If the external authority is weak, it is not possible that the internal authority is strong. One is a reflection of the other. In other words; there is no other. Or as Andrew Helton suggests, “No one is innocent.”
Ginger Teppner from Tiny Replicas
Individual freedom, at its best, is defined by one’s ability to think and express ideas, thoughts, and beliefs without interference from others as well as the ability to meander, to come and go, following desires, instincts and necessities, notwithstanding the respect for the rights and freedoms of others. At its best, this means no one has the right to dominate another’s perceptions or orientation in the world, both physically and mentally.
Rhetoric is the power of words. At its best, this creative force brings humanity to a closer and deeper relationship with the world and its multitudes. At its best rhetoric is not wielded with an intent to obscure, confuse, or obfuscate individual freedom.
Florida House Bill CS/HB 7: Individual Freedom is an exemplary text to demonstrate the power of words and how they can be utilized with the intent to harm. This bill, passed earlier this year, takes the language of individual freedom and warps words and sentences into freedom’s opposite: subjugation. Based on the nickname coined for this bill, The Stop Woke Act, this should come as no surprise. But even this terminology flips decency on its head. To be awake is to be alert, not asleep. To be woke is to be alert to injustice in society. So this bill, from the get-go, is meant to stop Florida residents from being aware of unfairness or inequity, specifically, in the state and wherever the tentacles of the state reach.
On its face, the Individual Freedom Bill reads like it means to prevent discrimination on all counts. But a thorough breakdown of the rhetoric proves otherwise. A breakdown of the actual text, not an analysis of the content, not commentary or opinion about the profound implications of its passage, but a simple examination of the actual diction and syntax illuminates nefarious and far-reaching intentions
To begin, the text is impossibly convoluted and the structure makes it difficult to follow a through line due to circular arguments, double negatives, and disjointed syntax, but the gist is that any institution that forces students or employees to train or use a material that “espouses, promotes, advances, inculcates, or compels such student or employee to believe” any of eight “specified concepts” is in direct opposition to the state. While each of the concepts includes populations based on race, color, national origin, or sex. they are deceptively written to prevent discrimination against white male (sis- gendered) Christian people. The specified concepts are as follows:
Members of one race, color, national origin, or sex are morally superior to members of another race, color, national origin, or sex.
A person, by virtue of his or her race, color, national origin, or sex is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.
A person’s moral character or status as either privileged or oppressed is necessarily defined by his or her race, color, national origin, or sex.
Members of one race, color, national origin, or sex cannot and should not attempt to treat others without respect to race, color, national origin, or sex.
A person, by virtue of his or her race, color, national origin, or sex bears responsibility for or should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment because of, actions committed in the past by other members of the same race, color, or national origin, or sex.
A person, by virtue of his or her race, color, national origin, or sex should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment to achieve diversity, equity, or inclusion.
A person, by virtue of his or her race, color, sex, or national origin, bears responsibility for and must feel guilt, anguish, or other forms of psychological distress because of actions, in which the person played no part, committed in the past by members of the same race, color, national origin, or sex.
Such virtues as merit, excellence, hard work, fairness, neutrality, objectivity, and racial colorblindness are racist or sexist or were created by members of a particular race, color, national origin, or sex to oppress members of another race, color, national origin, or sex.
The following are simplified paraphrases of the previous eight concepts in concise language that do not alter the meaning of the text, including examples, which should be obvious, of how or why the concepts can be twisted to the will of a state that has the power and intention to enforce consequences for those that break this law.
The core of this concept states that: No one is morally superior to another. Seems simple enough. This becomes problematic, for example, if a discussion revolves around the morality of slavery as it pertains to slaves versus slave owners. It is easy to suggest that everyone is equally moral, but what happens to a teacher who points out the potential discrepancy of morality between those enslaved and their [white] enslavers? The danger in this legislation is that speaking about morality or lack of morality of [white] people is considered to be an act of discrimination against white people punishable by law.
The core of this concept states that: Unconscious [white] bias is not inherent. While individual freedom allows that one has the right to believe this despite a large and long-standing body of study that proves otherwise, the danger in this legislation is that speaking about inherent bias is considered to be an act of discrimination against white people punishable by law.
The core of this concept states that: [White] privilege does not exist. Again, while individual freedom allows that one has the right to believe this despite a large and long-standing body of study that proves otherwise, the danger in this legislation is that speaking about privilege is considered to be an act of discrimination against white people punishable by law.
This core of this concept states that: When interacting with others, race, color, national origin, or sex should never be a factor. This is problematic because first, why is it even necessary to ignore these components of a person’s history and identity? But also, how is the law enforced? How does the state know if an institution or teacher is thinking about a person’s race, color, nationality, or sex? What does this thought crime look like?
The core of this concept states that: A person is not responsible for what their ancestors did. It may seem logical that one should not be held to task for horrific actions committed by their forefathers. Does this include not learning about the actual history of our country if it includes negative events perpetrated by our ancestors? Should discussing the past critically and thoroughly be against the law and considered prejudicial towards [white, male (sis-gendered) Christian] people? In Florida, it is.
The core of this concept states that: Affirmative action is against the law. Favoring those that have been historically discriminated against is discrimination against [white, male (sis-gendered) Christian] ] people. In other words, trying to address an uneven playing field is against the law. See a pattern yet?
The core of this concept states that:[White, sis-gendered, Christian] people can’t feel uncomfortable. Talking about history can’t make certain students feel bad even if empathy and sympathy and remorse and even disgust are valid responses to difficult content. Making certain kids feel uncomfortable is against the law.
The core of this concept states that: To be successful, all you have to do is work hard. This concept is especially pernicious as it mandates that everyone has exactly the same potential and possibility in our state regardless of minority status and to suggest otherwise is AGAINST THE LAW.
Some will argue that this bill never mentions white, male, cis-gendered, Christian people directly. Some will argue that this breakdown is racist [against white people. But this essay does not espouse the writer’s opinions. Rather it illustrates how the rhetoric, when evaluated through a writer's microscope, the words and sentences meant to persuade readers that everyone is equal before the law at the same time strip individual freedoms from its most vulnerable constituents. This bill unequivocally defines addressing actual discrimination to be a discriminatory act against those that may have benefitted directly or indirectly from the discrimination of minority populations. These “concepts” address all the extreme right-wing triggers that Governor DeSantis intended to incentivize his base: all the anti-woke issues that white nationalists find grievous.
If there is an opinion to share, it is now. It is absolutely imperative that Floridians get out to vote. Especially in the upcoming school board elections. While a federal judge has ruled this bill unconstitutional for violating the First Amendment and being intentionally vague, we as Floridians need to stand up for each other and for truth, otherwise, we are allowing for the worst possible outcomes. This isn’t a drill. Governor Desantis says "Florida is where woke goes to die." These concepts are being spread, like a virus to other states, and they are very dangerous. Please share this document far and wide with anyone who will read it. None of us are innocent. #voteblue #voteforeducation #votefordemocracy #votewoke #voteflorida