Coming right off of Martin Luther King Jr. day (January 16th, 2023) Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has banned an advanced placement course on African studies citing that it holds no educational value and does not follow Florida law. An AP course is a course that allows high school students to earn college credits for outstanding work. DeSantis rejected the course because it goes against the Florida ban on teaching critical race theory. DeSantis has also banned the topics of race, sexuality, and gender identity with the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. DeSantis’s “Stop Woke Act” also bans the discussion of anything related to those topics.
Extremely bold and troubling statements from DeSantis that are rightfully getting a lot of backlash in the community. DeSantis has once again shown to be racist and it is obvious that his agenda is to silence any and all marginalized individuals. It is important to note that other advanced placement courses exist such as European studies and Chinese studies and none of these are being questioned. Why would those courses be allowed that discuss other cultures, but African studies is somehow the only course that is unacceptable?
To make matters even worse, after DeSantis was called out for being a racist he proceed to do a press conference to clear the air. DeSantis clarified that he didn’t just ban the course because it was African studies, but that he banned it because there is a section in the course on queer theory. DeSantis explains that this goes against his “don’t say gay” law. So DeSantis is not only racist but he is once again making it completely evident that he is homophobic.
DeSantis has been building a platform and creating laws to suppress the existence of marginalized individuals. Especially black people and people of the LGBTQ community. Just because a law passed and is in place does not mean that law is morally and ethically correct. DeSantis also has an agenda to whitewash American history and exclude a lot of historical facts about black and other marginalized cultures.
It is comical and also devastating that DeSantis governs Florida on discriminatory biases. He believes that is he bans talking about the LGBTQ community and black history that he will accomplish his goal of making these communities just not exist. It is almost childlike. Like when a child covers their own eyes thinking that their parent can see them…when they obviously can. Just because he wants marginalized communities to not exist, will not cause them to be eradicated or have them just disappear.
To better understand what Florida is going through and what these students are up against, let’s explore the barbaric laws that DeSantis has put in place in Florida.
“Don’t Say, Gay” Bill
Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill on the surface is completely insane, but when you learn about all the small details that encompass the bill it is downright shocking, barbaric, and sick. The law is filled with confusion and inconsistencies which makes it hard for teachers and students to understand and therefore follow. The “Don’t Say Gay” law bans instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity. The Parental Rights in Education law claims it is limited to kindergarten through third grade. However, some say this law prohibits this education that is “not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate” which leaves all teachers open to lawsuits if they explore the topic in their classrooms of all ages. This law also does not give specific ages that are age appropriate or that are not. It is extremely wishy-washy.
Teachers and the “Don’t Say Gay” Law
The “Don’t Say Gay” law is also leaving LGBTQ teachers questioning what they can and can say about themselves. Many have been informed to keep their partners private and not disclose their sexual orientation. Teachers have also been asked to stop wearing rainbows or have rainbows represented in the classroom. The rainbow flag and often rainbows themselves represent the LGBTQ community. This is downright silly. Although it represents the LGBTQ community, gatekeeping rainbows in a classroom is idiotic. We all grew up with Lisa Frank and drawing rainbows and learning about Roy G Biv. We all turned out just fine even though we were “subject” to rainbows. Frankly, we have bigger issues to be worrying about than banning the use of rainbows.
Along with teachers being unable to talk about being LGBTQ and sexual identity, they are also stripped of being able to educate students on the truths of our history. This includes black history, racism, and sexual education. This essentially creates completely false histories and narratives that will impact our children’s ideologies and education on the history of America.
Stop Woke Act
We should not have any right to change American history. We cannot just pretend that our country isn’t built on systemic racism. Another law DeSantis passed was eliminating the teaching of critical race theory. Florida governor Ron DeSantis has been proposing the “Stop Woke Act” in 2021. This act “protects employees against a hostile work environment due to critical race theory training”. “to give businesses, employees, children and families tools to stand up against discrimination and woke indoctrination.” This act would codify the Florida Department of Education’s prohibiting of teaching critical race theory to students K-12. Some things probably should not be taught to children with profound depth. Most things in life can be made kid-friendly and therefore appropriate. Keep in mind that 12th grade is your senior year of high school. This grade is your final and last grade of high school before college or just proceeding into the “real world”.
