Florida bill to prohibit making white students feel ‘discomfort’ over past racism advances

The new bill, sponsored by Republican state Senator Manny Diaz Jr., has the full support of Gov. Ron DeSantis.

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In an ongoing Republican push to eliminate “critical race theory” from K-12 schools and government programs, a new bill has passed the first hurdles to becoming law in Florida. 

SB 148, also called the Individual Freedom Act, reads, in part, that “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.”

The bill, called the Individual Freedom Act, was sponsored by Republican state Senator Manny Diaz Jr. (above) and has the support of Republican Governor Ron DeSantis. (Photo: Florida House of Representatives)

The bill was sponsored by Republican state Senator Manny Diaz Jr. and has the support of Republican Governor Ron DeSantis

According to his bio, Diaz was a teacher and coach at Miami Springs Senior High and Hialeah-Miami Lakes Senior High for 20 years, and was assistant principal at Hialeah-Miami Lakes for seven years. He was first elected to the state House of Representatives in 2012, where he served on several education committees and chaired its PreK-12 Education Appropriations Committee. Elected to the Florida Senate in 2018, Diaz is currently the chairman of its Education Committee. 

According to CBS News, the former educator said the bill is not about ignoring America’s “dark” history, but instead protecting people from being blamed for the sins of their forefathers. “No individual is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously, solely by the virtue of his or her race or sex,” Diaz said. “No race is inherently superior to another race.”

If the bill passes, it would apply to educational institutions and private businesses.

DeSantis, who recently called CRT “crap,” has been pushing to eliminate it from his state — although there is no evidence that the theory, which is commonly studied in colleges and law schools, is being taught in K-12 schools anywhere. Instead, the very name is being used to encapsulate almost all Black history, as illustrated in The Trials of Critical Race Theory, a November CBSN Originals documentary, which points out that conservative journalist Christopher Rufo previously said, “The goal is to have the public read something crazy in the newspaper and immediately think ‘critical race theory.’ We have decodified the term and will recodify it to annex the entire range of cultural constructions that are unpopular with Americans.”

Black Democrats in Florida are pushing back hard against the legislation. State Senator Shevrin Jones said, “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.” 

“At no point did anyone say White people should be held responsible for what happened,” Jones added, “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?”

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