The Phoenix Flyer

Heated exchanges over HB 7: ‘Are you trying to whitewash the history of African Americans?’

By: - March 9, 2022 9:12 pm

Sen. Manny Diaz senate bill sponsor credit:Florida Channel

Tensions rose in the Florida Senate Wednesday, as the GOP scuttled all amendments of HB 7, another culture war bill that would limit certain conversations about racism and sexism in schools and  workplaces.

HB 7, described as “Individual Freedom,” posits a handful of principles that students may not be subjected to in public school classrooms. The bill, which is now being considered by the Senate, led to heated exchanges Wednesday between Miami-Dade’s Sen. Manny Diaz, Jr., the bill’s sponsor, and Sen. Randolph Bracy, of Orlando.

State Sen. Randolph Bracy, an Orlando Democrat. Credit: Colin Hackley

“Are you trying to whitewash the history of African Americans with this bill making African American history optional,” Bracy said.

Diaz responded that African American history is not optional. (State law requires educators to instruct students in African American history in Florida’s public schools.)

Bracy said, “I can assure you that the House didn’t want to take out the part of making African American history optional.”

Sen. Bobby Powell, who represents Palm Beach County, questioned if the bill was biased toward a certain race. Diaz simply answered no, and that the bill protects all races and their freedom of individuality.

“Teachers may be imposing their thoughts on students when they don’t know how a student may interpret the ideas of certain things,” Diaz said.

Republican lawmakers have said in the past that teachers can still teach touchy subjects as long as they remain objective and stick to the curriculum set by school districts and the state Department of Education.

Democratic Sen. Gary Farmer who represents parts of Broward County, filed an amendment to allow teachers to teach curriculum on certain topics such as slavery and racial oppression. The amendment didn’t pass.  

Farmer asked Diaz if he spoke with any of the Black senators while drafting HB 7.

Diaz said that he did not, and that the bill is not to supposed to hurt any races.

Sen. Annette Taddeo a Democrat who represents parts of Miami-Dade County, filed an amendment that would delete language in the bill about telling private companies how to do diversity training.

“If we’re going to call ourselves the “free” state, we shouldn’t be telling private businesses on what they are allowed talk about,” Taddeo said. The amendment failed.

After hours of questioning the, bill is expected to move for a vote in the Senate in the waning days of the session.

The House has already passed HB 7, with a vote of 74 to 41.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.