The University of Central Florida (UCF) removed an anti-racists statement from its site following the enactment of the Stop WOKE Act.
To many Americans and racial minorities, racism is embedded into laws and governing policies. Known as systemic racism, it is alleged to create unfair privileges for some races, and further despair others. Given the plethora of incidents in which Black individuals were the victims of hate crimes, and contentious police confrontations over the last decade or so, matters came to a turning point in 2020 with the police murder of George Floyd. Vowing to take action again systemic racism, countless organizations across the country now have in place anti-racist affirming statements. But in Florida, those declarations are now being removed, all thanks to a recent law that restricts how race can be discussed in businesses and schools.
On July 1st, Florida’s new controversial Stop WOKE Act officially became law. It was championed and signed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis in a push to end practices and teachings found in both workplaces and schools that might make one race feel responsible for the past actions of their race against another. Seemingly following this new law, the University of Central Florida, (UCF) recently was reported to have removed an anti-racism affirmation from its anthropology department’s website, outraging college professors and staff that helped put the message there in the first place.
According to reports from ABC News, the message that no longer remains on the UCF website read as follows, “We acknowledge that many of us are born with unearned privilege, while others are denied basic human rights. We decry this history, commit ourselves to rectifying it, and stand with those working to build an antiracist future for our nation.”
The mere fact that the UCF message mentioned the word privilege, is likely what triggered the university to remove the statement. While scholarly articles and years’ worth of research have simply noted the undeniable advantages that white Americans benefit from, whether inherently or not, critics feel that rhetoric surrounding the term “white privilege” can teach students to feel guilty about the color of their skin.
To those who stand behind these types of statements, the goal isn’t to make some students feel responsible for embedded racism in American structures. But instead, to raise awareness that laws and policies set in place may be furthering the divide in how Black and other minorities are often treated. Likely standing behind this notion, many UCF professors berated the institution’s decision to remove the message from the department’s site.
One religious studies professor at UCF, Ann Gleig, confirmed that the statement had been removed in an email. She called it a breach of “academic freedom.” Similarly, Carlos G. Smith, a Democratic state Rep. berated the decision last week. Taking to Twitter, the Rep. said that DeSantis and his administration have now made it illegal for colleges to affirm that they are anti-racist.
While never overtly admitting that the anti-racist statement was removed because of the new law, a spokesperson for UCF hinted at that in a response email to ABC news. They said that the decision was made because the message was not consistent with those that create a “welcoming environment.” Asking for more clarification on this again, the spokesperson never responded.
For many parents who approve of the new laws targeting schools and what can be taught, the overall sense is that some families simply want their children to go to school to receive training on core curriculum subjects, without the added emotional and social justice rhetorics. But for those who fear these new legislations, the notion is that the state is turning back years worth of efforts to end racist practices. By removing a simple anti-racism affirmation from a college’s website, UCF has now apparently proven the disdain of many opposers that feel these new laws might create hostile environments for minority students.