Florida school district cancels professor’s civil rights seminar over CRT concerns

The seminar was going to unpack the civil rights movement before and after the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 

Loading the player...

A Florida history professor is speaking out after his civil rights lecture was canceled by a school district citing concerns over critical race theory, according to NBC News.

J. Michael Butler, a history professor at Flagler College in St. Augustine, was scheduled to deliver his lecture called “The Long Civil Rights Movement,” on Saturday to Osceola County School District teachers. The seminar was going to unpack the civil rights movement before and after the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr

Butler received an email on Wednesday notifying him that the event was canceled. It’s the latest political intimidation of educators over teaching about race.

Prior to canceling his lecture, Republican lawmakers advanced legislation to prevent public schools and private businesses from making white people feel uncomfortable when they’re taught about race, theGrio reported. 

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 was sponsored by Republican state Senator Manny Diaz Jr. and has the support of Republican Governor Ron DeSantis. If the bill passes, it would apply to educational institutions and private businesses.

Black Democrats in Florida are fighting 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.” 

“There’s a climate of fear, an atmosphere created by Gov. Ron DeSantis, that has blurred the lines between scared and opportunistic,” Butler said. “The victims of this censorship are history and the truth. The end game is they’re going to make teaching civil rights into ‘critical race theory,’ and it’s not.”

A spokeswoman for DeSantis, Christina Pushaw, refuted the allegations in an emailed statement. 

“Critical Race Theory and factual history are two different things. The endless attempts to gaslight Americans by conflating the two are as ineffective as they are tiresome,” she said. “So just to be clear, mixing up ‘teaching history’ with ‘teaching CRT’ is dishonest.”

At the core, the pushback against CRT is to promote white-washing of America’s racist history, which includes rewriting or omitting from social studies/textbooks the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the history of Native Americans and slavery, as well as the cultural significance of Frederick Douglass and how white supremacy has long been embedded in American society. 

At least 165 anti-critical race theory groups, “have weaponized the right’s opposition to critical race theory, turning it into a political rallying point,” NBC News writes. 

Many state legislatures have made it their mission to attack the historical truth about our nation.

“School districts in Florida are in a precarious position as we navigate the anti-CRT administrative order which has little guidance yet promises to have strong consequences if not implemented,” said Terry Castillo, school board member in Osceola County, in a written statement.

She noted that “school boards have been punished for going against the governor’s orders regarding mask mandates.”

This article contains additional reporting from Biba Adams.

Have you subscribed to theGrio podcasts “Dear Culture” or “Acting Up?” Download our newest episodes now!

TheGrio is now on Apple TV, Amazon Fire and Roku. Download theGrio.com today!

Loading the player...