Many Republicans have a tell when it comes to the racism they hold in their squishy, black MAGA hearts. No, it’s not the “R” after their names. That could just as easily stand for “Racist? You’re calling me racist? I play softball with three Black people!” No, the big tell is when they name-drop the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Then you just know they’re about to say something really offensive—while festooning it with a thin veneer of pseudo-inclusive rhetoric.
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt—who’s clearly a Republican because he’s on Fox Business Channel and no one is screaming at him about transgender girls in school-sponsored T-ball leagues—joined host David Asman for a business talk. And they quickly got down to the business of ascribing ideas to King that he would never in a million years have embraced.
DAVID ASMAN: “You just signed an executive order on DEI. You’re banning the use of state funds and resources going to departments that grant preferential treatment based on, and I’m quoting here, race, color, sex, ethnicity, or national origin, and mandatory training on race or sexual orientation. Now it sounds to me like you took a page out of Dr. King’s book about judging by the content of character rather than skin color. Why are so people [sic] upset about that?”
GOV. KEVIN STITT: “I mean, it’s a no-brainer to us in Oklahoma. I believe people in Oklahoma, people in America, they’re so tired of talking about stuff that divides us. And that’s all I said, I said, listen, we’re going to follow the law. The Supreme Court has already said that you can’t have college admissions based on race. It’s merit-based.”
Wow. “A page out of Dr. King’s book,” huh? In what fantasy novel did King talk about gutting diversity, equity, and inclusion programs? Seriously, how clueless and obtuse can these people get? Frederick Douglass must be rolling over on his couch!
First of all, here’s what Stitt actually did last week, in case you’re still under the delusion that he did it for the sake of oppressed peoples everywhere.
On Wednesday, Stitt accomplished a goal of Oklahoma conservatives with his order requiring state agencies and institutions of higher education in Oklahoma to initiate a review of DEI positions, departments, activities, procedures and programs to “eliminate and dismiss” what the order called “non-critical personnel.”
But others, from national and local experts on diversity to current college students like Thompson, say the removal of DEI offices and programs from Oklahoma colleges likely will have a profound impact on the level of services that can be offered to students from nontraditional backgrounds.
“Using an executive order to return to an era when higher education failed to address the needs of all students is shortsighted and outrageous,” said Paulette Granberry Russell, the president and chief executive officer of the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education.
Hmm, getting rid of diversity and inclusion programs in order to enhance diversity and inclusion. Why has no one ever thought of this before?! Brilliant!
Of course, the idea that MLK Jr. would support Republicans’ policy prescriptions for attaining racial equity is so easily debunked (assuming you have The Google, that is) that it’s almost embarrassing to have to do it. But here we are.
If you simply Google “Martin Luther King affirmative action” (though not necessarily in quotes), you’ll find a wealth of rebuttals to Asman’s and Stitt’s blinkered bullshittery.
Most pointedly, there’s this King quote (oh, you thought there was only one?) that clearly endorses the idea of affirmative action: “A society that has done something special against the Negro for hundreds of years must now do something special for him, in order to equip him to compete on a just and equal basis.”
There’s also this excerpt from a 1964 interview King did with Playboy magazine:
PLAYBOY: Do you feel it’s fair to request a multibillion-dollar program of preferential treatment for the Negro, or for any other minority group?
KING: I do indeed. Can any fair-minded citizen deny that the Negro has been deprived? Few people reflect that for two centuries the Negro was enslaved, and robbed of any wages – potential accrued wealth which could have been the legacy of his descendants. All of America’s wealth today could not adequately compensate its Negroes for his centuries of exploitation and humiliation. It is an economic fact that a program such as I propose would certainly cost far less than any computation of two centuries of unpaid wages plus accumulated interest. In any case, I do not intend that this program of economic aid should apply only to the Negro; it should benefit the disadvantaged of all races.
Within common law, we have ample precedents for special compensatory programs, which are regarded as settlements. American Indians are still being paid for land in a settlement manner. Is not two centuries of labor, which helped to build this country, as real a commodity? Many other easily applicable precedents are readily at hand: our child labor laws, social security, unemployment compensation, manpower retraining programs. And you will remember that America adopted a policy of special treatment for her millions of veterans after the war – a program that cost far more than a policy of preferential treatment to rehabilitate the traditionally disadvantaged Negro would cost today.
If you want to argue that affirmative action is unfair or morally wrong, that’s your right, of course. But you sure as shit shouldn’t be using MLK Jr. as your anti-affirmative action mascot.
It’s about time folks like Asman and Stitt be held accountable for their bad faith arguments. Or maybe they could bother to educate themselves by reading more than that one cherry-picked King quote—over and over and over again.
Check out Aldous J. Pennyfarthing’s four-volume Trump-trashing compendium, including the finale, Goodbye, Asshat: 101 Farewell Letters to Donald Trump, at this link. Or, if you prefer a test drive, you can download the epilogue to Goodbye, Asshat for the low, low price of FREE.