When Florida governor and presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis and his state’s department of education rejected an Advanced Placement course covering African American Studies earlier this year, they said they did it because it “significantly lacks educational value.” Well, apparently, it turns out that by “educational value,” they really meant a viewpoint on slavery that doesn’t paint the slavers as the villains unless we’re talking about African slavers, which definitely need to be highlighted.
Citing a news report from the Miami Herald, HuffPost wrote that the Florida officials who were tasked with reviewing the AP studies course voiced concerns that the curriculum didn’t offer any “opposing viewpoints” or “other perspectives” of slavery.
They said it was about “wokeness.” They said it was about critical race theory. Apparently, it was mainly about teaching about slavery in a way that was unfair to the slave owners.
The documents, however, appear to show an effort to whitewash the country’s history of slavery. In one lesson, the AP curriculum focuses on how enslaved Africans were removed from the continent and taken to plantations on Portuguese colonies that later became “a model for slave-based economy in the Americas.”
State reviewers said they were concerned the lesson “may not address the internal slave trade/system within Africa” and “may only present one side of this issue.” In a separate lesson that discussed how Europeans benefited from the slave trade, state reviewers claimed the curriculum “may lead to a viewpoint of an ‘oppressor vs. oppressed’ based solely on race or ethnicity.”
Yes, it would be an absolute shame if we taught that the transatlantic slave trade was an “oppressor vs. pressed” system “based solely on race or ethnicity” simply because that’s exactly WTF it was.
Also, here’s a question: Why would it be necessary to “address the internal slave trade/system within Africa” in an African AMERICAN studies course? During lessons on regular (read: Caucasian) American history, is it a requirement that educators teach about conflicts between European countries and territories that the U.S. was not involved in?
Besides, these people don’t really want to tell all sides of the story regarding slavery in Africa the way they want “opposing views” on American slavery. If that was taught in its entirety in Florida classrooms, students would be learning about how the U.S. and other Western nations drove up the demand for free slave labor to a point where they created a massive international and intergenerational system of slavery that pre-colonial African leaders could not possibly have conceived of. And we know that’s not what they want.
Either way you slice it, everything makes sense now.
It makes sense that Florida officials were in such great haste to teach that enslaved people benefited from slavery, that they put unqualified Black conservative “educators” with no real expertise in Black History in charge of the new Black history standards, and those non-experts got most of their “history” completely wrong.
This is why Florida officials selected PragerU—an unaccredited conservative non-profit organization founded by a loud and proud racist—to provide classroom materials to Florida schools. I previously reported about how PragerU produced animated videos for children that taught, among other things, that iconic abolitionist and former slave Frederick Douglass would have agreed with America’s choice to prioritize white supremacy over ending slavery.
Here’s what I wrote in response to PragerU’s insistence (voiced through their white racist-friendly version of Douglass) that slavery was justified because “Southern colonies were dependent on slave labor, and they wouldn’t have joined the union if they had banned it”:
Conservatives really do stretch themselves into noose-knots trying to whitesplain that the Founding Fathers were anti-slavery despite the fact that 14 out of the 21 prominent founders—*checks notes*—owned slaves.
But let’s say the virtual blackface version of Fredrick Douglass was telling the truth. Even if you accept it at face value, PragerU’s whitewashed version of history admits that white people decided it was OK for Black people to continue living and dying as the physical property of white people, having their future generations born into life-long servitude, having their heritage stripped away from them, being torn away from their families, and being brutalized, tortured, raped and lynched throughout their lives—all so white Americans could preserve the colonies they formed on land that they stole.
Black people had to live in constant pain and terror for roughly two and a half centuries so America could be great. But no—this country wasn’t founded on white supremacy and we should absolutely make America great again.
There is no “educational value” in teaching that slavery in America was anything less than a cruel, violent, exploitive and viciously racist system that oppressors forced on the oppressed. There’s no educational value in teaching about the slavery that existed outside of America in American History curricula. What Florida officials actually mean is that the original AP studies course lacked whitewashing value. It lacked jingoistic value. It lacked patriotic delusion value. It lacked “America: The shining city on a hill” value. It lacked white fragility protection value.
Teaching that there are multiple valid viewpoints regarding American slavery is the absolute epitome of white privilege, and the notion encompasses exactly what CRT seeks to examine.
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