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.
Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) quotes MLK while introducing the “Stop Woke Act” to ban critical race theory. pic.twitter.com/m2RhnWhALD
— The Recount (@therecount) December 15, 2021
"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.
Funny they don't talk about when he said this. https://t.co/7cKOf8Ebn2 pic.twitter.com/epQ7qELul1
— NewDemocrat4Life (@reesetheone1) December 15, 2021
I’ll refer back to this excellent tweet https://t.co/rOC8XRHVzw pic.twitter.com/0K9dalavSR
— SMP (@IamSeanMPorter) December 15, 2021
White men quoting MLK think it makes them look less racist. It doesn’t. https://t.co/rIqNI13FZV
— Dr. Ginny McDonald (@GinnyMcDonald8) December 15, 2021
White supremacists love reviling and eventually murdering a powerful anti-racist vote so they can lie about what he said and quote him to pursue their racist agenda.
Without even looking, I'm sure he quoted that one line from that one speech with no context https://t.co/lqxCGqIbsh
— Christopher Caldwell-Kelly (@seraph76) December 15, 2021
Misrepresenting and weaponizing Dr. King against his legacy, the political strategy that never ceases 🙄 https://t.co/UzGEztKsfd
— Hajar Yazdiha, Ph.D. (@HajYazdiha) December 15, 2021
I'm not going to tag Bernice King in this but I feel so bad for her every time she has to deal with some inept jackass twisting her father's words like this. https://t.co/G2yPqJsx7V
— la negra tiene tumbao (@beequammie) December 15, 2021
Others responded with MLK quotes of their own.
MLK also said: “Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think.” https://t.co/FtJjkjI9RM
— Hani Garabyare 🇸🇴🇺🇸 (@haniyesaid) December 15, 2021
"Few members of the oppressor race can understand the deep groans and passionate yearnings of the oppressed race, and still fewer have the vision to see that injustice must be rooted out by strong, persistent and determined action." --MLK Jr. in Letter From Birmingham Jail https://t.co/4ZdjLWk5Fp
— Eric Atcheson, the "spiritual concierge" (@RevEricAtcheson) December 15, 2021
“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”
-MLK https://t.co/IdMomKbOSn pic.twitter.com/eHgmRSS96m
— Antonio McDaniel(he/him/his) (@CoachT_McDaniel) December 15, 2021
DeSantis is considered a potential frontrunner for the GOP's 2024 presidential nomination.