Thursday, January 20, 2022

On the Florida "Individual Freedom" bill

Holy crap, Batman, I'm publishing a blog post! Truth be told, I published this all on Facebook, but wanted to have another copy of what I wrote. This may be how I typically use this blog going forward.

I have decided to torture myself and go over this Florida "Individual Freedom" bill. The phrases "wolf in sheep's clothing" and "strawman" come to mind. It also seems very much like a bill that has already been signed here in Iowa that didn't get near the national attention, perhaps because Iowa has a much smaller population and because the bill here was limited, as far as I am aware, to education.

Right at the top of the changes we see very much the sheep's clothing. Here, it looks to be banning the promotion of white supremacy (or any type of supremacy) and seems very much a good thing: "Members of one race, color, sex, or national origin are morally superior to members of another race, color, sex, or national origin."

It seems to be a few sections down that is getting attention that is very much the wolf: "An individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race, color, sex, or national origin." It's not too hard to see how this is problematic. In fact, later sections of the bill make it fairly clear how this is problematic. The concern would be that teaching about how white people committed genocide in these lands as well as held slaves could make a white person "feel discomfort on account of [their] race."

The next section is very much a wolf in sheep's clothing in itself: "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, sex, or national origin to oppress members of another race, color, sex, or national origin." A problem is that most, if not all of these, are promoted by white supremacists. Here's an example of why this is: Discrimination against black people has led to them having less generational wealth. This, in turn, makes it harder for them to access important things like education. That, then, leads to them having less merit. So of course white supremacists love the idea of merit! It then let's them say, "No, I'm not discriminating based on race! It just so happened that all the white people I hired had more merit! I'm being fair and objective!!!" This is very much why progressives such as myself find the idea of colorblindness problematic. Colorblindness seems to suggest that we should ignore that a person of color had to overcome more obstacles than a white person because of racial discrimination when, no, we should absolutely be considering such obstacles!

Sections further down get into the strawmen, or misrepresentations, that I recall being in the Iowa bill. That they are misrepresentations make them problematic because the expectation is that laws like this may be enforced against the ideas they are misrepresenting. Does that make sense? Maybe a simpler way would be to say that the law says it is against A, which is a misrepresentation of B. The concern is it will then be applied against B. Continuing with the wolf in sheep's clothing theme, A also isn't really that objectionable...which would suggest that the misrepresentation is intentional. And that is also why people would be concerned that such laws will be practically applied to B.

So let's get into the first example: "No individual is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously, solely by virtue of his or her race or sex." On the surface, this sounds fine. But how would a statement like "White people tend to have biases X, Y, and Z" be treated? Note that it says "tend to, " and not "inherently," but would it be viewed as essentially saying such biases are inherent and thus be illegal? This is the concern. How loosely is the word "inherently" going to be applied?

The next example states "An individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, does not bear responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex." Once again, this sounds fine on the surface. A problem I have with many people is that they also feel they bear no responsibility for correcting the lingering consequences (such as the lower generational wealth black people have that I mentioned earlier) for those actions made by other people. Would this law take issue with me if I were a teacher suggesting that a white person, having been a benefactor of actions of other white people, do something to correct such imbalances? The way it is written very much suggests that it would be problematic. This section, then, is much more wolf with very little sheep's clothing covering it.

There is then another section about making people feel uncomfortable. And, with that, I think I've covered the most concerning pieces of the bill. One last side note, though: I notice they use "his or her" a lot in this bill. Go figure that they cannot be bothered to acknowledge gender nonconforming individuals -- in a bill that's supposed to be against discrimination -- by using "their."

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