Bryan Cranston Reiterates Stance on Teaching Critical Race Theory After Debate With Bill Maher: “I Think It’s Imperative”
Bryan Cranston reaffirmed his support of teaching critical race theory on Who’s Talking to Chris Wallace after backing the academic framework while appearing on Bill Maher’s podcast in February.
On the latest episode of the CNN and HBO Max series, host Wallace addressed the Breaking Bad actor’s previous statements on Club Random With Bill Maher, which saw the actor and commentator debate the importance of teaching critical race theory in the U.S., as well as Cranston’s stance on the Make America Great Again slogan.
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After Wallace described Cranston and Maher’s back-and-forth debate as a “tussle” about “critical race theory and wokeness,” he asked the Emmy-winning actor about “the role that media plays” in the state of the country’s political discourse.
Cranston briefly shared that he finds it “difficult to try to find truly unbiased reporting news,” before reiterating his previous sentiments about his support of teaching the theory. (Critical race theory examines how historical discrimination in the U.S. lives on through race-blind legal and social policies regardless of whether the intention of said policies is to fuel racism, according to EdWeek.)
“I think it’s imperative that it’s taught, that we look at our history, much the same. I think that Germany has looked at their history in involvement in the [World] Wars, one and two, and embraced it and say, ‘This is where we went wrong. This is how it went wrong. This is why it can’t go wrong again,'” Cranston said.
He noted that Germany had done a “very commendable job” with its public reckoning of the Holocaust, but that the U.S. “really hasn’t” confronted its historical relationship to slavery in the same way.
“You present it and say, ‘Well, 400 years of slavery, yeah, but we’re moving on, we’re moving on,”‘ he said. “And it’s like, ‘No, let’s really discuss it. How did that happen? How did we get to a point where we treated other human beings as slaves? And we’re OK with that?'”
He also addressed his previous comments to Maher about the Make America Great Again slogan, asking whether someone could “accept that that could possibly be construed as a racist remark.”
“Most people — a lot of people go — how could that be racist make America great again?” he continued. “I said, just ask yourself from an African American experience, when was it ever great in America for the African American? When was it great? So if you’re making it ‘great again,’ it’s not including them.”
He added that he believes it’s up to white people to open themselves to the idea that white privilege exists.
“It’s to teach us in the woke world to open up and accept the possibilities that our privilege has created blind spots for us,” he explained. “And maybe I haven’t seen what is really happening yet in all my years.”
Cranston shared similar sentiments while speaking to Maher on Club Random, with the two also getting into where they stand on white privilege versus advantage and Maher later arguing that he doesn’t believe people in power have a mindset, conscious or subconscious, that supports them wanting to “be racist to people of color.”
“They don’t understand it, but they are innately that way,” Cranston responded, pointing to how the predominance of white men in Congress can uphold racist policies. “What we don’t recognize often is the privilege — or as you said, the advantage. Look at the makeup of Congress. You cannot deny that older white men are the predominant factor in Congress.”
At another point in his interview with Wallace, Cranston also spoke about a notable bit he did while guest starring on Seinfeld as the “sketchy” fictional dentist, Dr. Tim Whatley. The actor revealed that the joke — of taking a hit of nitrous oxide before giving it to Jerry ahead of a procedure — was not scripted, but that it also didn’t come from him.
“We had rehearsed that scene, and then I wanted to stay on my set to rehearse that scene — to get used to the stool, where the tools were and things just to get comfortable in that dental office,” he recalled. “And I hear, ‘Hey, you know what would be funny?'”
Cranston noted that the comment came from “a guy on a ladder adjusting a lamp.” He responded, asking the man what he thought would be funny, and that’s where the actor got the idea, with the man on the ladder noting that it would be funny “if you took a hit of the nitrous oxide first.”
“I just thought,” he said, “that’s brilliant.”