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R.I. representative slammed for tweeting she lost ‘a black friend’ to critical race theory

“I had a black friend,” former House Minority Leader Patricia Morgan wrote. “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.”

Rhode Island State Representative Patricia L. Morgan during the swearing in ceremonies at Veterans Memorial Auditorium in January 2021.Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff

Rhode Island state Representative Patricia Morgan has tweeted a lot about critical race theory, a frequent target of criticism from the Republican of West Warwick. But a post on Tuesday got a lot more attention than usual, much of it quite critical.

“I had a black friend,” Morgan tweeted. “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”

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CRT stands for critical race theory. The post earned heaps of online scorn, with nearly three thousand people quote-tweeting replies within a few hours.

“My favorite part of this tweet is ‘a,’” one person wrote.

“why would you tweet this lmaoooo,” another tweeted.

“If you don’t believe in judging others by their skin color, then how come you assumed your former friend has a problem with you because you’re white?” asked writer Jelena Woehr. “If she was white would you think that?”

“I had a white friend,” wrote activist and actor George Takei, who played Hikaru Sulu on “Star Trek.” “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 make kids feel bad.”

Morgan, though, stood by what she posted. In an interview, she told the Globe that the negative reaction to her tweet was yet more proof of the insidious nature of critical race theory.

“Twitter is a cesspool anyway,” Morgan said.

Morgan introduced legislation last year banning the teaching of “divisive concepts” and making anyone “feel discomfort, guilty, anguish or any distress on account of their race or sex.” The bill did not get anywhere in the Democratic-dominated General Assembly.

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She told the Globe she defines critical race theory as judging people not as individuals, but by immutable characteristics like race and ethnicity. “It is using the worst kinds of racial stereotypes on people in our society,” Morgan said.

But what Morgan is describing is racial prejudice, not critical race theory. Critical race theory is “an academic and legal framework that denotes that systemic racism is part of American society — from education and housing to employment and healthcare,” according to the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. It is usually part of the curriculum in law schools.

Morgan also pushed back on reading into her tweet that she had few friends of color.

“I have more than one friend who is not white,” Morgan said.

She declined to identify the friend she’d tweeted about, but said she had noticed the friend becoming distant. That friend, she said, subscribes to what Morgan calls critical race theory. Morgan believes critical race theory itself, rather than Morgan’s opposition to it, turned the friend against her, “and perhaps other white people.” At a Christmas party, things became really noticeable, Morgan said.

“I just felt we weren’t friends anymore, because she doesn’t want to be friends anymore,” Morgan said in an interview. “I’m positive it’s because of my skin color. And that’s a shame.”

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The Black Lives Matter RI PAC called for House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi, a Warwick Democrat, to immediately remove Morgan from House committees, saying, “Anything less than these substantive actions is another tacit acceptance of racism from the General Assembly that can no longer be tolerated.”

The group called Morgan’s tweet “offensive and deeply insulting to the Black and Brown community.”

“If Representative 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,” BLM RI PAC executive director Harrison Tuttle said on behalf of the PAC. “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.”

Shekarchi issued a statement, saying, “There is no place for divisive remarks by any House member. I condemn any such comments.” He did not address the call to remove Morgan from House committees, but House rules require that all members are entitled to serve on a minimum of two committees.

Representative Anastasia P. Williams, a Providence Democrat who is a member of the Rhode Island Legislative Black and Latino Caucus, said she has no doubt Morgan caused whatever divisions now exist with Morgan’s former friend.

“Knowing Patricia personally and politically, her way is the only way, and that is probably why that Black friend is being hostile – because Patricia is forcing her opinion to be the right one,” Williams said. “She is entitled to her opinion and beliefs, but that doesn’t mean she needs to force it on someone who is forced to live it on a daily basis. She initiated that division. That began with her and ends with her.”

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“The strength of our state is in our diversity,” tweeted Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, who is running for governor. “@PatriciaMorgan is the former minority leader of the RI house and her comments are ignorant and embarrassing. Rhode Island deserves leaders who bring people together not recklessly divide us.”

In May, on the one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s death, the House passed a bill, sponsored by Williams, requiring that African-American history be taught in Rhode Island schools. But Morgan tried to amend the bill to require education about a wide variety of other “nationalities or ethnicities,” including Irish-Americans and English-Americans.

Williams said she tried to accommodate concerns raised about that bill. “But again,” she said, “it’s their beliefs versus our experience.”

Senator Tiara Mack, a Black Providence Democrat, said, “I don’t think Morgan is respected nor a thought leader. I think tweets like these are sensational for her base but not grounded in reality. I also wonder if her ‘Black Friend’ would consider her association with Morgan a friendship.”

Corey Jones, a policy adviser to Governor Dan McKee and candidate for City Council in Providence, called on Morgan to resign.

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“This comment is divisive. Rep Morgan you need to resign and retire from public service,” he tweeted from his political account. “It has nothing to do with her being black or you being white.”

When asked about Morgan’s tweet, House Minority Leader Blake A. Filippi, a Block Island Republican, said, “I’m not going to dignify that absurd comment with a response.” Morgan is not part of the House Republican caucus.

Representative Barbara Ann Fenton-Fung, a Cranston Republican, tweeted her response to Morgan, saying, “In how many different languages can I call @repmorgan‘s tweet ridiculous & atrocious? Patty, want more friends? Stop looking at the color of their skin & instead look at the size of their heart.”

Fenton-Fung’s tweet included an quote from the late Nobel Peace Prize laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu saying: “Differences are not intended to separate, to alienate. We are different precisely in order to realize our need for one another.”

Representative Brandon Potter, a Cranston Democrat, told the Globe that Morgan’s tweet is “deeply offensive, woefully ignorant, and misinformed,” and serves as a reminder of what fuels right-wing sentiment. Potter, who is white, said Republicans fall into two categories: “We have those who really believe that (Morgan’s tweet) and the enablers in the party who know better and don’t speak out and condemn it, and purposefully stoke cultural controversy for political gain.”

On Twitter, he tried to urge Morgan to rethink her position. “Rep, 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.”

But Morgan stuck with her own definition of critical race theory, and deflected Potter’s comment.

“I like you, as well,” she replied. “I did speak with him. I disagree with judging others by their skin color and don’t want our children being compelled to judge society and themselves by race.”




Brian Amaral can be reached at brian.amaral@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @bamaral44. Edward Fitzpatrick can be reached at edward.fitzpatrick@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @FitzProv.