Florida has become a training ground for white supremacy and we can’t afford to stand back and stand by. The NAACP is leading the charge as it always has, we need to follow.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has launched a full scale assault on Black history and the LGBTQ community. From blocking African American studies courses to book bans, from eliminating drag shows to his “Don’t Say Gay” bill, the fix is in. There is no culture war that DeSantis is not willing to champion, and for Florida, a state that not too long ago was considered a purple battleground and remains one of the most diverse states in America, this plunge into anti-equity, anti-civil rights waters is jarring.
Mind you, this is the same Florida that made it legal for motorists to hit protesters with their cars in the wake of the George Floyd protests in support of racial justice and police accountability. It’s scary stuff, and the NAACP has had enough.
The mainstay civil rights organization issued a travel advisory for Florida over DeSantis’ “aggressive attempt to erase Black history and to restrict diversity, equity and inclusion programs” in the state’s schools, the organization said in a statement. This is a smart and necessary move: Florida’s assault on public education, equity, civil rights and personhood has to be met with a strong and forceful counter. Lives are at stake. Our democracy is at stake.
You might wonder why this matters. DeSantis’ don’t say gay bill, officially known as the Parental Rights in Education bill, must have been driven by parents, right?
The question is, which parents. It’s the parents who want African American Studies banned who have DeSantis’s ear, the parents who want their kids’ exposure to our history of racism eradicated from their education.
And yes, it makes Florida dangerous for Black Americans. Because by eradicating student exposure to the very issues that set the stage for white supremacy and systemic racism, you not only tell half of a story; you fundamentally alter one of the core elements of the American experiment and make us ripe for a return of the worst chapters of our history.
We are not a perfect union, but we strive for it, and it is simply a fact that many of those strides fell on the backs of minority Americans who spent our history enduring a wide range of abuses and oppression. It’s by teaching that past to our children that we make sure never to repeat those lessons.
And yet, DeSantis is moving in the opposite direction, papering over important lessons in African American Studies about the Black Lives Matter movement, the plight of LGBT Black Americans, and the fight for reparations.
For a Republican Party that purportedly stands in support of free speech and limited government, Florida Republicans along with a growing number of conservative leaders have no problem throwing caution to the wind and heavily censoring speech and access to historical literature by Black authors.
And its not just public K-12 schools that DeSantis’ anti-equity and anti-Black laws are coming for; he is also overhauling diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts in Florida’s state universities. Earlier this month, DeSantis signed legislation to defund DEI programs for all state universities.
America may well be nearing a high stakes race war, and Florida is on the wrong side of history.
DeSantis’ anti-LGBT crusade has also raised alarm. As we continue to see a rise in mental health concerns (up to and including suicide) in school-aged children, there couldn’t be a worse time to implement policies that threaten LGBT youth.
Yet DeSantis and the Republican party don’t seem to care.The NAACP does. Florida tourism dollars amount to over $40 billion each year. The Sunshine State’s economy is highly dependent on families visiting, businesses hosting conferences and events, a bounty of beaches, and of course Mickey Mouse to attract tourists from across the U.S. But today, with threats to the safety, security, and basic right to exist of LGBT and Black people, its time to rethink where our dollars are spent.
The Green Book was a lifesaving guide for Black travelers during the Jim Crow era. It helped Black Americans avoid sundown towns, physical violence, and whites-only areas, giving travelers a better sense of what was safe and what wasn’t. Under DeSantis, Florida isn’t safe for Blacks or the LGBT population.
By turning its back on African American Studies, Florida may well become a training ground for white supremacy, and we can’t afford to stand back and stand by. The NAACP is leading the charge as it always has, we need to follow.
Ameshia Cross is a democratic strategist for national, state and local campaigns, a regular political commentator and contributor on MSN, NBC, BBC, SiriusXM, iHeart Radio and more. She is also a former campaign and communications advisor for President Obama.
Feature image: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks with attendees during an Iowa GOP reception on May 13, 2023 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Although he has not yet announced his candidacy, Gov. DeSantis has received the endorsement of 37 Iowa lawmakers for the Republican presidential nomination next year. (Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)