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Opinion

Wait, a Black history course has no educational value?

Feb 01, 2023

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Adrienne Lawrence

Legal analyst, law professor & award-winning author

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In January 2023, a couple of days after Tyre Nichols was severely beaten by police officers and died, the Florida Department of Education banned a new Advanced Placement course on Black studies. In a letter notifying the College Board of Florida’s decision, officials said, “the content of this course … significantly lacks educational value.” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis called the course indoctrination that promotes a “political agenda.” As Straight Arrow News contributor Adrienne Lawrence argues, it’s not surprising, as we enter Black History Month, that Gov. DeSantis and others prefer to stick to a colorblind narrative that acts as though racism, colorism and anti-Blackness do not exist.

DeSantis would like you to believe that the stark and growing racial wealth gap between Black and white Americans is simply attributable to Black people not working hard enough. Yeah, ignore the absence of generational wealth that most white people have accumulated, because the U.S. government has given their grandparents and ancestors land and loans denied to Black Americans.

We give access to opportunities that Black Americans could not have. DeSantis also wants you to believe that Black people have higher rates of arrest and incarceration because somehow we’re more criminal, even though research has confirmed for decades that Black and white people commit crimes at the same rates. 

So many lies here and they’re perpetuated to maintain a system of supremacy, white supremacy that is. Now DeSantis defended his attack on the AP African American History course by claiming that the content advances Black queer theory… That too is ignorant. 

In a general sense, queer theory looks at how our society creates and reinforces cis-heteronormativity, how this world impacts LGBTQ+ people and not Black queer theory would appreciate the full intersectionality of the lived experiences of Black change makers. 

Marsha P. Johnson, for example, was a Black trans activist who led the way in Stonewall in the fight for gay rights. It’d be intellectually dishonest to omit how her gender identity impacted her journey and achievements. But of course DeSantis can’t have students learn the truth, as we all know truth is power. 

Instead of pushing back, College Board has revised the course now reportedly in response to feedback from students and educators. That’s weakness. This drive to whitewash history and shield whiteness from facts, that hurts our nation and keeps us from healing. Black history is American history. Black experiences are valid and Black contributions are vast. We won’t be erased. 

Happy Black History Month.

As we enter Black History Month, I would be remiss if I didn’t reflect on the recent efforts to erase the experiences and accomplishments of Black Americans, a venture that Ron DeSantis appears to be leading the charge of.

The Florida governor’s removal of the Advanced Placement African American History course from the high schools in his state is nothing short of blatant racism. You can’t tell me that learning about the history of Black people in the United States has no educational value. 

We have the light bulb, thanks to Lewis Latimer for example. While Thomas Edison may have invented the concept, it was Latimer, who added the carbon filament that made light bulbs last longer and commercially viable.

Surgeon Daniel Hill Williams, performing the first successful open heart surgery. Because of the contributions of NASA mathematicians Catherine Goble Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, the US won that space race and what, thanks to Dr. Charles Drew, blood plasma can last more than two days, making transfusions more readily possible, and so on. 

Black people not only built this country without compensation, mind you, but have made significant contributions to its advancement. 

Shucks, we even have the Super Soaker potato chips and Jack Daniels whiskey because of innovative minds that were in the bodies of Black people. But Ron DeSantis doesn’t want high school students in Florida to hear about that, to learn how Black women and men have risen up to do great things, not withstanding the racist violence perpetuated upon generations. 

Like many white Americans, the governor prefers to stick to a colorblind narrative that acts as though racism, colorism and anti-Blackness do not exist. That lie enables individuals like DeSantis to deny the existence of institutional racism. That is to pretend that anti-Blackness is not baked into the system around us, when stats confirmed that it clearly is. 

DeSantis would like you to believe that the stark and growing racial wealth gap between Black and white Americans is simply attributable to Black people not working hard enough. Yeah, ignore the absence of generational wealth that most white people have accumulated, because the US government has given their grandparents and ancestors land and loans denied to Black Americans.

We give access to opportunities that Black Americans could not have. DeSantis also wants you to believe that Black people have higher rates of arrest and incarceration because somehow we’re more criminal, even though research has confirmed for decades that Black and white people commit crimes at the same rates. 

So many lies here, and there perpetuated to maintain a system of supremacy, white supremacy that is. Now DeSantis defended his attack on the AP African American History course by claiming that the content advances Black queer theory.. That too is ignorant. 

In a general sense, queer theory looks at how our society creates and reinforces cis- heteronormativity, how this world impacts LGBTQ-plus people and not Black queer theory would appreciate the full intersectionality of the lived experiences of Black changemakers. 

Marsha P. Johnson, for example, was a Black Trans activist who led the way in Stonewall in the fight for gay rights. It’d be intellectually dishonest to omit how her gender identity impacted her journey and achievements. But of course DeSantis can’t have students learn the truth as we all know truth is power. 

Instead of pushing back, College Board has revised the course now reportedly in response to feedback from students and educators. That’s weakness. This drive to whitewash history and shield whiteness from facts, that hurts our nation and keeps us from healing. Black history is American history. Black experiences are valid and Black contributions are vast. We won’t be erased. 

Happy Black History Month.

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