Friday, April 19, 2024

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Florida Lawmakers Pass ‘Stop Woke Act’ To Stifle School, Work Instruction On Racism

The Florida legislature on Thursday passed a bill meant to stifle discussions of racism, privilege and white supremacy in the state’s schools and workplaces.

House Bill 7 — dubbed the “Stop W.O.K.E. Act” by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantispassed the state senate in a 24-15 vote along party lines, with Republicans voting in favor.

The bill bans workplace trainings or schools from teaching that anyone is “inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously,” or that anyone is “privileged or oppressed … determined by his or her race, color, sex, or national origin.”

The legislation also prohibits instruction that suggests anyone should “feel guilt, anguish, or other forms of psychological distress because of actions … committed in the past by other members of the same race.”

The bill now goes to DeSantis, who is likely to sign it. He originally proposed the legislation as part of his campaign against “critical race theory” — which isn’t even mentioned in the text of the legisltion, and is an academic discipline that is usually discussed only in graduate-level courses and that examines how racism is embedded in the country’s legal, political and social institutions.

Genesis Robinson, political director of the Equal Ground Action Fund, a Black-led political nonprofit, slammed Florida’s lawmakers for passing the “deeply harmful” bill.

“For Black people and all people of color across the state, this bill is whitewashing our history in America because conversations about historical, factual events may make white students, their parents, and employees uncomfortable,” Robinson said, calling the legislation a “denial of history.”

Florida’s bill is the latest in a wave of similar legislation passed in other states — including Texas and Mississippi meant to prevent teaching about systemic racism and white privilege in schools.

The bill’s passage comes just days after Florida lawmakers passed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which would ban teaching on sexual orientation and gender identity in classes through third grade, and which has been widely criticized for further marginalizing queer people.

“Anti-equality legislators in Florida must stop advancing discriminatory bills that attack marginalized groups,” Cathryn M. Oakley, state legislative director at the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement. “House Bill 7 is a shameful attempt to censor critical conversations about important issues that impact vulnerable communities.”

Injustice on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and racial identity exists,” she added, “despite any attempts by the state legislature to sweep it under the rug.”

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