November 27, 2022

By Casey Harper (The Center Square)

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, blasted a recently uncovered research program after reporting showed more than a million dollars in taxpayer funds were appropriated to find evidence that racism is to blame for poor sleep in minority communities.

“Critical Race Theory is a Marxist ideology based on bigotry and lies,” Cruz said.

Cruz’ comments come after The Center Square reported on the funding, which totaled nearly $1.2 million over three years. Cruz argued these health research funds would be better used finding medical cures.

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“The National Institutes of Health should use taxpayer dollars to conduct actual scientific and health research in an effort to find real solutions and real cures,” Cruz said. “It’s outrageous that Democrats are sullying those efforts and funding the radical left’s poisonous agenda.”

The funding was allocated to Dr. Alexander Tsai, an associate professor at Harvard University who is carrying out the study through Massachusetts General Hospital, where he works as a psychiatrist.

According to grant documents in the federal database, the researchers’ hypothesis is that the disparity in sleep health in the Black community is “thought to be explained partially by experiences of interpersonal racial discrimination.”

“This application focuses on police use of deadly force on unarmed black Americans as a cardinal manifestation of structural racism,” the grant summary in the NIH database reads. “The central hypothesis is that police use of deadly force on unarmed black Americans leads to unhealthy sleep among other black Americans in the general U.S. population. This hypothesis has been formulated on the basis of strong preliminary data showing that police use of deadly force on unarmed black Americans leads to poor mental health among other black Americans in the general U.S. population.”

As the Center Square previously reported, NIH awarded $460,656 to Tsai in 2020, $439,970 in 2021, and $273,625 in 2022 for the research effort, which is titled “Racial disparities in police use of deadly force as a cause of racial disparities in sleep health across the life course.”

Other critics told The Center Square that the study is based on a false premise that doesn’t account for a myriad of other factors.

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“It assumes that there is structural racism,” said Mike Gonzalez, an expert on critical race theory and diversity issues at the Heritage Foundation. “It assumes that the disparities are caused by structural racism and not a panoply of other reasons. There could be many, many hundreds of reasons why these disparities exist. That is the main problem with critical race theory … the disparities are real, but then it says well, the disparities are prima facie evidence that structural racism exists. … It’s not binary. There are decisions that people make. There are bad schools. There are problems with family formation.

“There are many, many things that could cause the disparities and by focusing on the ghost of structural racism, none of the other more practical reasons are explored and the problem never gets fixed,” he added.

Tsai has defended the program, saying “the study seems neither unsubstantiated nor grounded in racial ideology.” He also said the “public health significance” of the research justifies the taxpayer funding.

When asked whether lifestyle choices could be to blame for the sleep issues in his research, Tsai pointed out his study doesn’t address that but that it could be difficult to take that into account because those lifestyle choices could also be caused by racism.

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“I think it would be a reasonable scientific undertaking to attempt to quantify and compare the magnitudes of the impacts of structural racism on sleep health vs. the impacts of certain health behaviors or health risk behaviors on sleep health,” Tsai said. “From an epidemiological perspective, one of the potential problems you might encounter is that both sleep health and these behaviors could have a common cause in structural racism (or, alternatively, these health behaviors or health risk behaviors could lie in the causal pathway between structural racism and sleep health). For example, if structural racism has a causal influence on alcohol consumption, and some threshold level of alcohol consumption is thought to have an adverse causal influence on sleep health, then it would be a difficult undertaking to make a direct comparison between the racism-sleep association vs. the alcohol-sleep association.”

Syndicated with permission from The Center Square.

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