Adora Obi

When things get tough, we know how to come together. Compassion is usually the powerful unifying force when we confront these challenges. And despite our differences, even racial differences, our circumstances are improved as a result. My hope is that we use our humanity to deal with the troubling issues cropping up all around us.

It really bothers me that time and again, we’ve witnessed our history ignored, sugarcoated or erased. Enter Gov. Ron DeSantis, who picked up the sad old racist playbook to further divide us with his latest move to interfere with the public school curriculum.

DeSantis has chosen to ignore 40 years of research and evidence of institutional racism in America. He proclaimed, “There is no room in our classrooms for things like critical race theory.” In other words, it appears that he wants to sweep away information detailing the influence of racism in American history, and years of policy decisions that intensified the divide between the races. DeSantis tried to disguise his true intent by increasing state funding for civics courses and dangled the carrot of a $3,000 teacher bonus to those who embraced and completed training in “civics professional development.”

Historians, sociologists and scholars of every kind recognize the critical race theory which affirms institutional racism in our laws. The governor’s refusal to recognize institutional racism is racist in itself. He doesn’t seem to understand that he just cannot wipe away the facts, because we live it every day. Racism is a thread woven throughout American culture since 1619, when colonists brutalized and enslaved Africans, and firmly enshrined the idea of white supremacy in the new nation. The 1619 Project is another detailed record of our sad racial legacy of hate. He refuses to accept those facts.

But even more disturbing is DeSantis’ obsession with denying the facts and attempting to rewrite history using the public schools. It is a sobering strategy that, if implemented, would result in violating the tenet of education: teaching the truth. Very telling is who DeSantis has engaged in helping with curriculum – Betsy DeVos, a sworn enemy of public schools. The project represents history denial and the expenditure of dwindling state dollars to create a small group spreading misinformation. We need to stand together as we have in the past and call out the governor’s apparent attempt to weaponize race and sanitize our history.

I'm not one to mince words. This policy is a dangerous attempt to continue a racist and divisive mantra in Florida public schools. It is clear that people want our democracy to be inclusive for all. That is what defines it. Racism comes in many forms, and it is the most egregious form of hate.

Rather than divide us, I call on the governor to work with us to move Florida forward. We must continue to learn from the past, not deny it.

Adora Obi Nweze serves as president of the NAACP Florida State Conference. She spent decades as a classroom teacher and administrator in Florida’s public schools.

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