to remove any mention of race in public school curricula.
School committees in Westerly, Barrington and North Kingstown have been targeted, culminating in an unsuccessful attempt to recall North Kingstown School Committee member Jennifer Lima for her progressive agenda.
Linda Borg covers education for the Journal.
This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: RI Rep. Morgan tweets she lost black friend due to Critical Race Theory