TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Calling critical race theory “crap,” Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Wednesday he'll push for legislation to ban teaching the concept in schools and to allow private corporate employees to sue their employers if they receive critical race theory training.
In a strongly worded speech at a campaign-style event, DeSantis told a packed room of supporters in Wildwood that he won't allow backers of critical race theory to erase U.S. history. He was interrupted several times by loud applause and cheers.
"Nobody wants this crap, OK? This is an elite driven phenomenon being driven by bureaucratic elites, elites in universities and elites in corporate America and they’re trying to shove it down the throats of the American people. You’re not doing that in the state of Florida,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis, who is up for re-election next year and is considered a potential 2024 presidential candidate, is continuing a message brought into the mainstream last year by then President Donald Trump.
Critical race theory is a way of thinking about America’s history through the lens of racism. It was developed during the 1970s and 1980s in response to what scholars viewed as a lack of racial progress following the civil rights legislation of the 1960s. It centers on the idea that racism is systemic in the nation’s institutions and that they function to maintain the dominance of white people in society.
Conservatives reject it, saying it is a world view derived from Marxism that divides society by defining people as oppressors and oppressed based on their race. They call it an attempt to rewrite American history and make white people believe they are inherently racist.
DeSantis is calling his proposal the Stop WOKE (Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees) Act.
“What you see now with the rise of this woke ideology is an attempt to really delegitimize our history and to delegitimize our institutions and I view the wokeness as a form of cultural Marxism,” DeSantis said. "They really want to tear at the fabric of our society.”
Democratic Sen. Shevrin Jones said the DeSantis is creating a problem where none exists to score political points with his base, and that critical race theory hasn't been taught in Florida schools. He also points out that woke is a term that African Americans have used for years to describe being aware of racist polices.
"The fact that the governor wants to travel the state and use this as his new tour message is disingenuous to Black people," said Jones, who is Black.
At the direction of DeSantis, the state board of education banned critical race theory in schools. The legislation would put that ban into state law and allow parents to sue school districts that teach it.
“No taxpayer dollars should be used to teach our kids to hate our country and to hate each other," DeSantis said.
Similarly, private employees under the legislation that's being prepared could sue their employers if they are subject to a “hostile work environment” due to critical race theory training.
But Jones said that the proposal is an effort to ignore racism in the country's past and present.
“They unfortunate part of all of this is that they are trying to whitewash history while making a statement that children are being taught to hate their skin color ... I call B.S. on that," Jones said. “I would never go to my Jewish brothers and sisters and tell them the Holocaust never happened, I would never go the indigenous community to say their land being taken away from them never happened, I would never go try to distort someone's history all for a political field goal.”