Republican gubernatorial candidate Jack Ciattarelli refused to say how he would define “white privilege” during a radio appearance on Thursday that probed his views on race relations and income inequality.
After Ciattarelli spoke of his own grandparents emigrating from Italy and growing up middle class in Raritan, he fielded a question from a Jersey City man who called into The Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC.
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“I’d be very interested to hear his definition of white privilege,” the caller asked.
Ciattarelli responded by asking for “the next question.”
“I don’t really understand the question,” the GOP nominee said. “So either he’ll have to go further in explaining the basis of his question, or we can move on.”
Lehrer then went back to the caller.
“I’m actually not surprised that the candidate doesn’t understand the concept of white privilege because the sheer fact that he doesn’t realize that he has a privilege because of the color of his skin implies the dynamic of white privilege,” the caller said.
The caller’s somewhat accusatory tone allowed Ciattarelli to dismiss his question in its entirety: “It sounds like the person who called in has a number of issues.”
The exchange marked the second time this week that Ciattarelli was pushed for answers on how he would address the topic of racism as governor.
Asked about how racial justice issues should be taught in schools at Tuesday’s gubernatorial debate, Ciattarelli said, “I don’t think we should be teaching our students that white people perpetuate systemic racism.”
It’s a line Ciattarelli went on to repeat verbatim three more times over the course of the following hour, once more at the debate and twice in a press availability immediately afterwards.
The issue of how to properly teach about racism has exploded in the year since last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests, with progressives pushing for more critical curricula while conservatives decry “critical race theory,” an all-encompassing term that has come to refer to racial issues being taught in schools.
Still, Ciattarelli was short on specifics, even after moderator Sade Baderinwa pressed him.
“I think we should be teaching our students the Golden Rule: do unto others as you would have others unto you,” he said during the debate. “I think we should be teaching them what Martin Luther King taught us: judge people by the content of their character, not the color of their skin.”
During the WNYC interview that aired today, Lehrer himself asked Ciattarelli what he would do to lessen racial inequality – but was similarly greeted with an answer that provided few specifics.
“As governor, I will represent all 9 million citizens of this state,” Ciattarelli said. “Wherever it is they’re being marginalized or disadvantaged, those are things that my administration will certainly address.”