Three days ago, while scrolling through my daily Twitter feed, I came across a meme that read, “Ron DeSantis has banned AP African American Studies from being taught in Florida.” He reportedly claims the teaching of AP African American Studies violates the Stop Woke Act and has no educational value. However, he doesn’t make the same claim about the teaching of AP European Studies. In fact, he reportedly continues to allow AP European Studies to be taught in Florida’s public schools.
To be honest with you, I’m not surprised that the Florida Governor is taking such drastic measures to deny the teaching of Black American history in Florida. He is vying to become the 2024 Republican presidential nominee against former Republican president Donald Trump. But DeSantis’ maneuverings should serve as a wake-up call for us enlightened, Black Americans. Ron DeSantis is borrowing pages from Trump’s playbook, the ones that detail how he ascended to the American presidency in 2016 by using the Black American populace as his shill.
A shill is the accomplice of a hawker, gambler, or swindler who acts as an enthusiastic customer to entice or encourage others. Truth be told, I reject the notion that a vast majority of us Black Americans are acting as enthusiastic customers to entice or encourage others to ban AP African American Studies in Florida, or African American-written books in schools and public libraries, but I do believe our notable silence on the banning of Black American-written content is telling. It’s almost as if more of us Black Americans are believing this bigger lie, that public K-12 history teachers shouldn’t be teaching lessons about White American prejudice, discrimination and racism in their schools because it makes White American children, adolescents and adults feel uncomfortable. But I have a news flash for anyone who chooses to believe such nonsense. The commission of White American prejudice, discrimination and racism has been making Black American children, adolescents and adults feel uncomfortable since the first enslaved Black Africans were brought to America in 1619.
Ron DeSantis claims teaching AP African American Studies violates his Stop Woke Act. First off, the act itself is a joke. On May 26, 2022, the April 2022 passage of Florida’s HB 7 (DeSantis’ Stop Woke Act) prompted the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights organization that works in partnership with communities to dismantle white supremacy, strengthen intersectional movements, and advance the human rights of all people, to file an amicus brief in a federal lawsuit challenging its constitutionality.
In a statement quoted on TheHill.com (August 19, 2022), DeSantis is quoted saying, “We won’t allow Florida tax dollars to be spent teaching kids to hate our country or to hate each other. We also have a responsibility to ensure that parents have the means to vindicate their rights when it comes to enforcing state standards.”
DeSantis’ Stop Woke Act undoubtedly penalizes the largest segment of our population that has historically been taking responsible, reasonable and respectful approaches to solving complex social problems around White prejudice, discrimination and racism. But it also rewards the smallest segment of our population. This smaller segment is now being allowed to turn a blind eye to DeSantis and other Alt-Right Conservative legislators’ wrongdoing because they seemingly believe this wrongdoing allows them to confound and confuse the Black American voting electorate within and outside the Democratic Party. In other words, the enactment of legislation such as this allows DeSantis and other Alt-Right conservatives to test Black Americans’ loyalty to the Democratic Party. More than anything, though, they want to know if we Black Americans are still about the business of building upon the gains of the Civil Rights Movement. If not, they’re going to bend over backwards to show us Black Americans how to build upon these gains their way.
What they see us Black Americans doing is using outdated approaches for airing our grievances. While there will always be a need for us to peacefully march in the streets and occupy once inaccessible spaces, we must be willing to have in-person conversations with White Americans who have embraced the big lies being floated by Ron DeSantis and other Alt-Right conservatives. More than anything, though, we must also win hearts and minds by producing televised and written content that appeals to people’s sense of right and wrong.
Nikole Hannah-Jones is doing this with The 1619 Project book and the six-part Hulu series by the same name.
Brian Stevenson is doing this through his Equal Justice Initiative.
And President Barack Hussein Obama is doing this through his foundation’s My Brother’s Keeper Alliance.
What Ron DeSantis doesn’t understand is Black Americans aren’t “woke,” we’re wary.
We’re wary of individuals who show through their unrighteous words and deeds that they have learned very little from this country’s racist past.
We’re wary of individuals who don’t believe that 400 plus years of enslaving and oppressing Black Americans has given White Americans an unmerited advantage over Black Americans and other Americans of color.
More than anything, we’re wary of individuals who get elected to serve all the people but once elected serve only a select few.
Fruit trees are judged by the good fruit they produce. I like the fruit that is being produced by Hannah-Jones, Stevenson and President Obama. These leaders are not endeavoring to divide Americans; they’re endeavoring to unite us, all of us. Joe Biden, our current president, should also be included in this number. But the same cannot be said about Ron DeSantis and other Alt-Right conservatives. They want to keep us divided so they can exploit the United States electorate for gain during midterm and presidential elections. But the January 6th insurrection and the lies that Alt-Right conservatives have been telling to cover up previous lies is the rotted fruit that the American electorate should never have an appetite for.
Black America, we must wake the hell up so we can continue leading efforts to make our nation a more perfect union. Nikole Hannah-Jones is right. No people has a greater claim to the American flag than we (Black Americans) do.
Our Black American ancestors were the ones who suffered the most by being the victims of institutionalized enslavement and oppression, first inflicted on them well before 1619. And during Reconstruction, many of them were hung by their necks from trees while crowds of White Americans watched the commission of these murders with glee not horror. But the common refrain from Alt-Right White conservatives like Ron DeSantis is we should forget what happened to our Black American ancestors, and what is happening today to our Black American contemporaries, and move on.
If anything, we should increase our activism at the polls, at school board meetings, and on the Internet. In other words, we have to continue debunking big lies about local, state and federal elections being stolen, Critical Race Theory being taught in public K-12 schools, and White American children, adolescents and adults needing to be comforted when their most unenlightened members have been going out of their way to make Black American children, adolescents and adults feel uncomfortable about something White Americans did, and continue to do, to us Black Americans.
In other words, we Black American must also be about the business of meeting Alt-Right conservatives’ points with counterpoints. If they say elections were stolen, we must demand that they submit proof that elections are being stolen. But we must also conduct our own independent research through a heavy reliance on reliable sources. If our courts have ruled on the matter, and the rulings confirm that elections aren’t being stolen, then we counter with that. If they push for the banning of books written by Toni Morrison (Beloved), Angie Thomas (The Hate U Give) or Ibram X. Kendi (How To Be An Anti-Racist), we need to ask them why. And if they say because these titles promote Critical Race Theory, we need to say, “Bullshit. These books shine a brighter light on White racism and provide prescriptions for the adoption of anti-racist thinking and the subsequent actions that must follow.
My fellow, Black Americans, our work is far from being done. We have always rejected this notion that America needs to be made great again. What we embrace is the American people’s desire to create a more perfect union. And while it is true that we need a majority of our White American brothers and sisters to be on the same page as us when it comes to creating this more perfect union, we Black Americans must also understand the importance of us Black Americans being on the same page when sharing our grievances.
Yes, there will be some Black Americans who give Alt-Right conservatives the impetus they need to tell more lies, but we must understand why they do it. They seemingly do it because they falsely believe the pie crumbs they receive from privileged White Americans is enough to make and keep them whole. But their self-serving acts do nothing to repair the damage wrought by 400 years of mistreatment at the hands of the unenlightened segments of White America. Consequently, we should reject their admonition to move on. After all we Black Americans have had to put up with then and now, it’s apparently clear that we deserve an equal share of the pie, the country’s work, wages and wealth.