- Wikimedia Commons / Gage Skidmore
During a Senate Judiciary hearing Tuesday on police brutality, both Cruz and Cornyn discounted the idea that structural racism is present in police forces — or even the wider United States.
Police reform advocates argue that many of the problems Black people encounter with the police stem from systemic racism — decisions made by people in power that harm minorities even if they're not directly intended as racist acts.
While questioning Vanita Gupta, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, on why she thought systemic racism existed in U.S. institutions, Cornyn asked her if she thought all Americans are racist.
“I think we all have implicit bias and racial bias," Gupta said in an exchange captured on video by PBS NewsHour. "Yes, I do.”
“Wow,” Cornyn replied, to which Gupta — the former civil rights chief for the U.S. Justice Department — responded that America is "an amazing country that strives to be better."
Still, Cornyn was dismissive: "You lost me when you want to take the acts of a few misguided, perhaps malicious individuals and subscribe that to all Americans, not just our 800,000 police officers, our 18,000 police departments. Thank you for your answer."
WATCH: Sen. John Cornyn: "Do you believe that, basically, all Americans are racist?"— PBS NewsHour (@NewsHour) June 16, 2020
Former DOJ official Vanita Gupta: "I think we all have implicit bias and racial bias..."
Gupta: "And I think that we are an amazing country that strives to be better" every day. pic.twitter.com/5SxUox8mMA
For his part, Cruz suggested that systemic racism was a tool used by Democrats to smear law enforcement officials.
“I think some of the rhetoric that has been used in the wake of Mr. Floyd’s killing has been inaccurate and harmful,” Cruz said, according to a USA Today wire story. “A great many of our colleagues, use the phrase ‘systemic racism’ to suggest that the entire criminal justice system is imbued with racism. I don’t believe that’s accurate.”
Cornyn's exchange with Gupta was prickly enough that Washington Post columnist Eugene Scott singled it out to show why so many White Americans can't seem to grasp the concept of implicit bias and its deep effects on society.
"Such a fundamental disagreement over the root of policing issues may not prevent Congress from moving forward on trying to address them, but seeing it on display was a striking reminder of how hard it will be to find solutions," Scott wrote.
Stay on top of San Antonio news and views. Sign up for our Weekly Headlines Newsletter.