By Dr. Adora Obi Nweze, President,

Florida State Conference NAACP

 Governor Ron DeSantis is running hard on racism. It is the central message of his presidential campaign filled with a hate speech platform patterned after the White supremacy segregationists of the 1950s and 60’s. It is a stunning reproduction of the Jim Crow mantra of that era with different labels.  But the mission is obvious, and people of color are very clear about what they are looking at. I remember watching a cable news show where a Black woman commented on the DeSantis slogan, “Florida is where Woke goes to die.” She angrily said, “I’m not going back to slavery. Never!”

The threat to our quality of life and freedom is obvious, but the real target is public education, the great equalizer. DeSantis started his campaign on race by pushing the myth of Critical Race Theory.  We know it doesn’t exist. But according to the governor’s misinformation talking points, teaching Black history was indoctrination designed to make White children feel guilty about the horrors of slavery and America’s mistreatment of Blacks. The conjuring resulted in the blatant efforts to sanitize social study curriculum and eliminate Black history altogether.

The Board of Education is now preparing to train teachers on the guidelines for teaching Black history.  They call it strands that are attached to codes dictating who or what will be discussed in the categories. Here are examples of acceptable individuals in the selected categories.

Identify African American community leaders who made positive contributions to the state of Florida (e.g., Zora Neale Hurston, Florida Highwaymen, Mary McLeod Bethune, Evan B. Forde, Bessie Coleman, Gen. Daniel “Chappie” James, Bob Hayes, Sylvia Fowles).

What about slain civil rights leader Harry T. Moore and his wife killed when their home was bombed? Or Dr. Frederick S Humphries, FAMU President who elevated the HBCU to Ivey League status with merit scholar recruitment. And C. K. Steele one of the originators of the civil rights movement and the bus boycotts?

The conspicuous mission to rewrite Black history unfolds in the section on slavery in America. They redirect the focus to human bondage in Asia, Africa, and South America before 1619. And they go deep into the colonial slave-holding states, countless laws, and proposed legislation. Finally, the directives ease into the justification for the South’s coveted human commodity. They spin it as a necessity that met the needs of a booming economy. More disturbing is the description of slave labor.

Benchmark Clarifications: Clarification 1: Instruction includes the trades of slaves (e.g., musicians, healers, blacksmiths, carpenters, shoemakers, weavers, tailors, sawyers, hostlers, silversmiths, cobblers, wheelwrights, wigmakers, milliners, painters, coopers). Clarification 2: Instruction includes the variety of locations slaves worked (e.g., homes, farms, onboard ships, shipbuilding industry).

Slavery was not an apprenticeship. It was forced labor and horrific abuse that was a stain on a nation that was built on the principles of freedom. We don’t need to be reminded of all this or the fact that the United States was the last “civilized” nation to outlaw slavery. And we had to fight a terrible civil war to get there.  Remember there were no complaints about Black history until DeSantis made it an ominous threat to White privilege. We didn’t hear any children complaining about being overwhelmed by guilt. But the volume of guidelines and restrictions causes a chilling effect on teaching Black history at all. That was probably the original intent.  And the audacity of the DeSantis cohorts devolved into school board bullying, circus-like book bans, and a war on the truth.

Unfortunately, the Sunshine State is now branded “the state where racism comes to thrive.” Fortunately, the governor’s strategy is not working well.   He is tanking in the polls nationally and in Florida. Thankfully, we will have the final say.

Dr. Adora Obi Nweze, President of the Florida State Conference of the NAACP, is a former Dade County teacher and administrator.  In its most recent action, the Florida NAACP  issued a travel warning to Black visitors urging caution because Florida was “hostile to Blacks.”




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