Republicans Diminishing the Cruelty of Black Slavery is a Loser’s Play

New York Public Library via Picryl.com

Florida Governor DeSantis is downplaying Black Slavery by orchestrating a new educational instructions plan, Florida’s State Academic Standards — Social Studies, 2023, prompted by a new law he pushed.

DeSantis had the Republican-controlled legislature pass the “Stop W.O.K.E. Act,” the acronym stands for “Wrong to our Kids and Employees.” It was designed to stop “wokeness,” which Republicans define as focusing on historical injustices that may create a false sense of responsibility among those who were not responsible. All public schools are required to use the new instructional plan.

Specifically, teachers could not make students feel “guilty for past actions committed by their race, and they could not imply that meritocracy is racist or that people are privileged or oppressed based on race, gender, or national origin.” In other words, teachers could not raise the issue that institutional racism exists.

The first seventeen pages of the plan set guidelines for teaching African American Studies in public schools beginning in the 5th grade. Read this section in the new academic standards. You will be surprised by what initially appears to be a comprehensive identification of essential issues around Black slavery and culture. However, it had some critical gaffs. And it included a misleading statement, reprinted below, that ignited a national controversy about the new plan.

The wording is found on page 6 of the plan.

Examine the various duties and trades performed by slaves (e.g., agricultural

work, painting, carpentry, tailoring, domestic service, blacksmithing,

transportation).

Benchmark Clarifications:
Clarification 1: Instruction includes how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.

A takeaway can easily assume that enslaved Blacks picked up trade skills they could use once freed for personal benefit. That is, once they escaped slavery or the Confederacy lost the civil war. The plan carefully avoids implying that the South losing the war was a good thing that allowed the slaves to employ those skills.

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