(Update: Thanks again to Batocchio for sharing this article on Crooks&Liars' Mike's Blog Round-Up! Please leave a comment - I know the security is a hassle but I need to filter out the Chinese spammers...)
Saying this up front: The Republicans are doing this out of fear.
It's been an issue simmering for some time but ever since the George Floyd verdict and the ongoing struggle of the Far Right to rail against anything that paints them in a bad light, the Republicans have declared WAR on Critical Race Theory and are banning its teachings in public schools. Especially here in goddamned Florida under the faint-hearted eye of Gov. DeSantis (via Julia Craven at Slate (paywall warning)):
On Thursday, Florida’s State Board of Education voted unanimously, at the behest of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, to ban lessons that employ critical race theory (CRT) or the New York Times’ 1619 Project from schools. The vote aligns with initiatives in several other states such as Idaho, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Iowa.
Florida’s amendment takes an existing rule saying instruction “may not suppress or distort significant historical events, such as the Holcaust” and adds “slavery, the Civil War and Reconstruction, the civil rights movement and the contributions of women, African American and Hispanic people to our country...”
While that reads as though the Board is protecting teachers to teach on those matters, the ruling actually bans them from using any materials from the award-winning 1619 Project, which had studied the impact of racial slavery since the British colonial era.
Even as it bans specific themes and texts, though, Florida’s amendment doesn’t define exactly which historical or factual claims are off-limits.
CRT is a decades-old set of ideas from the legal academy, which began to be a low-grade source of right-wing panic about racism during the Obama administration. Since the anti-racism protests of 2020 and the end of the Trump administration, though, it has rapidly become an all-purpose term to attack any sort of discussion of the history or current conditions of racial inequity in America.
Nothing academically recognizable as critical race theory is currently being taught anywhere in Florida, according to officials who spoke with the Miami Herald. Yet DeSantis has continued his campaign against it anyway, telling reporters last month: “You teach the facts. You teach everything that has happened. But critical race theory is basically race essentialism. It teaches people to view that as the most important characteristic and obviously, if you are of certain races—Caucasian or whatnot—they view that in a negative light.”
It's not even being taught at the public school level - it's primarily discussed in law schools - but DeSantis and other Republicans are still acting terrified that something like it will trickle down into the regular history classes as more studies on racism's impact on our history become commonplace.
As the Florida law demonstrates, the goal of the anti-CRT effort is put the analysis of ongoing racism out of bounds—to treat any inquiry into the material inequities that define the color line in America as something equivalent to Holocaust denial, and to reframe discussion of ongoing injustice as an insult to “white persons.” Other campaigners go as far to equate CRT with Marxism, as if a true accounting of racism in America were somehow going to upend capitalism. Such intentional misreadings allow conservatives to create a dichotomy where considering how racism shaped the country is unpatriotic and anti-American...
What is REALLY happening here is that DeSantis - by forcing the state to impose these restrictions on our schools - is setting the foundation for ANY parent aggrieved and upset about Whites being labeled "racist" can sue to stop ANY class discussion about racism in our nation's (and Florida's) history. The matter may not directly be Critical Race Theory, but if the parent gets one whiff of "oh my God this makes my White ancestors look bad" they will go ballistic and use this ruling to shut it down.
What DeSantis is doing is literally whitewashing our history to make it look clean and happy and "oh, don't you mind about the decades of lynchings and centuries of abuse" and every other thing Proud White Boys don't want to worry about. The excuse that "making Whites look racist is a Marxist attack on THE GOOD OLE USA" just also happens to be the same damn excuse throughout the 20th Century for racists - from the Dixiecrats of yesteryear to the trumpian GOP of today - to ignore the damage they've done and are still doing.
If you follow my blog, you got to have read Ta-Nehisi Coates at some point. His tenure at The Atlantic covered a lot of ground in researching the impact racism had to our history well into the modern era. His articles on redlining - the push by banks and realtors to undervalue Black housing and overvalue White neighborhoods - and his argument in favor of reparations to redress that damage are must-reads of the last twenty years. This is the kind of thing DeSantis and other Republicans would be terrified of seeing taught or discussed in our schools, because GOD FORBID Coates' work highlighted how racism was actual policy pushed by Whites in political and financial power.
If you grew up in Florida, you may have heard about Rosewood. Most likely you hadn't, because it's not often taught in our schools here. I didn't learn about it in the state history book I read back in third grade: I read about it in the 1982 St. Pete Times articles instead. It was through the newspapers I learned about the white riot that burned an entire Black town down, killed dozens and drove the survivors to flee halfway across the state... all because a White woman lied about getting assaulted by a Black man.
Do you think if a teacher started teaching Rosewood in a Clearwater high school classroom that DeSantis is going to allow that to even be discussed? It could all bring up stuff about RACISM that will offend the overly sensitive Whites...
Note: Yes, I am White myself. I'm just not a goddamn whiny bitch about it. I know racism exists and I've seen the damage being done right now and we ought to be FIXING THESE DAMN PROBLEMS instead of sweeping it all under the goddamn rug like we've done the last 150 years.
If you watch the history of how history is taught in the United States, you will notice a pattern: the Far Right - the ultra-religious, the ultra-patriotic, the ultra-assholes - will insist that history ALWAYS preach to the greatness of our nation and the proud heritage of what being an American should be. You'll notice those same people will quickly ignore, denounce, decry, or embellish any of the dirtier parts of our nation's start and growth - the chattel slavery of Blacks, the Trail of Tears and other forced relocations of Native tribes into harsh reservations, the anti-Chinese riots, the anti-Mexican animosity - because they don't want to be reminded that their cozy wonderful lives were all built on the pain and suffering of others who just happened to be Black/Latino/Asian/Other.
These are the same people who tried to shut down AP History exams in 2014 because they feared those classes would teach kids to be "Un-American" due to all the racism being discussed.
The Far Right - the ignorant and ill-informed Republican Party from the lowest member to the fearful Governors right up to trump and Mitch and the Fox Not-News propagandists - don't want anyone to really see the warts and bruises of our American History: Because that might compel our nation to seek repairs, resolve old issues, heal old wounds... the same issues and wounds the Far Right twists into self-victimization of themselves in order to fearmonger to their audiences.
The goddamned Far Right would rather preach mythology than cope with the facts. They would impose silence where they cannot convince, and they will enforce their character by the sword of liars instead of the facts of history.
And that plays into that goddamned adage: Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it. But the Republicans WANT that, they want us to repeat the same mistakes because it keeps them in power. They want us to stay racist and broken, because it profits them to leave our nation that way.
We need to learn from our mistakes, we need to learn how racism hurt our nation, we need to comprehend how that racism keeps us weak not proud. We need to rebuild and become the stronger just nation our history bends toward.
We need to tell DeSantis and his fearmongering kind to go away. They're not protecting America, they're defending the soft weak worries of racists. Go away, you hypocrites and ignorant. We got better work to do.