The fact that DeSantis uses the word “woke” is comical in itself. If you are not aware of what being “woke” means, let me enlighten you. Urban Dictionary claims that woke means paying attention to what’s going on. If you don’t pay attention you will be left behind. I did omit a few swear words. It means you are awoken to the times. You are up to date with what is going on currently and you take the time to educate yourself on hot topics. Often woke can come with a negative connotation when individuals use it to extremes such as being “woke” or enlightened spiritually. But on its basic level, I would prefer to be more woke than not!
Critical Race Theory
What critical race theory consists of is a current debate. It seems there is a divide in definition between different people with different political views. Like with most things, anything can be warped into your own interpretation. Critical race theory first began in the late 1970s and has been a part of curriculums for 40 years. It is meant to teach that race is a social construct and that racism does not just come from a person’s biases or prejudices but is also rooted in legal systems and policies. It has been noted that conservative Republicans are a particular issue with critical race theory and argue that it causes a divide amongst people, students, and teachers and can lead to volatile situations. They claim that it puts people in two groups; the “oppressed” and the “oppressor” which then causes conflict.
Why Critical Race Theory is Important
This way of thinking is extremely damaging. Children are not born racist it is something they are taught, how they are formed and shaped for one reason or another. It is important to teach these things and the realities of not only our history but our current status with race and oppression. We should be teaching students factual historical events and how to become allies to not only people of color but queer individuals. A lot of students have been protesting DeSantis’s “Don’t Say Gay Bill” with school walkouts and wearing the pride flag. These students should not have to protest for an inclusive learning environment. Although it is a positive sign that our youth care enough to attempt to make the changes they wish to see.
Have You Experienced Issues With Critical Race Theory?
I have personally never heard of anyone saying they felt uncomfortable or upset when learning about America’s history and critical race theory. I certainly never felt like it divided students into categories of the “oppressed” or the “oppressor”. This is just an excuse to not teach inclusive material and the truth being the United States history. It is important to teach these things so history does not repeat itself. Knowledge is power and creating false narratives will absolutely divide students and lead to more problems. It was not until college that I truly realized how much my previous education was lacking when it came to American history and critical race theory. College is where I learned a more encompassing and factual history along with African studies, gender identity studies, women’s studies, LGTBQ history, and more. These studies made me more knowledgeable and overall a better person.
Why The Don’t Say Gay Narrative Perpetuates Hate
Since Ron DeSantis passed the Don’t Say Gay bill, the hate towards the LGBTQ+ community has seen an increase. When a bill like this passes it obviously makes a statement and many people that may have been on the fence on an issue can find themselves siding with people of power. Such as Florida’s Governor.
The Center for Countering Digital Hate found that the spike in hate towards LGBTQ came from the false narrative that LGBTQ+ people “groom” children. Republican lawmakers are pushing this false narrative that LGBTQ+ people are unsafe and predatory when on the contrary there is no authentic and conclusive data to back this statement. The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) reports that In “88% of the sexual abuse claims that CPS substantiates or finds supporting evidence of, the perpetrator is male. In 9% of cases, they are female, and 3% are unknown.”
RAINN also reports that among the cases reported to law enforcement 93% of abusers are known to the victim. Meaning that a child isn’t more likely to be groomed in a gay club or at a drag show. A child is more likely to be groomed by someone they know and trust such as an uncle or “trusted” family friend. Spreading misinformation like this is incredibly damaging to the LGBTQ+ community.
Students Threaten to Sue DeSantis
Again, rightfully so, the community is outraged and people are upset. ABC News is reporting that some students are threatening to sue DeStantis if he does not allow the African studies course. Civil rights attorney Ben Crump has said “If he does not negotiate with the College Board to allow AP African American studies to be taught in classrooms across the state of Florida, these three young people will be the lead plaintiffs,” to ABC news.
Press Secretary for Equality Florida, Brandon Wolf, was quoted by ABC News saying; “DeSantis has staked his political career on book banning, government censorship, and replacing lessons on arts, culture, and our history with whitewashed, anti-LGBTQ propaganda. Educational institutions deserve better than his politically-motivated assaults on truth. Students deserve better.” Many are wondering when the insane DeSantis mary-go-round will stop. The community DeSantis is trying to create in Florida is scary and leaves people in the targeted marginalized communities angry and fearful for the future. DeSantis needs to stop trying to take a step back in history. DeSantis could probably use a critical race course himself to help him work through all of his racial and discriminatory biases.