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Ah, Florida, the land of sunshine, beaches and historical delusion.

Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Board of Education have taken it upon themselves to rewrite history, indulging in a masterful act of whitewashing and historical revisionism to make the brutal legacy of slavery in the United States palatable for their delicate sensibilities.

According to new “standards” approved by the Board of Education, Florida’s middle school students will now be taught that slavery wasn’t all that bad for Black people because, you know, they got some “personal benefit” from being enslaved. Who knew that the horrors of slavery could be magically transformed into a beneficial unpaid internship program where they could hone their skills for their own personal growth?

Slavery is the glorious gift that kept on giving. Truly, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Trying to sugarcoat this dark chapter in human history is not just a lie; it’s an insult to the memory of those who suffered under the cruel yoke of slavery.

Nothing says “personal benefit” like being forcibly ripped from your homeland, subjected to unimaginable cruelty, and denied basic human rights for generations. How generous of their oppressors!

Who needs basic human rights and dignity when you can have chains and whips, right? Forget about the countless families torn apart, the lives stolen from their homelands, the brutal beatings, being raped by white men who resembled the Quaker Oats man and being forced to breastfeed white babies – your future oppressors. According to this brilliant logic, these were all just valuable experiences that Black Americans should be grateful for.

It is such an audacious and ludicrous claim that enslaved Black people were somehow beneficiaries of their own oppression. I’m sure Black people across Florida are just ecstatic to hear that their ancestors endured centuries of unimaginable suffering for the greater good of their own skill development. Truly, this new level of legislative zeal in rewriting history is astonishing.

The sheer gall to suggest that slaves were somehow lucky to have the opportunity to develop skills for their personal benefit is mind-boggling. Gov. DeSantis’ grasp of history rivals that of a toddler playing with building blocks. Were these “beneficial skills” also responsible for the countless deaths, physical and psychological trauma, and generational suffering endured by Black people for centuries? It’s truly impressive how DeSantis and his ilk manage to conveniently overlook such inconvenient details.

What Gov. DeSantis conveniently forgets to mention is that slavery was an abhorrent institution built on the foundation of human suffering, inequality and degradation. It systematically destroyed families, robbed individuals of their dignity and perpetuated a legacy of systemic racism that continues to haunt America to this day. Let’s not forget the tremendous contributions of enslaved individuals to American society. Their “benefits” included building the very foundation of the nation’s economy and infrastructure without any compensation or acknowledgment. Their “skills” were exploited to the fullest while their humanity was ruthlessly disregarded.

…nothing says ‘we’re not racist’ like actively trying to shield white students from feeling guilty for the wrongs perpetrated against Black people.

If Gov. DeSantis wants to teach history accurately, which he doesn’t, he should start by acknowledging the immense pain and suffering slaves endured, the millions who died during the Middle Passage and in bondage, and the long-lasting consequences that echo through generations. Trying to sugarcoat this dark chapter in human history is not just a lie; it’s an insult to the memory of those who suffered under the cruel yoke of slavery. To portray slaves as willing participants in their own exploitation is not only a slap in the face to their memory but also a dangerous attempt to downplay the deep-seated racism that persists to this day.

And let’s not forget the whitewashing of history in the high school curriculum, where a deadly white mob attack against Black residents in Ocoee, Florida, in 1920 is portrayed as having “acts of violence perpetrated against and by African Americans.” Ah, yes, because we all know how equal and balanced the power dynamics were in violent racist mob attacks.

Clearly, the poor attackers were just responding to those irksome Black residents being all too uppity and daring to demand the right to vote and other basic civil rights. How dare they challenge the racist status quo! But don’t worry, good people, the esteemed members of the Florida Board of Education assure us that this distorted portrayal is “factually accurate.” Well, if that’s the case, then I guess we can throw away all that pesky evidence of historical documentation and eyewitness accounts. Why bother with the truth when you can just make stuff up to suit your political agenda?

Oh, but wait, there’s more!


Jennifer Pippin, president of the Indian River County chapter of Moms for Liberty, in Vero Beach, Florida on October 16, 2022. | Source: GIORGIO VIERA / Getty

The Education Commissioner Manny Diaz and Chancellor Paul Burns have the audacity to defend these standards as an “in-depth, deep dive into African American history” that teaches “the good, the bad, and the ugly.” I see, so this “deep dive” conveniently omits the real atrocities and sugarcoats the horrors of slavery and racism. Well, color me impressed!

And of course, the cherry on top of this delusional cake is the “Stop WOKE Act” signed by Gov. DeSantis, because nothing says “we’re not racist” like actively trying to shield white students from feeling guilty for the wrongs perpetrated against Black people. Bravo, DeSantis, for your commitment.

But let’s not stop at slavery!

Why not teach that the Holocaust was merely an extended vacation that allowed Jewish people to “develop skills for resilience”? Or perhaps we can claim that colonialism was a fantastic opportunity for Indigenous populations to “expand their horizons” and “learn about other cultures.” The possibilities for historical whitewashing are endless!

In all seriousness, we owe it to the victims of history to teach the truth, however uncomfortable it may be, so that we can learn from our past and strive for a more just and compassionate future. Rewriting history to suit personal comfort and political agendas only perpetuates ignorance and hinders progress and makes places like Florida bastions of educational regression and a breeding ground for misinformation. American students deserve better than a state-sponsored masterclass in historical delusion.

Dr. Stacey Patton is an award-winning journalist and author of “Spare The Kids: Why Whupping Children Won’t Save Black America” and the forthcoming “Strung Up: The Lynching of Black Children In Jim Crow America.”


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