Vice President Kamala Harris, NAACP + Black Community Condemn New Florida Education Laws

Vice President Kamala Harris, NAACP + Black Community Condemn New Florida Education Laws

A contentious battle over Black history education in Florida has erupted following the Florida Board of Education’s unanimous decision to revise the way it is taught in public schools. Despite facing criticism from the NAACP and the Florida Education Association, the board has pressed ahead with its new standards, which come months after Florida Governor Ron DeSantis blocked an AP African-American history course from being taught in the state’s public schools.

Florida BOE Will Teach That Slavery Benefited Blacks

The revised standards require middle school students to learn “how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.” Meanwhile, high school students will delve into events like the 1920 Ocoee Massacre, and the instruction must include acts of violence perpetrated against and by African Americans. Similar standards are set for lessons about other racially motivated massacres, including the Atlanta race massacre, the Tulsa race massacre, and the Rosewood race massacre.

Vice President Kamala Harris expressed her disapproval of these changes during her speech at the Delta Sigma Theta Convention in Indianapolis on July 20. She asserted, “They insult us in an intent to gaslight us, and we will not stand for it,” emphasizing the importance of accurate and comprehensive history education.

Governor DeSantis, in response to Harris’ criticism, took to Twitter on July 21, claiming that Democrats like Harris lie about Florida’s educational standards to further their agenda. He accused them of trying to indoctrinate students and push sexual topics onto children, which he believes Florida stands in their way.

Community Condemns Florida Governor Ron DeSantis

Twitter users have since engaged in a heated debate on the matter, with some voicing their disagreement with DeSantis and aligning themselves with Harris. One user accused his administration of “valu[ing] segregation” instead of education. Another pointed out that DeSantis’ administration seems to struggle with a lack of a coherent campaign strategy, suggesting that “Republicans don’t know what to run on except hate and division.”

The NAACP’s president and CEO, Derrick Johnson, condemned the new standards in a statement by saying, “Our children deserve nothing less than truth, justice, and the equity our ancestors shed blood, sweat, and tears for.” He reassures that it’s “ imperative” to “understand that the horrors of slavery and Jim Crow were a violation of human rights and represent the darkest period in American history.” 

His statement made clear that the “actions by the Florida state government are an attempt to bring our country back to a 19th century America where Black life was not valued, nor our rights protected.” He stated, “We refuse to go back,” asserting the determination of the Black community not to have their history whitewashed or distorted.

Florida Students Deserve “Honest Picture” of Slavery

Similarly, the president of the Florida Education Association, Andrew Spar, expressed disappointment in the decision, asserting that students deserve a full, honest picture of America’s past. In a statement made after the unanimous decision, Spar stated “ Florida’s students deserve a world-class education that equips them to be successful adults who can help heal our nation’s divisions rather than deepen them.” He then criticized DeSantis for pursuing a political agenda that deepens divisions and cheats children out of proper education.

In defense of the new standards, the Florida Department of Education cited the rigorous process undertaken to develop them, involving 13 educators and academics. The department claimed they “are proud of the rigorous process that the Department took to develop these standards,” and positioned Florida as a “national leader in education.”

Updated By Aveon Sims on July 21st, 2023.

Florida Black Students React To Governor’s Rejection To Teach African-American History In Schools

Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis and his administration rejected an Advanced Placement course for African-American history to be taught in schools. Florida students shared their thoughts on the decision.

DeSantis Blocks Black History

According to CNN, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and his administration blocked an AP African- American history course from being taught in the state’s public schools.

This decision comes a year after The College Board announced they would make the course available for over 60 high schools in the country. 

“I honestly think it’s not fair for students of color to not learn their own history,” Miami native Jerry Humphrey said. “From kindergarten to high school, we learned every accomplishment the white man has done. Why can’t we learn ours?”

Twitter users also voiced their opinion on the DeSantis administration’s decision. One user felt DeSantis banning African-American studies convinced her he is a racist.

Meanwhile, another user simply called DeSantis a “bigot.” 

Racist Ron?

DeSantis and his administration have been labeled as “racist” since he was sworn into office in 2019. DeSantis also signed the STOP Woke Act in 2022, which bans the discussion of race and gender in schools.

Florida native and current North Carolina A&T University student, Cleveland Odom said he felt the decision “was a reflection of DeSantis’ term as governor” for his home state. 

“It’s upsetting,” Odom said. “Black history is American history. DeSantis is dangerous and destructive. He needs to be removed from office immediately.” 

 Another Florida student felt DeSantis’ decision was an example of White supremacy and claimed it is still very present in education.

“Gov. DeSantis rejecting the AP African-American course is just another way of proving how white supremacy shows up in our educational system,” University of  Florida master’s student Makayla Williams said.

“African- American studies must be taught in institutions across the country, including Florida,” Williams added. “Because if we continue to try to erase the history of our country, what stops the country from repeating that same history over again?”

Another Disappointment

A Twitter user also shared that she believes DeSantis’ plans are for the state to go backward with education and legislature in Florida.

Florida A&M University junior, Javon Thomas said Desantis’ decision is a significant setback for education.

“The importance of history is the ability to learn from it,” Thomas said.

“Robbing Black students of the opportunity of learning from their non-Black counterparts of the opportunity to learn about their Black classmates’ history will just contribute to more ignorance.” Thomas also called DeSantis’ decision ‘unacceptable.’ ” 

However, DeSantis defended the decision in a video released on his Twitter account.

“We have guidelines and standards in Florida, we want education, not indoctrination,” DeSantis said. 

DeSantis also mentioned he rejected the course due to part of the course’s curriculum containing queer theory.

“When you try to use Black history to shoehorn in queer theory, you are clearly trying to use that for political purposes,” Desantis also said in the video.

According to media reports, DeSantis’ office said the state would reconsider the decision if the course is changed to comply with Florida law.

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