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By Clyde Hughes | AC JosepH Media
It was jarring to see Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis standing at a podium on Dec. 15 with a placard in front of it saying the "Stop WOKE Act."
The word "woke," which has been used loosely by African Americans and social justice activists against police brutality and for civil rights in recent years, has been redefined by some conservatives to mean something different.
DeSantis has already pushed for a ban on the teaching of Critical Race Theory, an intellectual social framework connected with advanced and post-college studies on how race and racism has been used in U.S. laws and institutions, particularly against African Americans.
This bill, though, seems to take his initial war on Critical Race Theory a step further.
"In Florida we are taking a stand against the state-sanctioned racism that is critical race theory," said DeSantis, which is a real head-scratcher since the framework was created to identify and help root out racism.
"We won't allow Florida tax dollars to be spent teaching kids to hate our country or to hate each other. We also have a responsibility to ensure that parents have the means to vindicate their rights when it comes to enforcing state standards. Finally, we must protect Florida workers against the hostile work environment that is created when large corporations force their employees to endure CRT-inspired 'training' and indoctrination."
If you even have the basic understanding of Critical Race Theory and wondering, "What does anything that DeSantis just said have anything to do with CRT? or being 'woke,'" you're not alone. The governor also seemed to tie CRT and "woke" together, as one in the same.
Attacking so-called "woke" culture without an ounce of understanding is nothing new for some conservatives, but the blatantness of it is harkening back to the 1960s Civil Rights era. The real target of such efforts of course is race – to eliminate any talk about race or racism or remedies to prevent it. There is a concerted effort to create a chilling effect on anyone addressing this country's continued struggle with race.
There has been plenty written in defense of what is really Critical Race Theory. Please read here and here on what Front Runner New Jersey has written about it in the past. The target is trying to turn discussions of race and racism on its head, where all of the sudden those working to lessen racism in our society are now the racists and vice versa.
DeSantis in his news conference laughingly invoked the name of Rev. Martin Luther King.
"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," DeSantis said at his news conference on Dec. 15. "You listen to some of these people nowadays, they don’t talk about that."
It's rich that DeSantis would mention that phrase taken from King's "I Have a Dream Speech" but wants to ban any talk about why King had to make such a phrase in his speech in the first place, or why it is still relevant today. It is also the most used MLK phrase by conservatives in talking about race, as if the iconic civil rights leader has said nothing else about the subject.
In fact, there are passages in the same MLK speech that would likely fall under DeSantis's definition of CRT. Take this passage for example:
"In a sense, we have come to our Nation’s Capital to cash a check. When the architects of our great republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.
This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
"It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given its colored people a bad check, a check that has come back marked 'insufficient funds.'"
This "bad mouthing" America cannot be tolerated in the America DeSantis and some conservatives see. This is the part of "I Have a Dream" they will never repeat. King's "woke" portion of his speech clearly highlights the discrepancy in the Constitution and what was (and is) happening to many African Americans.
In covering a political race in Cape May County this fall, one African American politician told me about an incident where a White incumbent called her "woke" in an effort to raise funds in a township that is more than 80% White..
"Woke" and "CRT" is the new code for "Black." It's a new dog whistle and wink-and-nod. CRT does not teach children to hate one another. It does not teach them to hate their country. CRT doesn't teach that one race is superior over another or one is inherently racist. I would suggest that anyone claiming so has no clue what CRT is.
Is there rhetoric on the left that goes over the top? Sure. Are some trying to connect it to CRT? I wouldn't doubt it. It's so easy to point to extremes and try to paint everyone who supports "being woke" and CRT with a broad brush.
That's not what we've done here. DeSantis is an elected official in a populous critical battleground state. Conservatives were able to flip the Virginia governorship in November to Republican in large part in capitalizing on the lies and falsehoods surrounding Critical Race Theory.
If there is an issue about race in this country, it is efforts that continues to paint Critical Race Theory and "wokeness" into something they are not, while using those falsehoods as the new code for African Americans. It is time to call out efforts like the "Stop Woke Act" for what they are – cheap political points based solely on race.
QUESTION: Should politicians stop quoting Martin Luther King Jr.? Why or why not? Answer in the Discussion portion below.
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