By Diane Roberts
Ron DeSantis, pay attention: you really do not want Ben Crump suing you on behalf of three Florida high schoolers over that pilot AP African American Studies course you shut down.
Have you seen those kids? Clean-cut, All-American, telegenic. Have you heard Ben Crump? Smart, eloquent, relentless.
Crump gets on national TV more than you. He’s got a Netflix documentary. He’s got a social justice law center named after him.
Governor, we all know that you’ve stopped even pretending you’re not racist. Redrawing two formerly Black-led congressional seats so that whites would dominate, suppressing the Black vote, and appointing a white guy who apparently thought it was funny to dress up as a Klansman to the county commission of majority-Black Gadsden County, is what you call a “tell.”
I guess you figure you can win the White House with the white nationalist vote. The way this country’s going, that’s entirely possible. There are a lot of Caucasians out there convinced that women and Jews and gays and people of color are taking over America.
But pitching hissy fits about gay people, drag queens, and Black history ain’t a good look if you want to appeal to anyone outside the Fox swamp. RuPaul has one of the most popular shows in the nation.
And going to battle with cute kids and Ben Crump, who’s represented Trayvon Martin’s family, George Floyd’s family, and Breonna Taylor’s family, is a dumb plan. Even if Crump loses, he wins: You look like a jerk, a new generation of young voters sees that the Republican Party really doesn’t give a damn about them, and the nation is reminded once more that Jim Crow 2.0 is real.
You didn’t need to pick this fight over AP Black studies, governor. It’s an advanced placement class. Students choose to take it — or not. Nobody forces them, any more than anyone makes them sign up for AP European History.
Wait — aren’t you always banging on about “choice” when it comes to education?
Speaking of AP European History, have you had a look at that curriculum? It’s mostly about white folks, so I guess you’ll approve of that part. Nevertheless there are some disturbing topics: “Critiques of Capitalism,” “Colonial Expansion and Development of the Slave Trade,” and the like.
Man, it gets harder and harder to shut down all this woke stuff, doesn’t it? What’s a Viktor Orbán Fan Boy to do?
Other than destroy public education in Florida, of course. Your obliging Legislature is poised to take billions from public schools to give everybody a voucher for private schools, which are, conveniently, not subject to certain state standards.
I look forward to an entire generation of Floridians who think the sun revolves around the Earth.
In the meantime, you’ll content yourself with forcing local school superintendents out of office and replacing them with your minions. Now you’re after Leon County School Supt. Rocky Hanna, who’s “under investigation” by the Florida Department of Education for, well, it’s hard to tell. Something he said that one of the maggot-brained Moms for Liberty complained about.
Then there’s book-banning. One parent at one Pinellas County high school complained about Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye” and now it’s verboten. Never mind that Morrison is a Nobel Laureate in literature. Never mind that the novel addresses profound issues of colorism, abuse, and how being Black in America can drive a person mad.
Other books deemed “harmful to minors” (as Florida’s education legislation puts it) include many, many titles by Black writers, Latino writers, Native American writers, LGBTQ writers, and any author who at any time refers to sex.
We need to preserve the innocence of teenagers.
Teachers can be charged with a third-degree felony if they’re caught with “unvetted” books in their classrooms. One Manatee County teacher wrote: “My heart is broken for Florida students today as I am forced to pack up my classroom library.”
In Duval County, a teacher had to stop giving her students free books, even though their families are too poor to buy their own.
We wouldn’t want these kids getting ideas, now, would we? Especially ideas about people of color or gay people or anyone who isn’t white, Christian, straight, and ignorant as a bag of sawdust.
We prefer these kids get guns. That’s America.
So, governor, if you won’t allow that AP African American Studies course because it dares to raise terrifying topics like Black feminism and queerness and even suggests students might benefit from discussing slavery reparations, why not create your own? Just in time for Black History Month, here’s a suggested model:
- Four hundred years ago, white people went to Darkest Africa, a continent populated mostly by gorillas and lions, and bought some Black people from some other Black people. It’s really the Black people’s fault, but white people always get blamed for just trying to make a little money.
- The white people took the Black people to America, where they got good jobs picking tobacco and cotton. The jobs were unpaid, kind of like internships, but the Black people got free food and free clothes, plus they didn’t have to pay rent. As a bonus, they converted to Christianity, which means they wouldn’t have to go to hell.
- The American Revolution happened, led by white people who didn’t believe in slavery even though a lot of them accidentally owned slaves. Our founders weren’t racist: Thomas Jefferson even dated a slave!
- Harriet Tubman ran the Underground Railroad, proving that Black women have a strong entrepreneurial spirit.
- In 1861, white people went to war to free the slaves and a lot of them died, though Black people never give them credit.
And, OK, the white people in Florida and those other Southern states (not that we’re admitting we’re part of the South, no sir) were on, like, the other side, but mostly because they hated Big Government and didn’t want their people-owning businesses to lose money.
- There was a thing called Reconstruction when we let Black men vote and even get elected to political office, but it didn’t pan out. Maybe Black people just weren’t ready to be citizens yet — not that we’re blaming anyone!
- A nice Black lady named Rosa Parks and a nice Black preacher named Martin Luther King teamed up to make riding the buses safe. Also help Black people vote, since they were probably ready to be citizens by the 1960s. Unfortunately, some white people didn’t like that, but they are all dead now, and we all want Black people to vote if they can do it right and not rely on “special treatment” like mail-in ballots, Sunday voting, drop boxes, and the like.
- Martin Luther King was a Republican.
- The Civil Rights Movement was admirable, and made for lots of good movies, but soon it was taken over by radicals who thought Black people should have rights as a group and started that bad, unamerican, affirmative action business. Black people got angry and yelled a lot, especially Malcolm X and Angela Davis.
- Barack Obama, a Black man who may or may not be an actual American citizen, got elected president, which means racism is over.
- No need to thank me, governor. And good luck with all those lawsuits.
Diane Roberts is an 8th-generation Floridian, born and bred in Tallahassee. Educated at Florida State University and Oxford University in England, she has been writing for newspapers since 1983, when she began producing columns on the legislature for the Florida Flambeau. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Times of London, the Guardian, the Washington Post, the Oxford American, and Flamingo. She has been a member of the Editorial Board of the St. Petersburg Times–back when that was the Tampa Bay Times’s name–and a long-time columnist for the paper in both its iterations. She was a commentator on NPR for 22 years and continues to contribute radio essays and opinion pieces to the BBC. Roberts is also the author of four books.