Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is pushing for the passage of a bill that would forbid public school teachers from teaching information that could cause students to feel “discomfort,” in yet another GOP attempt to censor lessons about the history of racism in the U.S.
The bill would also apply to companies that require their employees to receive training on combatting racism and discrimination in the workplace.
“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,” reads Senate Bill 148, which was approved by the Republican-controlled Senate Education Committee on Tuesday.
All Democrats on the committee voted against the bill’s advancement, saying that it would lead to a number of lawsuits and censorship in classrooms across the state. They also said that there were no real-world instances that would justify a need to pass the bill, and noted that the legislation could potentially prevent educators from teaching factual accounts of history.
The legislation was condemned by Sen. Shevrin Jones (D), the ranking member of the Education Committee.
“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,” Jones said. “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?”
DeSantis’s promotion of the bill comes after his repeated attacks on Critical Race Theory (CRT), an academic field that emerged in the 1970s to examine how institutions perpetuate racial and gender inequality in the U.S. Although most K-12 schools do not teach CRT, conservative lawmakers have manufactured a false narrative about its prevalence in U.S. classrooms, likely to stir up support among their base through racist fear mongering. (One of the many lies being pushed by Republican lawmakers is that CRT teaches white people to hate themselves.)
Jones said that DeSantis, whose name is being considered for the GOP nomination for president in 2024, is traveling “across the country with his racist rhetoric on critical race theory.”
“It’s a problem that doesn’t exist,” Jones said.
In a recent Instagram post, anti-racist author Ibram X. Kendi pointed out that the notion that white people should be protected from “discomfort” was also used to justify segregation.
“I am reminded of segregationists who justified separate restrooms, elevators, waiting rooms, restaurants, phone booths, water fountains, parks, schools, pools, and even cemeteries by claiming White adults and children felt ‘discomfort’ around Black people,” Kendi said. “And now this.”
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