Tired of his legacy being perverted into a justification for racism, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. returned to this earthly plane yesterday to stop Representative Bob Thorpe’s (R-Flagstaff) HB 2120 from progressing through the Arizona state legislature. Representative Paul Boyer, chairman of the House Education Committee, said on Tuesday that he would not hear Thorpe’s bill, effectively killing it for the year.
HB 2120 would have required all of Arizona’s publicly funded schools, community colleges and universities to give up 10% of their public funding if they promoted “division, resentment, or social justice toward a race, gender, religion, political affiliation, social class, or other class of people.” The bill was ludicrously dubbed the “Martin Luther King, Jr. bill” by Rep. Thorpe himself.
Thorpe made clear he drafted his so-called “Martin Luther King, Jr. bill” in order to lower the decibel level of conversations which questioned white privilege. Indeed, Rep. Thorpe would prefer that those conversations not take place at all.
Since it was publicized last Thursday, letter writers and commentators called HB2120 extortion, and “a disgusting slap in the face to justice, culture, pursuit of a higher level of thinking and improvement of society as a whole“, not least due to its moral boorishness and financial intimidation tactics in the service of racist denialism. Lest any reader be confused by Rep. Thorpe’s intent to appropriate the memory and words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in service to a bill that violated everything that the Reverend lived and was murdered for, Rep. Thorpe included the following “statement of intent:”
Perhaps it was the timing of HB2120’s introduction, on the heels of mounting stress in black communities (Flint, Michigan; officer-involved shootings; disproportionate black unemployment; a half-century of mass incarceration and the racially disparate effects of the drug war) that encouraged Dr. King to descend from heaven and kill HB2120. Or perhaps it was the ongoing exploitation of his legacy by white supremacists that sent Dr. King over the celestial edge and caused him to plummet back to Earth to right this terrible wrong. Either way, it is clear that Dr. King wasn’t about to put up with Rep. Thorpe’s particular brand of grandstanding – and on his freakin’ birthday, of all days!
Understandably, Dr. King did not deign to explain to Rep. Thorpe in person why HB2120 was so mind-bogglingly offensive and ill-conceived. Instead, the good Reverend referred the legislature and the people of Arizona back to his earlier words, and hoped for better a second time around.
“First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate […] who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from a Birmingham Jail.
“Whites, it must frankly be said, are not putting in a similar mass effort to reeducate themselves out of their racial ignorance. It is an aspect of their sense of superiority that the white people of America believe they have so little to learn.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?
– Tara Taylor