A Florida college department has suspended a 2021 “anti-racism statement” because it said it violated Gov. Ron DeSantis’ newly enacted “Stop WOKE Act.”
University of Central Florida’s English Department issued the initial message to denounce “systemic racism” and to lament the “white fragility” of its largely white faculty.
“Unconscious bias and white fragility are pervasive throughout society,” the statement reads. “And we also recognize that it exists among faculty.”
It goes on to characterize the department’s literary orientation as “blindingly white” and in need of more urgent rehabilitation.
The statement followed a December 2020 speech by University President Alexander Cartwright that urged the school community to confront the “systemic racism plaguing our society and impacting so many.”
“Such work begins by acknowledging that our discipline of English has been disfigured by an appalling history of complicity in perpetuating colonialist and racist practices and power structures,” the English department wrote in its statement.
The department released the pledge to improve after the murder of George Floyd and referenced a rise in attacks on Asians and US border policies in its text.
But the department announced that it formally “suspended” the statement because it runs afoul of Florida’s new “Stop WOKE Act” that went into effect this month.
A portion of the legislation prohibits schools and businesses from espousing the idea that “an individual, by virtue of his or her race, color, sex, or national origin is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.”
“No taxpayer dollars should be used to teach our kids to hate our country or hate each other,” DeSantis said in introducing the bill in late 2021.
Critics argue that the law — which also bans subject matter related to critical race theory in classrooms — seeks to stunt discussion of race and privilege in schools and in the workplace.
DeSantis and his backers rejected that idea, contending that the law sought to combat the promotion of racial essentialism.
The department appears to have deemed the statement to be in violation of the legislation, which allows individuals to file lawsuits against offending companies or institutions.
“As of July 1, the statement is suspended as it violates Florida law,” the school wrote.
Central Florida administrators told the Orlando Weekly that it was not responsible for the statement suspension.
“The department took this action, which was not required by the law, without any direction from the university. Florida’s new law speaks to classrooms and training, and we are confident in our faculty’s ability to objectively engage students in robust, scholarly discussions; expand their knowledge; and empower them to freely express their views and form their own conclusions,” the school told the outlet.
The Orlando university enrolls roughly 70,000 students.