By Diane Roberts
THE OLD PLANTATION — Here in Florida, we’re teaching our young ’uns the God’s own truth about history.
Not what a bunch of book-reading, degree-holding, data-citing, socialist, so-called professors say.
The Indians were glad to go live on reservations. The change of scenery inspired them to make a good living crafting souvenir jewelry and decorative pottery.
The Chinese migrants who built the transcontinental railroad in the 1860s were proud to spend 14-hour days pounding rock and laying track so that Americans could expand westward and displace more Indians.
Sure, the Chinese workers were paid less than the Irish workers, and denied citizenship as well, but they didn’t mind: They got to hang out in the greatest country in the world.
As for slavery, Florida children will learn the facts. Gov. DeSantis and his crack education team are all about facts. As he explained with his characteristic eloquence, they “got a lot of scholars together to do a lot of standards and a lot of different things.”
A lot of standards, OK? And different things. All y’all hissy-fit pitching, belly-aching, and getting your britches in a wad over life on the plantation need to shut up.
Do some research. Maybe watch a documentary. “Gone With The Wind” is a good one.
Here’s a fact: We white folks treated slaves like family. Shoot, many of them were family!
Also a fact: Slaves were fortunate in being able to develop, as it says in the new public schools curriculum, “skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.”
Take blacksmithing: As the governor remarked, under slavery “some of the folks eventually parlayed, you know, being a blacksmith into doing things later in life.” The Department of Education’s African American History Standards Workgroup points to Lewis Latimer, who made an important contribution to our nation putting shoes on horses.
Speaking of shoes, what about that renowned cobbler James Forten, a slave who learned to make quality footwear, using that talent into a post-slavery career?
The governor’s scholars want you to know how he, like so many other fortunate souls, benefitted from slavery.
Of course, the fuss-bunnies out there in Wokeanda say this information isn’t entirely accurate: James Forten was never enslaved and he never made shoes (he was a rich manufacturer in late 18th-century Philadelphia), and he died 22 years before the Emancipation Proclamation, but that’s not the point. He could have been a fabulous shoemaker if he’d wanted to be. That’s the promise of America.
As for Lewis Latimer, he wasn’t, strictly speaking, a slave, what with him being born free, nor was he exactly a blacksmith. If you want to get picky about it, he was a New York electrical engineer who worked with Alexander Graham Bell.
But this is picayune stuff, ginned up by the downer media and loser professors who want to reduce the entire slave experience to nothing but the negative: beatings, torture, and rape. What about the upside?
The point is that slaves acquired all kinds of useful employment experience on the plantation. Picking cotton is a skill which many were glad of once they were freed and got the opportunity to do a little sharecropping.
When you think about it, plantations should really be called “agricultural opportunity centers.”
Another thing: Why doesn’t anybody mention the culinary expertise some slaves gained in the Old South? Sure, the older generations, the ones born in the two centuries before the Civil War, died off before they could open their own restaurants.
Still, those valiant, if unpaid, catering pioneers passed down their slavery-honed cordon bleu chops to their great-great-grandchildren, who are now making bank writing cookbooks and appearing on TV whipping up fancy dishes.
No longer will Florida students be forced to confront uncomfortable images of Africans stuffed in a dark ship’s hold, struggling to live through the Middle Passage (was it really so much worse than Delta economy class?) or running to escape the slave patrols (precursors of today’s police) who chased down runaways?
That helped many African Americans become world-class sprinters.
See? It’s not so hard to accentuate the positive.
Not our fault
Besides, white people didn’t start slavery. Black people in Africa started it, enslaving each other.
It’s also the fault of the British. They made Americans have slaves. Besides, everyone else was doing it: the French, the Portuguese, the Dutch, you name it.
We had no choice. As the new standards explain, “the rise of cash crops accelerated the growth of the domestic slave trade in the United States.”
You couldn’t make money off tobacco, sugar, rice, and cotton if you had to pay your workers. This was an important moment in the history of American capitalism! If we’d screwed it up, we wouldn’t be the society we are today.
Florida’s new history standards demand that both sides — all the sides! — be told. The libs will tell you that Florida had more lynchings per capita than any Southern state. And sure, there was a bit of extrajudicial murder. But white people suffered, too, as the standards make clear: “Whites who supported Reconstruction policies for freed Blacks after the Civil War were targeted.”
Florida’s fair and balanced history lessons include “acts of violence perpetrated against and by African Americans.”
Take the so-called “Ocoee Massacre.” Some Black folks tried to vote in the presidential election of 1920, and a bunch of white folks felt the Black folks should not do that. Somewhere between 30 and 50 people were killed.
The murdering wasn’t all on one side, either: Two of the victims were white!
If only those impatient Black people had exercised a little restraint and waited till 1965 after the Voting Rights Act passed.
There was a bad business in St. Augustine, too, in 1963, when four unarmed Black agitators confronted a large group of armed Klan members. The sheriff had no choice but to arrest the Black men. They were scaring the KKK-ers.
Seems like whenever Black people don’t get what they want — emancipation, citizenship, education, equal justice, the right to not be shot by cops, choked by cops, or suffocated by cops — they take to the streets.
Here in Florida, we have a governor who’s making our schools great again and all he gets for his trouble is the woke mob whining and carping. Or, in the case of that Vice-President Kamala Harris, demagoguing and chirping.
What kind of person chirps at a man desperately trying to reset his presidential campaign?
Anyway, let us not dwell on negativity. Think of Booker T. Washington, the renowned educator who believed in being nice to white people. He said, “Egotism is the anesthetic that dulls the pain of stupidity,” which does not apply to Ron DeSantis. Not at all.
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.