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Florida Governor Ron DeSantis introduces ‘Stop-Woke’ bill

With the 2024 Presidential election’s looming, Republican Governor and expected Presidential Candidate Ron DeSantis is set to introduce new legislation, targeting University diversity programs. 


Since his ascent to Governor in January 2019, DeSantis has worked tirelessly in attempt to stamp out ‘woke’ agendas on university campus’. His introduction of a ‘Stop-Woke’ Act (Wrong to Our Kids and Employees) prohibits educational institutions from teaching students and employees anything that would cause anyone to “feel guilt, anguish or any form of psychological distress” due to their race, sex or national origin. 


The bill has expectedly gained some traction and opposition, with notable Democratic Florida Representative Maxwell Frost telling CNN how in her view, Gov. DeSantis’ actions are nothing short of fascism, and fit the bill of a leader opting to restrict free speech, rather than enforce it. Frost continued discussing how whilst it is “just a problem for Florida now” it won’t be long before it becomes “a problem for the nation.” Push back has also come from legal professionals, noting how it’s “unclear whether these new bills are constitutional, or whether they impermissibly restrict free speech.” A Florida Judge has already struck down the ‘Stop-Woke’ law, calling it “positively dystopian” The Judge went onto scathingly make the comparison to Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four: “‘It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking 13,’ and the powers in charge of Florida’s public university system have declared the state has unfettered authority to muzzle its professors in the name of ‘freedom.’”


Whilst these attacks do seem contained momentarily to Republican Controlled states, Frost’s prediction of the agenda becoming widespread seems likely. In his first speech as re-elected House Speaker, Kevin McCarthy had made one of his central missions to help eradicate woke culture. Former President Donald Trump has also made this idea a foundation for his 2024 campaign.


In Florida, this pattern of legislation has been building rapidly in the past year. DeSantis signed into law a bill last year that forbids instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity through third grade – dubbed the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill. This restriction came at the expense of teachers and students who saw historical parts of their identity erased as well as young LGBTQ+ kids, growing without any representation of themselves. Equality Florida Public Policy Director Jon Harris Maurer said of the latest proposals: “free states don’t ban books.”


The ‘Stop-Woke’ proposal also introduces a “Statewide Campus Free Expression Act” which would protect free speech on college and university campuses. Ironically this has drawn criticism, with many arguing the act itself is a restriction on free-speech, therefore, to use it to enforce free speech is counter-intuitive. The “1619 project” – a New York Times series that re-examines the role of slavery in American politics and its lasting effects would also become banded under the legislation. This has caused many to claim not only of the attack on academic freedom, but also the whitewashing of history, as the project provides insightful ways into which race, and racism has shaped American societies and institutions.

Despite many viewing it as a heinous act of targeting minorities and vulnerable people, many have viewed DeSantis’ actions as a transparent attempt to appeal to his Conservative base. As priorly stated with the Acts dating back to over a year ago, DeSantis may have been gearing up for the 2022 Gubernational race, in which he performed exceedingly well. Now, with his method tried and tested, DeSantis may be set to excel his targeting of left-wing ideology and ‘wokeism’ as he prepares to launch a 2024 Presidential run.


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