During a recent press conference, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that his state would be blocking a new Advanced Placement course on African American studies over its inclusion of “queer theory” and ideology related to prison abolition, claiming that doing so would spare children from “a political agenda.”
“We believe in teaching kids facts and how to think, but we don’t believe they should have an agenda imposed on them. When you try to use Black history to shoehorn in queer theory, you are clearly trying to use that for political purposes,” he explained.
DeSantis is not an especially talented politician. He has very little charm, even fewer skills as an orator, and whether his fans care to admit it or not, he is largely foreseen as a successor to Donald Trump solely because he is the only decent knockoff of the real thing readily available.
Still, for what he lacks as a politician, DeSantis, like Trump, is a shameless bigot willing to punish communities for headlines — and there is constant reason to worry about how much damage a politician like that can cause.
Towards the end of 2020, the DeSantis administration christened him the “Education Governor” over his commitment to fighting “woke indoctrination.”
I have lost track of the precise meaning of “woke,” as it’s several years from its original rumored definition, but whenever it flies out of the mouth of a man like Ron DeSantis or his supporters, I take it as a slur.
I’m sure most of them mean it that way.
Same goes for “groomer,” another word DeSantis has employed to stigmatize groups and rationalize his ongoing assault on public education in the state of Florida.
Since embracing that title, DeSantis and his government have sought to make targets out of minority communities — be it through the banning of transgender student-athletes, math textbooks he feels contains “woke” ideology, select books in school libraries, or the outright mentioning of LGBTQ+ people (aka the state’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill).
Should you find yourself in vocal opposition to DeSantis’ antics, you may become a target of retaliation by the governor — something the Walt Disney Corporation, which is headquartered in the state, has learned this week.
DeSantis, like many of the aspiring Republican presidential nominees before him, has turned to bigotry to gain a national following, hence him treating queer and trans people as political pawns.
But as some of us who are Black and queer long suspected, it would only be a matter of time before DeSantis’ racism joined his homophobia and transphobia in shaping policy.
“DeSantis, like many of the aspiring Republican presidential nominees before him, has turned to bigotry to gain a national following.”
DeSantis might have cited queer theory to explain his contempt toward the AP course, but, as I keep repeating, no one should forget that in 2018, he ran one of the most racist gubernatorial campaigns in modern history.
He’s always maintained multiple targets, and his attack on this African American studies class is part of a larger plan from a familiar playbook that will continue.
On Feb. 12, the College Board criticized DeSantis in a letter for his actions, stating: “There is always debate about the content of a new AP course. That is good and healthy; these courses matter. But the dialogue surrounding AP African American Studies has moved from healthy debate to misinformation.”
It was necessary for the College Board to push back on DeSantis publicly — but the board also announced revisions after Florida’s criticism, including the elimination of lessons on Black Lives Matter and reparations.
That is a capitulation that has undoubtedly sparked envy among DeSantis’ peers.
DeSantis’ attack on AP Black studies is the latest stunt of a familiar con, but the problem has now spread as other Republican governors — some with their own higher political aspirations — have taken cues from the Florida governor and are now targeting Black studies.
The Washington Post recently reported that state officials in Virginia, Arkansas, North Dakota and Mississippi have said “they had questions and planned reviews before deciding whether the new class may be taught in their classrooms.”
Additionally, four separate states said no formal review was planned but that this could change. One presumes that they’re only one segment on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” away from such a decision.
Macaulay Porter, a spokesperson for Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R), confirmed that Youngkin has “asked state education officials to examine the class to determine whether it conflicts with his previous executive order forbidding certain ways of teaching about race.”
That executive order, signed by Youngkin last year on his first day of office, barred teachers from teaching “inherently divisive concepts, including concepts or ideas related to Critical Race Theory.”
Porter noted that Youngkin acted after becoming aware of “numerous reports about draft course content.”
I recall Youngkin’s gubernatorial bid and found his campaigning against CRT to be racist. And no matter how many pictures he takes with Black people in Virginia, he nonetheless governs as a white politician doing just enough to further stoke white grievance out of political expediency. I know what to make of politicians like that and what to call them.
The problem remains that not enough people in the media do the same.
And unless that changes, the Republicans, led by DeSantis, might successfully troll their way to defiling all of public education.
Recently, a member of the Florida legislature introduced H.B. 999, which would give DeSantis more control over state colleges and universities.
Should it pass, it will allow him the ability to deliver on his pledge to defund diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, change how instructors are hired and fired, and determine what is and isn’t taught at schools.
The bill would require that general education courses at state colleges and universities “promote the values necessary to preserve the constitutional republic.”
DeSantis doesn’t just want to do away with queer theory and Black studies, but also gender studies and any and everything else he deems unworthy.
It is a dangerous power to give to someone as small-minded as Ron DeSantis — and if he’s granted it, the strategy will likely be replicated, and we are going to become a much dumber country because of it.