Florida Legislature Issues Initial Approval of Bill That Would Prohibit White ‘Discomfort’ During Black History Education

Even though the Florida Department of Education has already banned the classroom teaching of Critical Race Theory, lawmakers in the state are attempting to go even further, passing a law to protect whites’ “feelings” during education dealing with Black history. 

Amy Simonson of CNN reported that a bill backed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has received the first approval from Florida’s Senate Education Committee. The bill would ban public schools and private businesses in Florida from “making people feel ‘discomfort’ or ‘guilt’ based on their race, sex or national origin,” Simonson reported. 

The bill, named “Individual Freedom,” passed by a 6-to-3 vote. All Republicans on the committee voted in favor of it, and all Democrats voted against it.

According to Simonson, “the legislation would prohibit individuals from making people ‘feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race, color, sex, or national origin.’”

“It would also prohibit employers from providing training or instruction that ‘espouses, promotes, advances, inculcates, or compels’ individuals to believe ‘that an individual 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, sex or national origin,’” she said.

Although educators would still be able to cover topics like sexism, slavery, racial oppression, racial segregation and racial discrimination in an age-appropriate manner, the bill would drastically limit the ways those topics could be discussed, ensuring the lessons did not “indoctrinate or persuade students to a particular point of view inconsistent with the principles of state academic standards.”

For its part, the DeSantis camp insists that even though the bill focuses on “white’s feelings,” he maintains it’s good for everyone. In a statement to CNN, DeSantis press secretary Christina Pushaw said the party’s policy remains that “discrimination based on race, color, sex, and national origin” has no place in the state.

“No Floridian — student, worker, or anyone else — should be subjected to discriminatory content and rhetoric,” she said, adding that people in the state should be considered as individuals and that everyone “deserves an equal shot at success.”

But opponents aren’t falling for that spin. Democratic State Senator Shevrin Jones — the only Black member of the committee — told CNN that the bill was specifically designed to keep white children and adults from feeling uncomfortable over certain aspects of history.

“This isn’t even a ban on Critical Race Theory; this is a ban on Black history,” he said. “They are talking about not wanting white people to feel uncomfortable? Let’s talk about being uncomfortable. My ancestors were uncomfortable when they were stripped away from their children.”

Now that it has passed committee approval, the bill will move forward for a vote from the entire Florida Senate.


Related: For more recent diversity and inclusion news, click here.


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