Black congressional members blast DeSantis for Florida’s ‘racist’ school curriculum

“Slavery was a racist, oppressive evil crime against humanity...[it] was not designed to benefit African Americans,” said Hakeem Jeffries, House Minority Leader

Credit: Nathan Howard/Getty Images

Members of Congress are slamming Florida Governor Ron DeSantis after he doubled down on the state’s controversial school curriculum on slavery. 

While in Iowa on the campaign trail, DeSantis told a reporter on Thursday that the Florida Department of Education’s new course standard to teach students that enslaved people benefited during slavery was misinterpreted and that the “particular provision about the skills…was in spite of slavery not because of it.” 

Presidential candidate and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks to a crowd on June 2, 2023 in Gilbert, South Carolina. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

However, the 200-page social studies standard language is clear and states: “Instruction includes how slavese developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.” 

During his weekly press conference, House of Representatives Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., told theGrio that some GOP leaders are “trying to take us backward and turn back the clock.

“Slavery was a racist, oppressive evil crime against humanity…[it] was not designed to benefit African Americans,” said Jeffries. 

He continued: “There are people here in America who…want to rewrite history and say that slavery benefited the people who were victims of enslavement. That’s outrageous. That’s unacceptable.”

Democratic Leader Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) speaks during a news conference on January 5, 2023 in Washington, DC. The House of Representatives will continue to try to elect the next Speaker after Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) failed to earn more than 218 votes on six ballots over two days, the first time in 100 years that the Speaker was not elected on the first ballot. (Photo by Nathan Howard/Getty Images) Credit: Nathan Howard/Getty Images

Earlier in the day, Congressional Black Caucus Chairman, Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev., and other members of the CBC, like Reps. Maxwell Frost, D-Fla., Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, and Bobby Scott, D-Va., held a press conference on the state of race and democracy in the U.S. and condemned DeSantis for Florida’s new school curriculum. 

While speaking to reporters, Horsford said Republican leaders like DeSantis “want to hold us back.”

“The current governor of Florida and Republican presidential candidate, and the Florida Board of Education want to…gaslight us into believing that slavery was just a work skills program,” said Horsford. 

He added, “A notion so ridiculous and incendiary that it insults every sensible American.” 

Congressman Horsford told reporters that the U.S. is still dealing with “remnants from a bygone era” because “in many ways we have never truly dealt with the systems that enabled this oppression.”

WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 9: Congressional Black Caucus chairman Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV) speaks during a news conference about the Justice For All Act outside the U.S. Capitol March 9, 2023 in Washington, DC. The bill, introduced by Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), aims to strengthen anti-discrimination laws. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Frost told reporters that his home state of Florida “feels like the epicenter of the bigoted attacks against Black communities, and even Black history, because we have a far-right governor and legislature that literally want to erase us.”

He added, “Erase us in schools. Erase us in history. Erase our books.”

Last week, Frost and other members of the CBC sent a letter to the Florida Department of Education to call “out their racist attempts to whitewash Black history.”

The 26-year-old freshman congressman told reporters that some Republicans see younger generations as a threat.

U.S. Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-FL) questions witness during a a House House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on the U.S. southern border, in the Rayburn House Office Building on February 07, 2023 in Washington, DC. The committee held a hearing to investigate security concerns at the U.S. southern border. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

“[Their] goal is to condition this generation to white supremacy because they see this generation as pushing against this far-right wing fascist ideology,” he said. Frost added, “We want our freedoms.”

GOP lawmakers see the power of young people as an “existential threat to the Republican Party,” said Frost. 

“They aim to change the way a generation thinks by changing what we teach them,” he added. “But little do they know not only will it not work, it will piss us off and move young people to go and organize.”

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