Erasing People Is No Path to Freedom
The DeSantis administration, right after observing the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, banned Florida public schools from teaching advanced placement African American studies.
What’s the alleged offense? PBS NewsHour co-anchor Geoff Bennett describes “a pilot course by the College Board focused on Black history, arts, science and culture.” The Florida Department of Education says it “lacks educational value.”
The right-wing governor we should all call Rhonda Santis helpfully says, “What’s one of the lessons about? Queer theory. Now, who would say that an important part of Black history is queer theory?” Correct answers include James Baldwin, Bayard Rustin, and Audre Lorde.
In related news, Daily Kos reports, “Just in time for ‘Literacy Week,’ Florida teachers are told to hide books or face felony prosecution.” That’s in Manatee County, where only books approved by certified media specialists can be accessed by children.
DeSantis says, “Florida is where woke goes to die!” I thought most people go to Florida because it’s warmer; but what is this radical “woke“ agenda that the governor wants to stamp out? As far as I can tell, it is any teaching of respect for the actual diversity of people in this country.
Millions of my fellow white people, it turns out, are seething with rage at the prospect of having to share what Baldwin sardonically called “the glittering republic” with anyone who doesn’t look and think and love like them.
A few years back, people like homocon Andrew Sullivan raged against The 1619 Project, which Nikole Hannah-Jones developed for the New York Times. A year later, the Trump administration announced creation of the 1776 Commission to develop a “patriotic curriculum.” You will not be surprised that the commission included no historians with a specialization in American history.
Isn’t it inspiring how patriotism means such different things to different people? For some of us, love of country means striving to make it “live out the true meaning of its creed,” to quote Dr. King. For others, it means jealously banishing any portrayal of our past except as a stately march to Mt. Rushmore—carved, mind you, into the Black Hills, which are sacred to the Lakota Sioux, who want them returned in accordance with the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868.
Black History Month is a perfect time to discuss what Michael Harriot of TheGrio calls Wypipoing. He explains, “Wypipoing is calling oneself a ‘patriot’ while waving a confederate flag. Wypipoing is whining about widespread voter fraud while rubber-stamping gerrymandering, voter suppression and felon disenfranchisement. Wypipoing is screaming about freedom of speech while outlawing critical race theory.”
I suppose I am not the most loyal member of the Wypipo, since I enjoy Mr. Harriot’s smart, fierce, and witty articles. This reminds me of Charles Barkley’s 2005 book, Who’s Afraid of a Large Black Man? which is described on Amazon as “a series of charged, in-your-face conversations about race.” (Isn’t it charming when “in your face” is used as a selling point?)
When a governor eyeing a White House run punishes the Disney Corporation for its LGBTQ-affirming policies, denigrates and bans the teaching of Black history, and threatens teachers with prison for giving a child a book, he is the one hooked on indoctrination.
One wonders what surveillance this purportedly freedom-loving governor plans to impose on children’s electronic devices to ensure they are not exposed to the growing list of ideas he is determined to keep from them. He will have hard sledding turning back the clock on all of the social progress opposed by the white Christian nationalists he is courting.
Black voters who know what is at stake turned out in droves despite efforts to suppress them. Same-sex couples are raising families. Gay servicemembers are integrated into our military. Equality Texas reported, “All 30+ anti-LGBTQ+ bills filed this session were officially dead, including 13 direct attacks on transgender youth.” Brittney Griner is back home, right-wing detractors notwithstanding.
Even the Speaker of the House has no problem naming a former Brazilian drag queen to standing committees.
The fascism that sells in the reddest states will not sell in the rest of the country. Nearly 1,000 January 6 insurrectionists have been charged with crimes. The autocratic bigots are unrelenting in their fanaticism, but their refusal to learn any lessons can be their undoing.
If those of us who embrace our nation’s diversity stand together, we can beat back the reactionaries and write the next page in our history. ▼
Richard J. Rosendall is a writer and activist at firstname.lastname@example.org.