A Florida state Senate committee on Thursday advanced a bill that would prohibit making white people feel “discomfort” when taught or trained about past discrimination in public schools and private businesses.
The bill, S.B. 148, would prevent school educators from teaching subjects that could make students feel responsible for historical wrongs based on their race, sex or national origin.
In private businesses, training or employment practices that make an individual feel uncomfortable on similar grounds could be subject to a company lawsuit for unlawful employment practices.
The state Senate Education Committee approved the bill Thursday on party lines.
“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,” the legislation by Sen. Manny Diaz (R) reads. “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 mirrors a proposal by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), who rolled out the Stop the Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees Act, or WOKE Act, in December, which would allow parents to sue schools that teach critical race theory, a decades-old field of academia examining how race intersects with the law.
“We shouldn’t be teaching students, for example in a diverse classroom, that someone is automatically racist or sexist or anti-immigrant by the sheer nature of their background,” Diaz told the Senate Education Committee, according to USA Today.
“We cannot hit the students with that because you’re from this group, you’re automatically sexist or racist,” he added. “The discussion has to be had for students to critically think and understand what was wrong … and how we moved past it or haven’t moved past it.”
The bill has been met with fierce criticism, with some Democrats saying that the legislation will lead to lawsuits and censorship in facilities. State Sen. Shevrin Jones (D), a Black man, condemned the bill, the news outlet reported.
“This bill’s not for Blacks, this bill was not for any other race,” Jones said. “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, 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?”
“The governor will continue to go across the country with his racist rhetoric on critical race theory. … It’s a problem that doesn’t exist,” Jones added, according to The Associated Press. “I think the governor’s policies that he continues to push are racist.”