For months, Florida Gov. Ron Desantis has used the “war on Woke ideology” as a pillar to lift his profile within the Republican party. For a representative who claims he backs freedom of speech, the “Stop WOKE Act” actually placed a limit on how Black and people of color speak about their history in schools and diversity in the workplace. A district judge ruled Thursday that the “Stop WOKE Act” is an unconstitutional impairment to free speech and “impermissibly vague in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment,” according to CNN.
Tallahassee U.S. District Judge Mark Walker made it so that the private employer portion of the law could not remain in effect if the state decided to appeal the ruling. Before this, workplaces could not require employees to attend training for what the legislation deemed as instilling that someone bears “personal responsibility” for historic wrongdoings because of their race, color, sex, or national origin.
Judge Walker is no stranger to presiding in cases dealing with Florida’s absurd laws targeting Black people. He is the same judge who struck down parts of the state’s election law in March that limited the use of ballot drop boxes, made delivery requirements on third-party voter registration groups, and barred certain activities like providing food and water at or near polling places.
In his opinion, Judge Walker cited the hypocrisy that Florida could limit speech concerning race by private corporations and entities while imposing what they feel is the right way to speak about it. He even went as far as referring to Netflix’s Stranger Things, calling Florida a “First Amendment upside down.”
“Normally, the First Amendment bars the state from burdening speech, while private actors may burden speech freely,” the Obama-appointed judge continued. “But in Florida, the First Amendment apparently bars private actors from burdening speech, while the state may burden speech freely.
“If Florida truly believes we live in a post-racial society, then let it make its case. But it cannot win the argument by muzzling its opponents. Because, without justification, the IFA attacks ideas, not conduct,” he wrote.
The ACLU and other advocacy groups have filed a lawsuit challenging the classroom aspect of the “Stop WOKE Act.” So far, 17 states have enacted some form of “anti-Critical Race Theory” laws putting barriers in front of teachers who want to discuss racism with students. It’s not “woke indoctrination” to want more inclusion in the workplace and discuss how certain groups have been affected by a corporate culture that hasn’t benefited them. To stop injustices from happening, we have to be able to talk about them – not sweep them under the rug.