Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis is worried that white students will feel uncomfortable if they are taught about America’s racist history. He’s pushing legislation that will ban public schools and private businesses from making white people feel “discomfort” when they teach students or train employees about discrimination in the nation’s past.
The bill received its first approval on Jan. 18 by Florida’s Senate Education Committee. It aims to crack down on teaching critical race theory (CRT), although it doesn’t mention it explicitly, AP reported.
Critical race theory is a way of examining how U.S. racism has shaped public policy. An academic concept that is more than 40 years old, its core idea is that race is a social construct and that racism is not merely the product of individual bias or prejudice but something ingrained in the country’s legal systems and policies, Education Week reported. CRT is taught on a college level.
“This bill’s not for Blacks; this bill was not for any other race. This was directed to make whites not feel bad about what happened years ago,” said Florida state Sen. Shevrin Jones, who is Black and a Democrat. “At no point did anyone say white people should be held responsible for what happened, but what I would ask my white counterparts is, are you an enabler of what happened, or are you going to say we must talk about history?”
During a news conference in December, Gov. DeSantis called critical race theory “crap” and promised to push legislation that would allow parents to sue schools and employees that subject their children to its teachings.
The bill is called “Individual Freedom” and it was sponsored by Republican Sen. Manny Diaz. According to Diaz, the bill is not about ignoring the “dark” parts of U.S. history but a way to make sure that people today are not blamed for sins of the past.
“No individual is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously, solely by the virtue of his or her race or sex,” Diaz told AP. “No race is inherently superior to another race.”
The bill reads in part, “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. An individual should not be made to feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race.”
There was pushback on Twitter against the bill.
“I can barely walk in a store without feeling uncomfortable, where’s our bill? White fragility is something” tweeted Frederick Joseph, author of “Patriarchy Blues, Better Than We Found It.”
“I imagine Ruby Ridges experienced some ‘discomfort’ too. So sorry to hear that learning about her discomfort may make others uncomfortable,” tweeted freelance journalist @freelancerjourn.
“Use the Bill against them. It has to go both ways. As soon as they start teaching the white narrative have your child kindly say this is making me feel uncomfortable. If the teacher continues there’s your lawsuit,” tweeted Brian Killebrew (@killebrew_brian)
Others expressed disbelief.
“This isn’t like a parody tweet or something ? This was the actual language…. ‘Prohibit public schools from making white people feel discomfort’ That’s where we are ?” asked Etan Thomas.
“Is this a joke? I wonder if black people who were lynched by racist white folks back in the day felt any ‘discomfort,'” tweeted SuzeQKnits.
DeSantis is playing to his conservative base with this bill, Sen. Jones told the Associated Press.
“The governor will continue to go across the country with his racist rhetoric on critical race theory … It’s a problem that doesn’t exist,” Sen. Jones said. “I think the governor’s policies that he continues to push are racist.”
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Photo: Africans brought into Virginia Colony as slaves in the 1600s. Hand-colored woodcut of a 19th-century illustration (North Wind Picture Archives via AP Images)