A campaign to erase Black history goes far beyond Florida — and must be opposed.
When Florida Governor Ron DeSantis criticized the curriculum for a new Advanced Placement African American Studies course designed by The College Board, prompting the Florida State Board of Education to ban it in Florida schools, it gained national attention. But this is just the latest move in an effort to erase the legacy and history of minority groups in this country — an astounding 42 states have some form of legislation in the works that would ban or restrict so-called “divisive concepts” like critical race theory (CRT).
But it’s not really about divisive concepts. It’s about erasing aspects of American history certain groups don’t want to acknowledge. CRT, for example, is a college-level theory studying the ways race and racism intersect in our legal system, and is not being taught in any elementary school anywhere.
“Anything around Black history, anything around LGBTQIA+ rights, anything around women’s history is now sort of lumped into this category of ‘critical race theory,’” noted Jade Magnus Ogunnaike, vice president of corporate power at Color of Change. “It’s a way to keep them from being taught in schools.”
Color of Change is the nation’s largest racial justice organization. “Our role is to make a more human and less hostile world for Black people,” Ogunnaike said. “We’re seeing anything that makes us as a country and as American people more tolerant, more loving — anything that acknowledges the incredible advances that Black people, women, and queer people have made over the past century are things that Ron DeSantis and people like him want to erase.”
Color of Change notes that DeSantis’ move to ban the AP course in Florida was endorsed by the Florida State Board of Education, which has a distinct corporate influence. Members of the board include Joe York (president of AT&T Florida and the Caribbean) and Monesia Brown, director of public affairs and government relations at Walmart.
“It is really disturbing,” Ogunnaike said. “Corporations shouldn’t be involved in Black history. They shouldn’t be involved in education at all.”
A moral issue
Ogunnaike believes it’s a mistake to frame this issue as a liberal-vs-conservative or Democrat-vs-Republican divide. “It’s not about left or right,” she says. “This is a moral issue around right and wrong.”
The publicity surrounding DeSantis’ controversial moves may have a silver lining if it inspires more parents to get involved in local school boards and PTA meetings, where versions of this strategy are being employed nationwide.
“Show up,” Ogunnaike advised. “It’s incredibly important that parents show up to those meetings. There are plenty of Black parents, plenty of queer parents, plenty of LatinX parents, or Asian parents, or white parents who do want their children to be taught these things. But they’re not being heard.”
Ogunnaike also suggests looking at the lists of banned books created in places like Florida. “Look at those banned books lists and buy those books,” she said. “Reason for yourself. If you are confused or curious about this fight about critical race theory, if you’re not sure what’s real and what’s fake, buy these books and take a look at them yourself.”
Once it’s clear that erasing Black history is erasing American history, the next step is also clear. “Join with Color of Change in our fight against corporate power,” Ogunnaike implored. “We are leading a monthlong push against Walmart and AT&T to take a stand — you are saying ‘Happy Black History Month,’ but you are erasing Black history from our schools.”
To learn more and join the movement, visit colorofchange.org/blackhistorynow and sign our petition to Demand that Textbook Publishers Fight Back Against Efforts to White-Wash Black History