It’s either a massive self-own or a racist dog whistle.

One of the candidates running for the United States Senate in Texas on Friday tweeted out a video of Beto O’Rourke speaking passionately about the murder of Botham Shem Jean in his home by a police officer and calling for justice. That candidate was Ted Cruz.

The Republican senator raised eyebrows after on Friday he posted a video on Twitter showing O’Rourke, his Democratic rival, speaking to a crowd about Jean’s murder. Jean, a 26-year-old black man, was killed by off-duty police officer Amber Guyger in his own Dallas apartment on September 6 after she claims she mistakenly walked in, believing it was her home.

“In Beto O’Rourke’s own words,” Cruz tweeted, linking to a video of O’Rourke speaking at a Dallas church after the shooting, saying this:

How can it be, in this day and age, in this very year, in this community, that a young man, African American, in his own apartment is shot and killed by a police officer? And when we all want justice and the facts and the information to make an informed decision, what is released to the public? That he had a small amount of marijuana in his kitchen. How can that be just in this country? How can we continue to lose the lives of unarmed black men in the United States of America at the hands of white police officers? That is not justice. That is not us. That can and must change. Are you with me on this?

It’s not entirely clear what Cruz was trying to get at with the video, which among many liberals had become yet another viral clip of O’Rourke speaking to supporters on the campaign trail. Before sharing it, Cruz in a separate tweet said that O’Rourke, currently a member of the House of Representatives, “sides against the police.”

If the point he was trying to make was that O’Rourke was anti-law enforcement, this is an odd way to do it. The lawmaker in the clip is calling for justice for an unarmed black man who was killed while sitting at home in his own apartment, doing absolutely nothing wrong. And he was pointing to a broad problem in the United States of police brutality and racial disparities in policing, not attacking police officers.

Some people on Twitter laughed Cruz’s tweet out as a tone-deaf unforced error. “Senator, you are a Grand Master of the Self-Own,” actor Michael McKean tweeted.

Mediaite columnist John Ziegler called the tweet a “tremendously bad self-own.”

Others, however, pointed out the racial undertones of Cruz’s tweet: Because unless he was actually trying to boost his opponent, Cruz was seemingly suggesting that O’Rourke was wrong in calling for justice for an unarmed black man shot in his home by a white police officer.

Cruz has been revealingly careful about his remarks on Jean’s murder. He’s criticized O’Rourke and other Democrats for being too “quick to always blame the police officer,” even though Guyger has been charged with manslaughter and has admitted she killed Jean, though she says the shooting was accidental.

In an interview with Fox 26 Houston earlier this month, Cruz used bizarre wording about the shooting, saying “the individual” — Jean — was “at home in his apartment and found himself murdered.” He said Guyger “may have been in the wrong” and called the shooting a “tragic situation.”

O’Rourke wants to talk about racial injustice. Cruz seems like he might be trying to appeal to racists.

Cruz hasn’t offered up any explanation for tweeting out the O’Rourke video, nor has he taken it down. He’s followed it up with several tweets supporting law enforcement. It would seem as though he’s trying to emphasize a dividing line between black people and the police and indicate that he’s clearly on the side of the police — even if they’re in the wrong.

For O’Rourke, racial injustice has been an important talking point in his campaign. A video of him discussing black NFL players who kneel during the national anthem in protest of racial injustice went viral over the summer.

As Vox’s Tara Golshan wrote, from the very start of a debate with Cruz on Friday, O’Rourke made it clear he was speaking to people of color in Texas. “Whether speaking directly about police brutality, gun control, marijuana legalization, the opioid crisis, or responding to his own past arrest for driving drunk, O’Rourke demonstrated that racial injustice is among his biggest priorities,” Golshan wrote.

During the debate, he was also asked about Jean. His response could be fodder for a follow-up video from Cruz:

With the tragic shooting death, you have another unarmed black man killed in this country by law enforcement. No member of law enforcement wants that to happen. No member of this community wants that to happen. We got to do something better than what we’ve been doing so far.

African Americans represent 13 percent of the population in this country. They represent one-third of those who are shot by law enforcement. We have something wrong. If we have the largest prison population on the face of the planet and it is comprised of people of color, we have something wrong in this country.

Author: Emily Stewart

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