In his latest ad, far-right Senate candidate Josh Mandel of Ohio has once again joined the chorus of conservative hysteria over critical race theory. The advanced academic framework examines how racist policies in the United States' past have contributed to racial inequalities today.
Conservatives, however, falsely insist that critical race theory is a socialist doctrine ubiquitously taught in secondary schools. They claim the theory teaches white people to feel ashamed of America's past and consider themselves oppressors. As a result, Republican governors have taken steps to ban tenets of critical race theory from being taught in schools or workplace diversity trainings. Republican members of Congress have grilled Supreme Court nominees and high-level Defense Department officials over the theory as well.
So it wasn't a surprise that Mandel expressed his opposition to critical race theory in an effort to gin up support from Republican voters—but he did it from Edmund Pettus Bridge.
In 1965, Black civil rights activists were going to march from Selma, Alabama to the state capitol building in Montgomery, but—as they tried to cross Edmund Pettus Bridge—were met with brutal attacks from armed police, who beat and gassed the peaceful protesters in a gruesome display that would come to be known as "Bloody Sunday." A few weeks later, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led the protesters across the bridge and into Montgomery, where they called for the end of Black voter suppression.
Mandel's reason for coming to the Edmund Pettus Bridge was far less noble.
Mandel says in the ad:
"Martin Luther King marched right here so skin color wouldn't matter. I didn't do two tours in Anbar Province, fighting alongside Marines of every color to come home and be called a racist. There's nothing racist about stopping critical race theory and loving America."
Soon after its release, the Senate candidate publicly invoked Reverend Doctor Bernice King, Dr. King's daughter and the CEO of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, claiming she "motivated" him to create the ad.
But King, who frequently calls out the misuse of her father's name and misrepresentation of his work, wasn't having any of it.
Mandel then proceeded to explain Dr. King to his daughter, somehow invoking the Second Amendment and telling King to study up on her history.
That led King to collect him once again.
People cheered her for defending her father's legacy.
Others decried Mandel for his audacity.