Black leaders slam ‘racist ideology’ of DeSantis amid his so-called soft presidential launch

“He did this without any regard for how Black children would feel," said Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis this week released his new book “The Courage to Be Free,” which is largely seen as the soft launch of his yet-to-be-announced presidential run in the 2024 election. 

Though Donald Trump has a competitive edge over DeSantis in recent polling, the Florida governor is increasingly commanding headline attention for his political crusade against “woke” culture – including his efforts to ban Black history and LGBTQ+ discussions in classrooms.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – FEBRUARY 20: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis waves as he speaks to police officers about protecting law and order at Prive catering hall on February 20, 2023 in the Staten Island borough of New York City. DeSantis, a Republican, is expected by many to announce his candidacy for president in the coming weeks or months. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

As DeSantis appears poised to announce his bid for the White House, Black Democrats and community leaders are sounding off against him. 

“There’s a new group of leaders who are emerging that are a clear and present danger to democracy as we know it,” U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, the former chairman of the Jan. 6 Select Committee, told theGrio.

Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass – and former U.S. congresswoman – described DeSantis as “very scary” in a recent interview with theGrio.

Bass said the Florida leader is “bold enough to essentially try to erase our history to say that our history doesn’t matter because teaching it is dangerous [and] because it might ‘make white children feel bad.’”

The new mayor of the City of Angels added, “He did this without any regard for how Black children would feel.” 

Los Angeles, CA, Friday, February 17, 2023 – LA Mayor Karen Bass along with FBI, LAPD and Jewish community leaders at a press conference announcing the arrest of Jaime Tran for the attempted murder of two people outside separate synagogues. (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

While accepting the social justice award at the 54th annual NAACP Image Awards, famed civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump vowed to go after the state of Florida and Desantis for recently banning an advanced placement African-American studies course in the Sunshine State. Crump vowed “never to stop fighting racism and discrimination” in and outside the classroom.

Crump was met with thunderous applause as he shouted out a roll call of Black history luminaries: “Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglas, Ida B. Wells, Thurgood Marshall, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Shirley Chisholm and John Lewis.”

All of them mattered and played a vital role in shaping American history, said Crump. He argued that they were not “just mere footnotes in history” but rather “heroes” of American history.

DeSantis has the legal authority to ban the contested AP African-American studies course, as each state governs its own education system. Civil rights leaders and groups like Al Sharpton and the National Council of Negro Women have continued to protest the action, particularly after the College Board, which administers the AP course in question, notably amended its curriculum after DeSantis sought to ban it.

Ernest “Ernie” Green, a member of the Little Rock Nine – who famously helped integrate Little Rock Central High School in 1957 – told theGrio that DeSantis and other leaders like Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin are “on the wrong side of history.”  

Author Donna Walker Kuhn and Ernest Green, an original member of the Little Rock Nine, discuss “Little Rock” during a panel discussion at the Scholars Symposium at the March On Washington Film Festival on July 17, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images for March On Washington Film Festival)

Green, who along with eight others had to be escorted by the National Guard to enter his newly integrated high school 66 years ago, said that if the United States “wants to be competitive in the world” it has to recognize that “the world is Black and brown.”

The Little Rock Nine integrating Central High fulfilled the United States Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education. The 1954 court decision ruled that U.S. state laws establishing racial segregation in public schools were unconstitutional.

One of the attorneys who fought for integrating public schools in that Supreme Court case was a young civil rights lawyer named Thurgood Marshall, who would later become the first Black Supreme Court justice. 

Today, in 2023, critics say those vying for the White House in the Republican Party possess an ideology that is not inclusive of Black and minority communities. Former President Trump declared his second run for office in November 2022, as did former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, who has also aimed at teaching certain aspects of race in classrooms. Others like DeSantis and Republican U.S. Senator Tim Scott have yet to announce but are expected to as the campaign season nears.

Mayor Bass believes DeSantis is basing his campaign on “racist ideology,” which she thinks “appeals to those carrying tiki torches in Charlottesville,” referencing the deadly white nationalist “Unite the Right” rally in 2017.

Ultimately, she said, “this is a very dangerous moment in our country.” 

As for her former colleague in Congress Senator Tim Scott’s potential run for the White House, Bass believes he would be the juxtaposed alternative to DeSantis. She said of the Black Republican: “Where does he line up? I do not believe he will espouse what DeSantis is saying.”

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