Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law on May 15th banning all public colleges and universities from spending money on programs centered around diversity, equity, and inclusion. The governor’s reasoning for banning programs centered around DEI was, “DEI is better viewed as standing for discrimination, exclusion, and indoctrination…and that has no place in our public institutions.”
The goal to eliminate DEI programs in Florida is one of the Florida governor’s and other elected officials’ actions that limit public access to historical and pertinent information that increases awareness of how America’s race relations and acceptance have negatively evolved. DEI information and education identify paths for ending hate, bigotry, racism, and all forms of discrimination derived from white supremacist ideologies.. Since the killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers, DEI programs have become more prevalent in efforts to rectify the problems of racism, police brutality, and poverty by educating the public and giving them the tools to make humane, just decisions. In addition, effective DEI programs are essential for companies seeking to diversify their workforce and develop policies that are more reflective of the communities they serve.
A bill such as this one causes our nation to trend downward from understanding, love, humility, and justice. We are making it increasingly more difficult for our society to eradicate the triple evils of racism, militarism and poverty. And for many, that is the goal and is evidence of what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in his book, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?, called the “white backlash.” In sharing about the “white backlash,” Dr. King wrote, “However, for the good of America, it is necessary to refute the idea that the dominant ideology in our country even today is freedom and equality while racism is just an occasional departure from the norm on the part of a few bigoted extremists.”
Governor DeSantis calls DEI an ‘experiment’ because it seeks to impose an ‘ideological agenda’ which is fascinatingly ironic if you consider how the American education system has blatantly ignored the contributions of Black and Brown citizens in every facet of American life. From Frederick McKinley Jones, George Washington Carver, and Shirley Jackson to Benjamin Banneker, America has consciously scrubbed the influence of its non-white citizens since the forming of the American education system.
In his article, ‘The Purpose of Education’, Dr. King wrote, “Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and the facts from the fiction…The function of education, therefore, is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically.”
In Section A, line 121, Governor Desantis’ bill reads:
The Board of Governors shall periodically review the mission of each constituent university and make updates or revisions as needed. Upon completion of a review of the mission, the board shall review existing academic programs for alignment with the mission. The board shall include in its review a directive to each constituent university regarding its programs for any curriculum that violates or that is based on theories that systemic racism, sexism, oppression, and privilege are inherent in the institutions of the United States and were created to maintain social, political, and economic inequities.
Read the bill in its entirety via the link below.
The language of this bill should be alarming to its readers as the governing body is definitively stating that any theories, or language, concerning racism, sexism, oppression, privilege and social inequities are in violation of the approved academic curriculums for all state funded Florida universities. The questions then immediately become:
Is teaching on the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. a violation of academic policies?
Does teaching about the great migration of African Americans from the south to the west breach academic policies? What about the ‘Trail of Tears’?
Is it possible to tell the story of the attempted genocide of Indigenous people without talking about the role that the U.S. government played in the death of hundreds of thousands of people?
Is it possible to teach about why Japanese Internment Camps existed and the bigotry that led to the state-sanctioned imprisonment of innocent Japanese American citizens?
Are universities in Florida allowed to teach about the Seminole people and the land that was taken from them?
The purpose of well-structured, humanely strategic Diversity, Education and Inclusion programs is not to push anti-American worldviews, but rather to tell the whole story of America that is not strictly viewed through the lenses of white American history, capitalism and American Revolution. The story of America belongs to all its people, and it is our responsibility to equip the next generation with truth, knowledge and a love-centered way of thinking to ensure that we do not make the mistakes of our past.
Unfortunately, there are many who oppose the idea that every person should have a seat at the table of democracy, but they cannot be the reason we allow democracy to fail. Dr. King said, in the ‘Letter from a Birmingham Jail, “freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” We must use nonviolence in making this demand and in sustaining the positive outcomes.
Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people. The philosophy of nonviolence implores us to speak, act, and engage when we see injustice in our world. Students, faculty, and Floridians, do not allow your freedom and right to knowledge to be denied by those who would see you remain ignorant and blind to your history; and who prefer that racism and other deeply-rooted, devastating “isms” and phobias persist. Engage in nonviolence and develop a plan of action: www.thekingcenterinstitute.org