Republican hysteria over critical race theory reached yet another crescendo this week when Florida's Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, introduced the "Stop W.O.K.E. Act," or The Stop Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees Act.
Critical race theory is an advanced academic framework scrutinizing how centuries of racist policies like slavery and segregation have influenced current American political, economic, and social conditions. While most Republican efforts up to this point have focused on banning the teaching of critical race theory in secondary schools (the evidence for which is murky at best), DeSantis' bill takes the further step of prohibiting it in private business trainings.
The legislation would deem any teaching of critical race theory an "unlawful employment practice" while also declaring it a "discriminatory practice in education" even at university levels.
In justifying the legislation, DeSantis quoted civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
"You think about what MLK stood for, he said he didn't want people judged on the color of their skin, but on the content of their character. You listen to some of these people nowadays, they don't talk about that."
Dr. King's famous quote—which was delivered in a speech that emphasized the "unspeakable horrors" of anti-Black police brutality and said the Declaration of Independence had "defaulted" on its promise that "all men are created equal"—has often been stripped of its context by conservatives dismissing the very concerns King relayed in the speech.
King's own daughter and CEO of the King Foundation, Bernice King, has repeatedly pushed back against this cherrypicking of her father's words.
In a tweet posted just last month, King said:
"He wasn’t assassinated because he said he wanted his children to be judged 'by the content of their character.'
He was gunned down because he was courageous and strategically working to dismantle racism, poverty and militarism."
Others had similar critiques of DeSantis' latest stunt.
Others responded with MLK quotes of their own.
DeSantis is considered a potential frontrunner for the GOP's 2024 presidential nomination.