Sign in or Subscribe See Offers

Sign In:

Elwood Watson: Desantis goes after Black history

3 min read
Resize Font Font size +

In his ongoing attacks on what he describes as “woke politics,” Florida governor Ron DeSantis has denied permission for an AP African American History course to be taught in Florida public high schools.

NAACP Director Ivory Toldson condemned the course’s rejection, calling DeSantis’ decision a “dereliction of his duty to ensure equitable education for all Floridians.”

“Dismissing this important subject as lacking ‘educational value’ defies centuries of evidence to the contrary,” Toldson said in a statement. “African American history is American history, and failure to comprehend this very simple fact is un-American in and of itself.”

“Florida has gone from Don’t Say Gay to Don’t Say Black,” noted New York Rep. Ritchie Torres, who is both Black and openly gay.

What’s more glaring are the subjects not omitted from the curriculum: AP European History, AP Art History, AP Japanese Language & Culture, AP German Language & Culture, AP Italian Language & Culture, and AP Spanish Language & Culture.

Courses from various ethnic groups were given the green light to be taught by the governor’s office, yet the history, politics and culture of people of African descent was prohibited. Talk about racial profiling.

One of the arguments DeSantis has employed to justify his reductive antics is that he wants to make certain kids don’t feel ashamed or any degree of discomfort or guilt about themselves due to their race. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that he is referring to white students here, though he should be aware Black students have routinely been taught to feel uncomfortable and ambivalent about the history of their ancestors.

I hate to be the one to break it to DeSantis, but history can be ugly at times, especially towards minority groups. Black people were lynched and forced to suffer under Jim Crow laws. Inhumane atrocities were committed against Jewish people during the Holocaust. Women have often been victims of sexism and misogyny. LGBTQ people have frequently been the targets of violence. And on and on.

Young people, by and large, are not ashamed to be introduced to the realities of history. Unfortunately, it’s their parents and elders that often resent being confronted with questions about the past that contradict what they were taught and learned.

Although he has yet to announce, it is hardly news that DeSantis plans to run for president next year. So just as he did with his Martha’s Vineyard ploy, DeSantis is just espousing racially inflammatory commentary to endear himself to a right-wing MAGA base that’s predominately white. Those voters fear the arrival of new immigrants and hold an endemic degree of hostility toward anyone or anything perceived as “the other.”

While he lacks the same level of sinister charisma that Donald Trump embodies, only time will tell whether DeSantis will become the Republican’s presidential nominee. For the moment, he’s feeding his wild-eyed jingoistic supporters right-wing catnip to satisfy their reactionary intolerance.

Elwood Watson is a professor of history, Black studies, and gender and sexuality studies at East Tennessee State University. He is also an author and public speaker.

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: