Disney’s name has rarely escaped the news over the past several weeks.
From the situation with Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Bill (what critics call the “Don’t Say Gay” bill) to the act dissolving the Reedy Creek Improvement District, we’ve shared all the latest updates with you. Recently, a specific Disney program was directly called out by an activist during the signing of another bill in Florida. What has been said about Disney and what bill is at issue? We’re breaking down what you need to know here.
Back in 2021, we shared that Disney launched a new inclusivity program called “Reimagine Tomorrow.” According to Disney’s website, the program is their way of “amplifying underrepresented voices and untold stories as well as championing the importance of accurate representation in media and entertainment.”
From aspects that influence their workforce to Disney’s content, there are a number of details on the site about Disney’s intentions for each area and what they’re doing to put those intentions into action.
But, Disney’s “Reimagine Tomorrow” employee training has since become the subject of criticism by some. According to an article in the New York Post, Christopher Rufo obtained internal documents related to the program. The New York Post said that Disney is “pushing critical race theory on employees” through this program.
The New York Post said, “Staffers are told to reject ‘equality’ for ‘equity’ and must ‘reflect’ on America’s ‘racist infrastructure’ and ‘think carefully about whether or not [their] wealth’ is derived from racism, according to the documents.”
Disney issued a response to some of these matters. Specifically, a Disney spokesperson told The New York Post that the internal documents are being “deliberately distorted as reflective of company policy.”
Disney said, “In fact their purpose was to allow diversity of thought and discussion on the incredibly complex and challenging issues of race and discrimination that we as a society and companies nationwide are facing. It also noted its “long history of inclusivity with stories that reflect acceptance and tolerance and celebrate people’s differences.”
The New York Post later shared that webpages that previously featured some of the training documents had been deleted.
Now a bill has been signed into law in Florida that addresses critical race theory and Disney has been called out by name by one activist.
According to WESH 2 News, the “Stop Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees Act” (also termed the Stop WOKE Act) was signed by Governor DeSantis on Friday (on the same day as the signing of the act that will dissolve Disney World’s Reedy Creek Improvement District — the special district that for over 50 years has essentially let Disney act as their own county). The law had previously passed both the House and Senate in Florida.
According to TIME, the Stop WOKE Act “prohibits workplace training or school instruction that teaches that individuals are ‘inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously’; that people are privileged or oppressed based on race, gender, or national origin; or that a person ‘bears personal responsibility for and must feel guilt, anguish, or other forms of psychological distress’ over actions committed in the past by members of the same race, gender, or national origin. The law says such trainings or lessons amount to discrimination.”
TIME further notes that it “prohibits lessons or trainings in schools and workplaces that teach that individuals ‘should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment to achieve diversity, equity, or inclusion,’ an apparent reference to affirmative action policies, which traditionally benefit Black and Latino students or employees in an effort to offset centuries of racial discrimination. They may also not advance the idea that concepts like merit or racial colorblindness ‘were created by members of a particular race, color, sex, or national origin to oppress members of another race, color, sex, or national origin.'”
WESH 2 News shares that Governor Ron DeSantis said his goal was to “block activism like critical race theory from classrooms and workplaces.”
WESH 2 News notes that The Associated Press defines critical race theory as “a way of thinking about America’s history through the lens of racism. Scholars developed it during the 1970s and 1980s in response to what they viewed as a lack of racial progress following the civil rights legislation of the 1960s. It centers on the idea that racism is systemic in the nation’s institutions and that they function to maintain the dominance of white people in society.”
During the signing, Governor DeSantis invited Chris Rufo to speak. The Washington Post notes that Chris Rufo is a “right-wing activist.” During the signing, Rufo ended his speech by directing comments at Disney and their Reimagine Tomorrow diversity training program.
Specifically, Rufo said: “This is a direct message to the CEO of Disney, Bob Chapek. This program called Reimagine Tomorrow is not only morally wrong, it is now illegal in the state of Florida…And so we’re going to give you the weekend to make some adjustments to immediately abolish this program, because on Monday, if this is still part of Disney’s human resources program, there will be consequences.”
Note, however, that the Stop WOKE Act will not actually go into effect in Florida until July 1st. (ABC Action News)
According to TIME, the law has been criticized by some civil rights groups and free-speech advocates. The interim director of the ACLU of Florida (Amy Turkel) said “This dangerous law is part of a nationwide trend to whitewash history and chill free speech in classrooms and workplaces.”
This isn’t the first time Disney’s name has been brought up in relation to the Bill. TIME shares that Florida state representative Bryan Avila (who sponsored the Stop WOKE Act) called out Disney during debate on the bill. He reportedly “criticized the company’s diversity training, saying it would run afoul of the new law.”
We’ll continue to look for more details on this situation and let you know what we find.