Some conservatives are now criticizing Florida's African American History standards
Included in Florida’s new Black History standards are important leaders like General Colin Powell and President Barack Obama as examples of patriotism. Also included: The Ocoee and Rosewood Massacres, the role of black fraternities and sororities, civil rights groups like the NAACP and the Student Non-violent Coordinating Council.
More voices—Conservative, and Liberal—are expressing concerns about the wording of two parts of Florida’s new Black History standards. The criticism is putting pressure on Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration to make changes, but he’s shown no sign of backing down, and has even doubled-down on his defense.
One part of the standards states enslaved people “developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.”
Another line in the standards deals with the race riots of the early 1920s when white mobs burned and destroyed black towns. It describes acts of violence “perpetrated against and by African Americans.”
“They want to replace history with lies…” said Vice President Kamala Harris during a recent campaign event in Jacksonville.
Harris said the language is an attempt to “gaslight” African Americans.
“Middle school students in Florida to be told enslaved people benefitted from slavery. High schoolers may be taught that victims of violence, of massacres, were also perpetrators. I said it yesterday: they insult us as an attempt to gaslight us. And we will not have it.”
Harris’ comments generated a fevered response from Republicans who argue the Vice President is effectively race-baiting and has taken the language in the standards out of context.
The Vice President isn’t alone in her concerns, though.
It’s been more than a week since the Florida Board of Education approved the standards, and since then, there have been calls from liberal and conservative groups alike—for changes. The Black Conservative Federation, fellow Republicans U.S. Senator Tim Scott and former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (both presidential contenders) have also called out the language. So has Republican Florida Congressman Byron Donalds. He even praised the state for its overall product, but he drew the governor’s ire in a recent interview with WINK-TV when he said the language should be corrected.
“The talking point narrative around it, yes, it sounds awful and no one should be accepting of that. But when you read through the standards, they actually did a very good job of covering all aspects of Black history in the United States,' he said.
In response, the governor’s camp has questioned whether Donalds is a real conservative. Donalds has endorsed President Donald Trump’s re-election bid, over DeSantis.
Meanwhile, the governor himself has defended the standards and characterizes Harris' criticism as lies.
“Why would they [the Biden Administration} come down to Florida and lie about what’s readily checkable?” he said at a recent campaign stop.
During the state board of education meeting, when the standards were approved, the Florida Department of Education's Paul Burns defended the language and pushed back against the idea that it suggested slavery was beneficial to enslaved people.
“I just want to be clear that our standards do not teach that slavery was beneficial," he said.
In further defense, the governor’s spokesman has pointed to language in a since-rejected AP African American History course that includes a similar description to how enslaved people used the skills they learned.
Included in Florida’s new Black History standards are important leaders like General Colin Powell and President Barack Obama as examples of patriotism. Also included: The Ocoee and Rosewood Massacres, the role of black fraternities and sororities, civil rights groups like the NAACP and the Student Non-violent Coordinating Council. Noted Floridians historical and recent, like “Bullet” Bob Hayes, and filmmaker Will Parker sit alongside educator Mary McLeod Bethune.
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