A Florida bill that would prohibit public schools and private businesses from making people feel “discomfort” or guilty about their race in discussions about American history or racism passed in the state’s Senate Education Committee on Tuesday (Jan. 18). The legislation, dubbed the “Individual Freedom” bill, is backed by Gov. Ron DeSantis and was passed by the committee’s six Republic senators, while the group’s three Democrats voted against it.
The legislation does not directly mention Critical Race Theory, but the term was used in the attached bill analysis that was given to senators.
The “Individual Freedom” bill specifically prohibits 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 also rejects teachings 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.”
Students or workers also cannot be “discriminated against or receive adverse treatment to achieve diversity, equity, or inclusion,” it adds. Teachers will be allowed to address topics like slavery, racial discrimination and sexism in an age-appropriate manner, but “classroom instruction and curriculum may not be used to indoctrinate or persuade students to a particular point of view…”
The bill appears to prohibit many of the ideals that DeSantis claims Critical Race Theory espouses. CRT was banned from being taught in Florida schools last year.
Speaking to CNN, Democratic State Sen. Shevrin Jones, the only Black senator on the committee; said the bill protects white people from feeling uncomfortable by attempting to alter American history.
“This isn’t even a ban on Critical Race Theory, this is a ban on Black history,” he told the outlet. “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.”
DeSantis, by way of his press secretary Christina Pushaw, countered the criticism by saying that the bill prevents “discrimination based on race, color, sex and national origin.”
“… No Floridian – student, worker, or anyone else – should be subjected to discriminatory content and rhetoric,” Pushaw told CNN. “Every Floridian deserves an equal shot at success, regardless of skin color. This means considering each person as an individual with unique attributes, experiences, and aspirations, rather than stereotyping them as a member of this or that identity group.”