A quartet of Black Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives has boldly stood up against what they identify as “racist tropes” in Florida’s new K-12 history curriculum. The curriculum, shockingly, promotes the idea that slavery somehow served to benefit those enslaved. This contentious stance triggered a passionate response from the group, who voiced their outrage on Friday.
In a forthright letter to the Department of Education Commissioner and Board of Education Chairman of Florida, Representatives Maxwell Alejandro Frost, Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, and Frederica Wilson, along with Congressional Black Caucus Chair Steven Horsford, lambasted the decision to distort history in a way that perpetuates white supremacy. They condemn this strategy as a massive insult to not only Black Americans and descendants of slaves but also to the intelligence of the American people.
The lawmakers criticize the newly approved standards, which they argue distort the truth of American history with falsities that undermine the unique racial terror experienced by Black people throughout the nation’s history. They express concern that these skewed standards would foster a generation of Floridians alienated from reality and disadvantaged outside of their state borders.
The curriculum’s outrageous proposition that enslaved people could somehow benefit from the “skills” they developed has made national headlines. However, the legislators stress that this isn’t the only falsehood being propagated. Middle schoolers, they point out, are also taught to downplay the horrors of American slavery by comparing it to servitude practices in Asian, European, and African cultures, among other things.
Furthermore, the high school curriculum lists atrocities committed against Black people as “acts of violence perpetrated against and by African Americans”, a phrasing that insidiously assigns blame to the victims.
In the face of this controversial curriculum, these four lawmakers demand that the Florida Board of Education reconsider its decision. They argue that failing to repeal these standards would resurrect the worst aspects of the nation’s past, forcing our children to live in its shadow.
This quartet is not alone in their outrage. Fellow critics include U.S. Representative Jamaal Bowman and Congressman Jonathan Jackson. Bowman, a former teacher, and principal, labeled the new curriculum an attempt to rewrite history and ignore America’s legacy of racial exploitation and violence. Jackson, the son of civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson, called for an honest approach to our history, no matter how uncomfortable it might be.
This uproar comes in the wake of Florida Governor and potential 2024 GOP presidential candidate Ron DeSantis’ previous controversial decision to reject an Advanced Placement course on African American studies. It’s clear that the battle to ensure an accurate, unbiased education is far from over. Let’s hope that voices like Frost, Cherfilus-McCormick, Wilson, and Horsford continue to resonate, championing the truth against historical revisionism.