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Is Ron DeSantis a Racist for Rejecting African American Studies Course?

by Dee Dee Bass Wilbon and Deana Bass Williams

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) recently denied the inclusion of an Advanced Placement African American Studies (APAAS) course in the Florida high school curriculum. The decision immediately elicited cries of racism from the left and wholesale praise from the right.

Before we weighed in, we performed due diligence to understand what is being taught in the course. On the surface, the course sounds safe enough. We have long shared our belief that Black History is American History. When Black American History is taught, it becomes clear that America survives and thrives in no small part because of the patriotic, entrepreneurial and faith-driven character of Black Americans. Our ongoing digital series Our American Story shares the broad and beautiful history of the Black American experience.

If Governor DeSantis objects to teaching African American History to high school students in Florida, we would be the first to criticize his actions. The College Board administers the AP program. They should be the go-to source for information about what is being taught. In light of the controversy, why not openly share the curriculum if they were simply teaching African American History? Doing so would show respect to educators and empower parents. Unfortunately, the College Board’s website is light on information. Relying on the media coverage from the left and right-leaning media outlets has offered more insight into what is actually being taught.

Right-leaning outlets like The Federalist report that Voodoo is being taught and celebrated. In December, the Washington Post took readers inside one of the pilot classrooms testing the curriculum. The Baltimore students and instructor seemed enthusiastic about the course. But it did seem to paint a rosy picture of Voodoo and gloss over deadly and harmful aspects of the practice. A video that the students were instructed to view painted Voodoo as just another religion that White Americans marginalized because black Haitians practiced it. Based on the first-person reporting of what took place in the classroom, we say the claims about Voodoo in the course are valid.

While we found it reported that the course includes lessons on queer studies, we found nothing of that in the at-your-fingertips resources produced by the College Board. We can understand why they would bury this. The LGBTQ movement has advanced by conflating its struggle with the African American Civil Rights struggle. Even as Blacks are more sensitive to equal treatment for all groups, most Black Americans continue to have conservative views on LGBTQ and queer lifestyles. The inclusion of queer studies in a course about African American History is yet another example of education being high-jacked by people who do not speak for parents and do not have the best interest of students at heart.

Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, one of the course advisors, told the Washington Post that the goal of the course was to avoid oversimplification of Black History. When diversity of thought is included in Black History, that History is less likely to be oversimplified. But with lessons painting only glorified views of the Black Lives Matter global movement, the reparations movement, queer studies, and Voodoo, ideological diversity does not appear to be on the syllabus.

The best way to understand what is in the curriculum is for the College Board to openly share the curriculum with parents and the press. Based on everything we can see from the course, DeSantis is once again being labeled a racist for doing nothing more than empowering parents and protecting students.

The Bass Sisters: Dee Dee Bass Wilbon and Deana Bass Williams are sisters and co-founders of Bass Public Affairs a Washington, DC based public affairs firm. They co-host the podcast Policy and Pound Cake. Their ongoing digital series Our American Story shares the broad and beautiful history of the Black American experience.

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