By Robert Weiner and Annie Cayer
Now that Juneteenth has just been celebrated, the nation still faces erasing Black history in books and college courses — a threat to America’s intellect.
Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida geared up for his presidential announcement and started a cultural fight with an influential organization of higher education- The College Board. When DeSantis rejected the course material in a pilot Advanced Placement African American class, outrage across the country sparked, and a new question was raised about what is American History.
The Florida Department of Education released a statement that the curriculum lacked education value and would be rejected. The Department Office of Articulation said it is, “inexplicably contrary to Florida law and significantly lacks educational value.” This reasoning highlights their effort to control how racism is taught in school.
In his state of Florida — but with repercussions nationally because of his presidential campaign — the governor plans to dramatically change the state’s education system by eliminating “ideological conformity” and reducing the number of courses in diversity, paralleling his recent ban on the AP Black history course.
His Stop WOKE Act, which has been temporarily blocked from enforcement by two federal courts, is attempting to restrict how schools and workplaces can address topics such as race, gender, and sexual identity. Similarly, on May 15, DeSantis signed a bill into law to defund programs that advance diversity. According to a release by his office, “The Governor signed Senate Bill (SB) 266 to prohibit institutions from spending federal or state dollars on discriminatory initiatives, such as so-called diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)” programs:” Governor Ron DeSantis Signs Legislation to Strengthen Florida’s Position as National Leader in Higher Education.
Dr. Bernice King, the youngest child of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Junior has been active in her disapproval of this bill. In a statement issued by The King Center on January 22, she wrote, “Florida would prefer its students not learn about our nation’s well-documented history of genocide, slavery, discrimination, and oppression imposed upon Black people,” and continues by imploring those around the country to speak out about inhumanity and injustice. She says, “the time is now. The children are waiting for you to step up, stop the propaganda and disinformation and show them how you will stand for justice and truth.”
Advanced Placement courses are a pivotal classroom opportunity in which students can harness their desire to learn beyond what is required, as well as gain credit for college classes. Governor DeSantis’ ban is shutting down expansive ways which could change how students discuss subjects such as mass incarceration, police brutality, and potential and actual discrimination in the justice system.
The College Board, which develops and administers these standardized tests, has now excluded the names of many prominent Black writers and other academics associated with critical race theory. Toni Morrison, a literary giant and the first Black woman to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature, has compiled work that is transformational in its writing of our history and future. Unfortunately, the work she completed is frequently now in high schools across the country the target of book bans for its “inappropriate” and “explicit” material.
It is not just Florida that is enacting this; sixteen states and counting have banned “critical race theory”. The list of states that have banned Critical Race Theory includes Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Virginia. Several more states are looking to follow suit.
Shortly after the world spent the day Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Junior on the 55th anniversary of his assassination on April 4, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz invoked the civil rights leader’s name in his own tweet attacking the NAACP, one of America’s most acclaimed anti-racist institutions. Again, Dr. Bernice King spoke back to him. King responded to his tweet with a social media post of her father’s picture and a statement saying, “What my father would be deeply concerned about is the harmful, discriminatory legislation in Florida. ”
Bernice King is once again needing to defend the legacy of her father, Martin Luther King Jr., against people who are misusing his legacy.
“There is no teaching on the horrors and myriad of monstrous manifestations of white supremacy and racism that will be palatable to white supremacists and racists,” she stated.
Robert Weiner is a former Clinton and Bush White House spokesman who also served as a senior staffer for the House Government Operations and Judiciary committees and for Congressman John Conyers and Charles Rangel, co-founders of the Congressional Black Caucus, as well as Claude Pepper, Ed Koch, Sen. Ted Kennedy, and Gen. Barry McCaffrey, and Sen. Ted Kennedy. Annie Cayer is policy and research analyst at Robert Weiner Associates and Solutions for Change.