Opinion: DeSantis' Stop Woke Won't Stop Woke

J. Jurout

Photo by Brian Wangenheim on UnsplashPhoto by Brian Wangenheim on Unsplash

Conversations between the Left and Right are a little strained, if you haven't noticed. The Left is still seething at Trump’s ridicule. The Right continues to roll its eyes at "liberal" media.

The Right says the Left started it with CRT. The Left says the Right neglected to notice the police shooting of Michael Brown. Disney expressed support for the left when it released “Reimagine Tomorrow”, a beefed-up diversity program.

In response, DeSantis revoked Disney’s special tax status. In a one-two punch from the Right, he issued the Stop Woke Act. Most people assumed that the measure was just adding to “the woke wars”. The measure may in fact create dialogue between the two opposing sides.

The Governor’s announcement about the measure gives voice to the Right. The arguments presented are logical, but the Act limits free speech. A law to stop woke won't stop woke since an idea cannot be controlled.

Sharing is Caring

In light of January 6th and QAnon, the explanations in Desantos’ presentation are refreshing. First, the Governor pays tribute to democratic values and American traditions. “Classroom instruction will educate students on what it means to be a respectful and responsible citizen, " he writes.

"(Instruction will) encourage tolerance of diversity to protect democratic principles that our country is founded on,” he adds. (DeSantos Staff)

Then, the Governor expresses support for factual information. “Schools are required to teach factual information on topics including African American history," he offers. "...instead of subjective indoctrination that pushes collective guilt," he notes.

DeSantis reaches out to the Left when he expresses support for minority rights. “​​The bill also expands instruction of African American history," he offers. In support of discussions on race and gender, Desantis emphasizes "the ramifications of prejudice and racism.”

Essentially, the bill does not question the need for instruction on race or gender. According to the announcements, the dispute over woke resides - not in whether to have instruction. The conflict exists in the quality of the discussions.

With Conflicts too.

The Governor's position against CRT is logical. With a list of examples of "indoctrination", he takes issue with an assumption made about race and gender: “...no person is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive just by virtue of his or her race or sex," he states.

The idea is reasonable. Seeing someone’s physical appearance and assuming that they are racist or sexist isn't fair. Knowing only a person's physical identity and concluding that he/she is “morally superior” doesn’t sound right.

In addition to these positions, DeSantis acknowledges white privilege: “Meritocracy or hard work ethic are not racist but fundamental to the right to pursue success.” The Right and the Left in this instance are not in dispute over the existence of white privilege. The conflict resides in the characterization of it.

Critical Race Theory on the left views white advantage as exploitative and the cause of unjust hardship. The Right, as expressed in the Governor's explanations, (and to the left's outrage) views white advantage as honorable and the result of hard work.

The controversy aside, DeSantis presents a Right that is willing to listen and even concede to an opposing view. The message - that no one should be judged or presumed guilty, based on their physical appearance or economic status - is reasonable.

Policing Speech

Discussions are healthy - whether it’s the Stop Woke Act in education on the Right or CRT’s microaggressions on the Left. The American public benefits from hearing opposing arguments.

Passing laws against intellectual concepts and limiting free speech - on behalf of the Right or the Left - however, shuts down conversations. Also, these laws are impossible to implement. How do you prove that someone’s guilty of a thought crime? Does intent matter? Who’s acting as the mind police? What are their qualifications?

The examples of “unlawful discrimination” on DeSantis' site involved educators that were contractually obliged to fulfill a professional code of ethics. The Governor could have addressed the offenses through existing government channels, instead of passing a law that restricts First Amendment Rights.

In the bill, DeSantis argues that teachers in Florida are indoctrinating - rather than educating - students. The examples illustrate the meaning of "indoctrination". (You can explore and help clarify the difference between "education" and "indoctrination" by stopping by the discussion wall here.)

Limits Learning

Sharing is caring, especially in regard to political conflicts. Passing laws that restrict intellectual thought - and speech discourages discussion. The threat of punishment in these instances dissuades people from communicating and learning about differing positions.

The explanations in DeSantis’ Stop Woke Act have value and might generate dialogue between the Right and Left. The law itself works against discussion by limiting speech. Ultimately, the Stop Woke Act won't stop woke because woke is an idea.

No one can put a genie back in a bottle. Explore other positions on the Right and the Left by visiting my website. Thank you for reading. Double thanks for following me here.

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J. Jurout gives voice to reason as The Happy Centrist in an honest presentation of national news.

Metuchen, NJ

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