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New Orleans School Integration

Ruby Bridges is escorted by U.S. Federal Marshals into William Frantz elementary school during the second week of the court-ordered integration, New Orleans, Louisiana, on November 28, 1960. | Source: Underwood Archives / Getty

It should be abundantly clear by now that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and his anti-woke lynch mob (aka the Florida Board of “Education”) have fostered an environment that has caused educators to be straight-up afraid to teach Black history. Was that DeSantis’ intent? Who knows? (But, yesyes, that was likely his specific intent.) After all, DeSantis has claimed Black history will still be taught in Florida schools. But DeSantis, like conservative woke-ophobes across the country, has made it clear that Black history is to be taught through a filter designed to protect white people from their own fragile feelings. And as a result, school administrators all over the state seem to be unsure if even the most basic Black history lessons are appropriate for students.

It’s why a textbook publisher used by more than 45,000 removed all mentions of race in a draft lesson of Rosa Parks’ story in order to comply with Florida’s state guidelines, despite the fact that telling Parks’ story without talking about racism is like telling the story about the Jan. 6 Capitol riot without mentioning Donald Trump’s “stop the steal” lies. (In other words, how Fox News tells the story.) And before that, a Florida school district banned Toni Morrison‘s The Bluest Eye in order to “err on the side of caution” after a single white parent complained that it was too much for students to handle.

Now, the Disney movie Ruby Bridges, which, of course, is about the 6-year-old girl who endured racial heckling and harassment when she integrated New Orleans schools in the 1960s—a story white conservatives have tried to ban in the past—has been pulled from a Pinellas County school until it can be reviewed to make sure it passes the white fragility smell test. According to the Tampa Bay Times, the movie “has been a staple of Pinellas County Black History Month lessons for years.”

From the Times:

It never caused a stir until this year, as parents across Florida exert increased powers to question what children can see and read in schools.

A North Shore Elementary parent who would not allow her child to watch the film when it was shown in early March later complained that it wasn’t appropriate for second graders. In a formal challenge dated March 6, Emily Conklin wrote that the use of racial slurs and scenes of white people threatening Ruby as she entered a school might result in students learning that white people hate Black people.

Pinellas school officials responded by banning the movie from use by all students at the St. Petersburg school until a review committee can assess it. 

Did you ever notice how virtually all of these “woke” and/or “critical race theory” controversies center around how white people are perceived and affected by these lessons? It’s always about how white kids might be made to feel ashamed about their own skin, or how they feel about their traditionally white country, or how the rights of white parents need to be protected, or how we need to end all the “divisiveness” in America—by making sure white people are comfortable at the expense of everyone else

More from the Times:

A countywide group that represents the interests of Black children in Pinellas public schools has sent an open letter to the community questioning why one parent’s complaint resulted in actions that affect all families at North Shore.

Many from historically marginalized communities are asking whether this so-called integrated education system in Pinellas County can even serve the diverse community fairly and equitably,” wrote Ric Davis, president of Concerned Organization for Quality Education for Black Students. The group has been active for years, often working with school district officials and at times battling them in court.

The state’s guidelines, which some have called vague, have led to book challenges and bans by the dozens throughout Florida.

“The (Pinellas) district’s leadership appears to fear the potential consequences of not acting in the way they have on these two decisions,” Davis wrote in the open letter. “This approach to challenging times in education in our state raises serious questions about Superintendent (Kevin) Hendrick’s leadership.”

Davis acknowledged the political climate in Florida has educators second-guessing themselves about what materials to use in classes. Lawmakers have made clear that they don’t want books, movies or lessons about race to create student discomfort, though they also have said they want facts presented honestly.

But, again, let’s be real about whose “discomfort” matters here and who the perceived arbiters are when it comes to what constitutes “facts” being “presented honestly.” Because this comes from conservative officials who have gone to war against CRT without presenting a single fact about the academic study that doesn’t come from a single source of referencewhite people’s feelings.

“At the highest level of decision-making in the district, they have to have more sensitivity to the diversity of the community they serve, and not overreact because one white person objected to something,” Davis wrote.

“At the end of the day, we’re one total community and we have to figure out how we work together to make decisions that serve everyone,” he added.

“Think about it. A 6-year-old girl (Ruby Bridges) can go to school every day with armed guards, but second graders can’t learn about it?” Davis went on to say. “It doesn’t make any sense.”