I had to write about this because I did not see enough Black people mad about this. The state of Florida’s new educational standards will teach students that Black people benefited from slavery because it taught useful skills to them. I ain’t gone lie, I thought it was a KevOnStage skit but Twitter confirmed that it was indeed real-life news. Not really surprised because it is America. And it did happen in Florida. I mean, Florida is in the South but it has an east coast bravado to it. It’s what you should get when you take the racism of Alabama, let the retired New York Mobsters run its politics and give it access to the ocean and boats that can outrun the U.S. Coast Guard, and bankroll the paper to pay everybody else to look the other way.
These new standards will make the lies still told by southern historical revisionists into a law that all teachers in their state must follow or be subjected to punishment. And if you didn’t know, slavery didn’t give our ancestors skills, it stifled the preexisting skills that we already had before being kidnapped and enslaved. Black people were already ironworkers, farmers, carpenters, political scientists and more dating back thousands of years. This is because we as a people were the first inventors of science and math, the basis of all technology. So teaching students about how happy we were during slavery because we sang songs in fields is intellectually bankrupt and academically disingenuous, to say the least.
The truly insidious anecdote is the fact that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a white man whose all eight great-grandparents came from the south of Italy through immigration, now governs to create policies to harm Black people who were forced to work for free while his great-grandparents were starving to death under feudalism two centuries ago. There is no better governor than DeSantis to execute old-school European white supremacy. He’s definitely cut from that stock, like the old folks used to say. Ain’t this story from rags to someone else’s riches as American as apple pie?
Now, let’s turn to the impact this will have on a state that has more than 3.5 million Black people in it. What does this mean for all our HBCUs down there like FAMU and Bethune-Cookman? Can they no longer teach from a different and more historically accurate perspective on slavery? And what happens in the grade levels when their introduction to slavery is that we benefited from working under conditions of torture, rape, severe fatigue and imminent death constantly weighing on their conscience? This is too much for a whole adult to process, and now the state wants to put that trauma on our youth.
Can we not see what this will do to a young Black psyche grappling with race in a post-2020 world and the summer of nationwide protests against the police for killing black people for simply being? That alone could make the everyday Black person become an activist. Even if it’s only for moments like these, I could respect it. Because the late great Malcolm X once said something along the lines of “I’m not mad if a white man hates me because of the color of my skin. I’m mad if that white man has power over me to do racist things to me and my children.” Truer words couldn’t be said. Because we as Black people should never allow or become complacent with a white supremacist or a suspected one having the power to determine what education should look like for our babies, anytime in their lives and especially when it comes to our history.
So if you feel like I do, then, go to the Florida State Board of Education and tell their almost entirely white board why they shouldn’t tell our youth a lie like slavery benefited our ancestors. The board’s only [what I believe to be a] person of color is Monesia Brown, but I’m not sure if she is even a Black woman. So if she is a sister then let’s find out what kind of sister she is by emailing her at Monesia.Brown@fldoe.org to ask her to make a public statement of her feelings about this decision that she and her colleagues just made on behalf of our Black relatives down there in the not so great state of Florida.
Tory Russell is a Ferguson Uprising Organizer, Internationally recognized Black Movement Leader and Director of Organizing for the International Black Freedom Alliance.
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