In the ongoing struggle for racial equality and educational integrity, the recent actions taken by the Florida Board of Education are deeply concerning, as a civil rights advocate, as an attorney, and as a Black mother. Approving a new set of standards that turn back the clock by rewriting Black history in the state’s public schools is a cataclysmic step in the wrong direction. These changes not only endanger the education of students but also perpetuate offensive narratives, particularly for descendants of slaves.
At a time when states like California are taking steps towards reparations, Florida’s attempt to falsify historical records is alarming. The new standards appear to obscure the forced nature of labor endured by enslaved Africans and perpetuate a distorted version of American history. Critical Race Theory, which aims to analyze systemic racism, has been under attack in recent times, bringing us to an inflection point in our history.
The Florida Board of Education’s rejection of an Advanced Placement African American Studies course for high school students, claiming it lacked educational value, is a clear indication of their unwillingness to acknowledge and confront the full truth of American history. By doing so, they deny students the opportunity to understand the deep-rooted injustices faced by African Americans throughout history.
Furthermore, the new standards include instructions for middle school students that suggest slaves developed skills for their personal benefit. This type of revisionist approach ignores the painful reality of slavery and the horrendous conditions under which enslaved Africans lived and worked. Such a narrative minimizes the atrocities of slavery and undermines the struggle for civil rights and racial justice.
Additionally, when teaching about events such as the 1920 Ocoee massacre or other racially motivated massacres, the new rules require instruction to include “acts of violence perpetrated against and by African Americans.” While acknowledging these atrocities is important, framing the discussion in this way may inadvertently perpetuate stereotypes and reinforce harmful biases.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) rightfully condemns these new standards, advocating for the teaching of the truth, justice, and equity that our ancestors fought for. It is essential to recognize that the horrors of slavery and Jim Crow were human rights violations and represent some of the darkest periods in American history.
Supporters of these changes argue that they incorporate all aspects of African American history, including the good, the bad, and the ugly. However, this argument is flawed. Providing a comprehensive history should not involve whitewashing the past nor ignoring the immense struggles faced by marginalized communities. Instead, we should approach history with nuance and honesty, acknowledging both achievements and injustices.
The Florida Education Association, representing teachers across the state, rightly calls these new standards a disservice to students. Education should equip young minds with a full and honest picture of our past, enabling them to build a better future. By erasing important aspects of history, the board is depriving students of a world-class education that promotes understanding, compassion, and unity.
In a time when our country is grappling with its legacy of racial discrimination and injustice, it is essential that we confront our history with courage and honesty. Attempts to revise history to fit a particular political agenda only deepen divisions and hinder progress towards a more inclusive society.
Florida must reconsider these dangerous and offensive changes to its educational standards. As a nation, we must ensure that our students are equipped with the knowledge and understanding needed to build a better and more equitable future for all. This can only be achieved by teaching the unvarnished truth of American history and acknowledging the contributions, struggles, and resilience of African Americans and other marginalized communities. Let us not repeat the mistakes of the past but instead, learn from them and strive for a brighter, more just future.
Areva Martin, Esq. is America’s go-to expert, host and commentator on compelling legal, political, women’s, children’s and celebrity issues. She is the Founder and President of Special Needs Network, a nonprofit grassroots organization responding to underserved communities.