Florida Department of Education, supported by DeSantis administration, initiated political attack on Black history. [Opinion]
History connects us to our roots, which is one of the reasons why I appreciate the academic discipline. It serves to bridge the understanding of where we’ve been as a country, with our propensity to dream of our potential as a nation, by remembering, and not repeating the atrocities of our past. It appears the Florida Department of Education, supported by the DeSantis administration, has taken an opposing viewpoint, and has initiated a political attack on Black history. The history of the United States is incomplete without the uncensored inclusion of its Black citizenry. Yet it intends to insult, diminish, and erase the importance with its baseless “indoctrination” reference. Black history is not indoctrination!
On Tuesday, July 25, 2023, the country established national monuments to honor the life of Emmett Till, who would’ve turned 82 this week, and his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, in Monuments in Mississippi and Illinois. Many have asked why the White House took this historic step. It took this step because as we look at the word “monument” we find it is taken from the Latin monumentum or (“memorial”), and from monēre (“to remind”). The fact that we can remember and be reminded of Emmett Till‘s senseless murder is precisely why the censorship of Black history cannot be allowed. Till’s murder had such a profound and historical impact on American society and the Civil Rights movement. And yes, it is a painful piece of our history, especially as we recall the images of his 14-year-old body in the aftermath of the 1955 murder. Does the state of Florida want to erase this and other notable events from the annals of American history?
Let’s be abundantly clear — any attempt to change the way Black history is taught impedes learning and promotes the foundation of intellectual dishonesty. Moreover, there are numerous moral and ethical problems with state sanctioned revisionism of the notable contributions of Blacks to the formation and building of this country. It denies students of every racial and ethnic group the opportunity to learn and understand why accuracy and truthfulness are important, and how they offset misrepresentations that serve to perpetuate stigma and stereotypes.
Censorship of Black history perpetuates systemic bias and reinforces a skewed view of history. This willful and outrageous effort on the part of Florida, places our country on a slippery slope. To minimize Black history only serves as a reminder of a dark period in which researchers were bent on rewriting and erasing the history of the Jews, during the rise of Nazi Germany. It is a dangerous, isolated, political endeavor that has far reaching implications and shows a deep-rooted disdain for Black people in America.
It is not lost on this writer that many aspects of Black history involve painful and traumatic events and deplorable conditions. These events and conditions, however, are no more painful and devastating than those that make up the totality of the American experience. It is essential that we approach these topics with sensitivity, considering the emotional impact on all students, while still maintaining transparency, and discussing the truth about historical injustices, while promoting a comprehensive understanding of history for all students.
To erase the turbulent, traumatic legacy of African Americans in this country, beginning in 1619, is nothing short of the compelling move to show insensitivity and advance a complete rejection of any attempt to reinforce the underpinnings of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in our schools. The complete and accurate depiction and inclusion of Black history throughout schools in the United States must be the accepted policy.
During the Civil Rights Movement, I remember the images on the Edmund Pettus Bridge on what has become known as “Bloody Sunday.” What started out as a peaceful, Sunday morning protest march from Selma-to-Montgomery, Alabama for voting rights, ended when state and local lawmen mercilessly beat the marchers, led by the late Congressman John Lewis and other Civil Rights leaders. Many readers of this article may not have a recollection of what happened on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, on March 7, 1965. If the state of Florida has its way, many students will never know the significance of this period in our history, and that, I offer, is “a bridge too far.”
- Black History Book, shutterstock_1558173530: Shutterstock