DeSantis’ racist vision of Florida calls for a new, overdue civil rights movement | Opinion

Attorney Ben Crump, left, stands with the three Leon County high school students who are threatening to file a lawsuit against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and his administration if they ban a proposed Advanced Placement course on African American Studies in Florida schools, Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2023, in the Capitol in Tallahassee, Fla.

It was about time Florida’s Black leadership got mad.

Really, really mad.

Enough to descend on the Capitol Rotunda, bring in a big-name lawyer and stake a vigorous claim in the fight for the rights of African Americans, under threat from a hostile state government and its policy enforcers at the local level.

Too much is at stake — the downgrading of educational programs and the suppression of voting and civil rights to accommodate the ideals of a white, ultra-conservative, Christian-only prism — not only for Florida, but for the nation as well.

“We are here to give notice to Gov. DeSantis,’’ said civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who was surrounded by a cheering crowd that should’ve been a lot larger, as urgent times demand.

“If he does not negotiate with the College Board to allow AP African-American Studies to be taught in the classrooms across the state of Florida,” he said, “these three young people will be the lead plaintiffs.’’

Beside Crump stood a Black female, a white female and a Black male, all Leon County high-school students. They became eloquent visuals to emphasize a point that hasn’t been made strongly enough: While DeSantis sold his “parental rights” restrictions as only affecting younger students, that’s far from the truth.

And, as teachers around Florida clear their bookshelves and submit their classroom libraries to “vetting,” DeSantis already is foreshadowing that he’ll sign into law more “anti-woke” legislation to expand what he has started.

READ MORE: Americans want to know what Gov. DeSantis’ definition of ‘woke’ is. He’s not saying | Opinion

Pushback overdue

Vocal pushback — the kind we saw this week, high optics, decisive action from African-American leaders and allies — has been long overdue.

Floridians could’ve used a heap of it during the last legislative session.

Surely, Democratic state representatives and senators worked hard within the system to mitigate DeSantis’ harmful initiatives. But with Republicans overpowering every move with a solid majority, they didn’t have a shot.

They needed a show of support from Floridians backing them beyond denunciations on Twitter and eloquent letters to the editor and op-eds in newspapers — and didn’t get it.

As election results show, DeSantis won his anti-woke culture war.

What’s happening with the revision of African-American studies is the result of the spate of DeSantis measures passed — from crackdowns on absentee voting to educational reforms that whitewash Black history and bad-mouth gayness.

All of the laws intimidate, keeping many parents and educators mum, and voters at home instead of at the polls defeating him. They disproportionately affect minority communities, and that alone should have sent those voters in record numbers to the polls.

But the opposite happened.

People cowered under the weight of the power DeSantis exudes to quash any opposition, from anti-protest laws that ended Black Lives Matter demonstrations in Florida to the arrests of Black ex-felons who thought their rights had been restored and were given voter identification cards.

It’s high time to fight harder and wiser.

If not with 1960s-style marching, then with a new, visual modern version of widespread protest. Litigation is one way. Calling things by their name is another. Why didn’t legislators forcefully denounce — all along the legislative process — DeSantis’ sanitizing of the Black experience for what it was?


Then, when the worst of the worst came to pass, they seemed shell-shocked.

Say the word — and regroup.

DeSantis’ racist vision for Florida calls for the rebirth of a civil-rights movement in the state. Enough waiting for him to morph into the moderate Republican he isn’t, the same way the Washington media kept waiting for Donald Trump to pivot into a decent, law-abiding human.

DeSantis will only get worse in his pursuit of the White House.

Twice victorious, DeSantis launched his gubernatorial career camouflaging his anti-Black, anti-gay, anti-immigrant agenda with dog-whistle language.

Now, he has no qualms defending his racist Utopian state.

Queer Black history

Two days before the Crump rally, the governor doubled down on his administration’s rejection of Advanced Placement African-American studies, lashing out at the critical race theory he says the college-prep course embodied.

“This course, when I heard it didn’t meet the standards, I figured, ‘Yeah, they may be doing CRT,’’’ DeSantis said at a Monday event in Jacksonville. “It’s way more than that. This course on Black history, what [is] one of the lessons about? Queer Theory. Now, who would say that’s an important part of Black history, Queer Theory? That is somebody pushing an agenda on our kids.”

The governor, unfortunately, doesn’t watch NBC News or any other serious media that chronicles Black or LGBTQ+ history. Why wouldn’t there be Black gays — and prominent ones, too?

Someone needs to point him to the segment on “the queer Black trailblazers who made history.”

Division works for DeSantis

Every week, evidence mounts that, despite his divisive politics, DeSantis is gaining ground (at least, on Fox News) as a serious GOP presidential contender. For one, there’s talk of the U.S. House of Representatives forming an “Anti-Woke Caucus” to save America from Democrats they insist on calling socialists and communists.

Our fight for an inclusive Florida isn’t a local fight anymore.

Of course, DeSantis may welcome the return fire for the headlines it will generate.

But what’s the alternative?

Letting him demean, diminish and erase communities on his way to the White House?