Readers respond to my column on Florida’s ‘white discomfort’ bill

Most of the readers who wrote to me about my column on the Florida bill about teaching and discussing racism were angry.

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FILE - Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis addresses a joint session of a legislative session, Jan. 11, in Tallahassee, Fla.

Phelan M. Ebenhack, AP Photos

Florida’s misguided effort to protect white Americans’ feelings brought ferment in my inbox.

Last week, I wrote about Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and his push to salve the “discomfort” and “guilt” whites might feel about our nation’s racist past.

DeSantis and his Republican allies are backing the “Original Freedom” bill in the Florida Legislature. It would prohibit public schools and private businesses from teaching or training about racism in ways that might distress people — in this case, clearly meaning white people.

It reads, in part: “An individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, does not bear responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex. An individual should not be made to feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race.”

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The nation’s grim history of racist policies and practices dates to the state-sanctioned enslavement of Black people, I wrote. We must acknowledge and address our past.

Nearly all who responded to my column were white men. Most were angry.

“Who are those ‘white people’ and ‘white Americans’ that racist Laura Washington refers to?” wrote Donald Nauyokas of Chicago. “Does she really think that people who have a lighter skin color than hers are white? And where is this claim of ‘national hysteria’ that I have not witnessed? Does any criticism of critical race theory constitute ‘national hysteria?’ Laura’s quote from the ‘Original Freedom’ bill in no way attempts to revise history. … Burying truth is Laura’s liberal craziness.”

Jack Albrecht of Orland Park wrote: “Being ‘white,’ I am not at all uncomfortable about learning about the unconscionable treatment of our black citizens. As a matter of fact, I welcome it. Your column gives the impression that all ‘white’ people are as closed minded as DeSantis and people like him. We aren’t all like that.”

Mr. Albrecht, I wrote that “some” white people are uncomfortable with our legacy of racism. To be clear, I believe many whites understand the history and are eager for racial progress, but those who don’t drag us all down.

Anthony Megaro has other concerns. “I don’t give a (expletive) if black people still bitch about things that happened over 200 years ago,” the Chicagoan wrote. “Worry about black on black crime, including killing innocent black kids. White people today weren’t born back then so why would they feel discomfort? … White people of my generation worry about things that matter today not 200 or so years ago.”

Terry Cosgrove of Chicago has “never understood why it is so difficult for white people, especially white men, to accept the fact that we benefit in so many ways that can’t even be counted, and that being asked to recognize/acknowledge a shred of that privilege seems so challenging. And God forbid we should discuss racism in polite society.”

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Ted Z. Manuel of Chicago defines “white discomfort” as “intense feelings of remorse over how their forebears behaved, and guilt over continuing to cash in on it. Worse still is apprehension over being called to task over it.”

DeSantis, Manuel writes, “knows exactly what he is doing, and legalistically how wrong it is. But with white folks jumpy and panicky these days, he’s taking the low road, expecting it to work for him.

“In so doing, he’s nipping at (President Donald) Trump’s heels, using Trump’s playbook, going national. Which Trump has noticed, and is unhappy about it. If it reaches the point of them going public with a feud between them, which could get ugly, the people might benefit.”

I can’t wait!

Laura Washington is a columnist for the Sun-Times and a political analyst for ABC-7. Follow her on Twitter @mediadervish

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