Florida’s censorship of ‘diversity’ efforts is a tantrum born of white guilt
In our country, privilege for one often means oppression for another. The anti-racism movement recognizes this reality – making the movement a target for politicians such as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who last week signed into law a bill preventing public colleges from using federal or state funding for programming” diversity, equity and inclusion”. .
This is a shift from the relatively positive reception diversity efforts enjoyed over the past two decades. Indeed, diversity initiatives were accepted because they silenced white privilege. The emergence of an anti-racism movement has broken that silence, however, and now even diversity efforts pose a threat to the racial hierarchy in America.
The value of diversity has never been stronger than after the 2003 Supreme Court case on race in college admissions. In an opinion written by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the Supreme Court said diversity was a compelling public interest that justified considering race in admissions processes. Sustained oversight would ensure consideration of race causes the least amount of harm to “other innocent people competing for benefit.” The term “innocent people,” a quote from a 1978 affirmative action case, was code for white people.
In reality, there are no legitimate claims of innocence for those who benefit from white supremacy. Racial inequality in education is maintained by artificial district lines, school funding disparities, and student tracking that allow whites to accumulate high-quality K-12 education and access to elite colleges and universities.
Instead of aiming for the government to address these inequalities, the Supreme Court affirmed that diversity was a way to improve learning in predominantly white higher education institutions. The “diversity” banner did the trick, allowing colleges and universities to consider who loses because of race without having to name who wins.
The give and take of race and racism, however, have become increasingly clear over the past 20 years, taking on sharp relief after the murder of George Floyd during the COVID-19 pandemic. The visibility of anti-racism education has increased as schools, businesses, and other organizations have pledged to fight racial injustice.
In a landscape of deepening racial responsibility, embracing terms such as “equity” and “inclusion” alongside diversity go beyond demographic representation or positive workplace and class dynamics, compelling us all to ask: received? What would it be like to insist that marginalized communities finally have sufficient resources and opportunities to thrive? How could power be shared more equitably with the racially excluded in our democracy? What are the obligations of white people as we move towards a more racially just society?
For a moment, Americans seemed ready for a more substantive and outspoken engagement with race that anti-racism education demanded, and that diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives could finally engage. Unfortunately, the moment was short-lived. As of December 2021, at least 54 state-level bills have been introduced or passed to control how race and American history (as well as sex and gender) can be taught in American schools.
Florida is a perfect example. Last year, Florida passed the “Stop WOKE Act,” banning public schools from teaching concepts like white privilege, banning required corporate diversity and inclusion training, and outlawing instructions that might cause students to feel responsible, guilty, or anxious. injustices, today and in the past.
Earlier this year, the governor called a leaked draft of the College Board’s new AP course in African American Studies “indoctrination.” It is no coincidence that the criticized project included critical race theory, black feminism and Black Lives Matter – topics that go beyond demographic representation to raise substantive questions about power and benefits.
The backlash against anti-racist initiatives is a scramble to avoid blame for the race problem. Florida’s new law goes beyond critiquing ideas about race to silence and censor speech about racial history to avoid accountability.
Banning anti-racism education, diversity programs, or any other attempt to deal honestly with race in the United States works by denying marginalized groups the opportunity to seek justice and ensuring that white Americans have no to confront the injustices that have been kept in their names.
While Florida’s attack on diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives is a first, given the enduring appeal of white racial innocence, it certainly won’t be the last.
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