Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis continues to dig his heels in over his state’s African American history curriculum. On Monday, he wrote a formal letter inviting Vice President Kamala Harris to Florida to discuss the new standards pushing the idea that slavery benefited enslaved people.
“One would think that the White House would applaud such boldness in teaching the unique and important story of African American History,” wrote DeSantis. “But you have instead attempted to score cheap political points and label Florida parents ‘extremists.’ It’s past time to set the record straight.”
In the letter, DeSantis writes that he’s prepared to meet with the Vice President as early as Wednesday. “Clearly, you have no trouble ducking down to Florida on short notice,” quipped DeSantis, noting Harris’ previous trip to the state to discuss the new standards.
To be clear, the record that DeSantis wants to set straight is about new curriculum standards passed by Florida education officials that, among other things, would teach public school students that there are were actual benefits to Black folks who had been enslaved. Given that American slavery’s legacies include rape, torture, brutal murders, the forced breakup of families, forced illiteracy, forced breeding of humans for their enslavers’ economic benefit and a bloody Civil War, not to mention the centuries-long social, political and economic disenfranchisement of Black people that continues to this day, we’re not sure exactly what those benefits might have been. We’re even less sure Mr. Anti-Woke has any idea, either.
Harris, who called the new curriculum “revisionist history,” seems quite unlikely that she will take DeSantis up on his offer. But his challenge says much more about DeSantis’ willingness to dig his heels in over his thoughts on slavery than his relationship with the Vice President.
At this point, several of DeSantis’ 2024 primary opponents have spoken out against the new standards, including Senator Tim Scott, Former Vice President Mike Pence, and Former Texas Congressman Will Hurd.
Even the group tasked with putting the curriculum together seems to have raised concerns. Three members of the working group reportedly told NBC News that the majority of the team disagreed with the more “controversial” aspects of the curriculum. According to NBC’s reporting, the suggestion that slavery benefitted enslaved people wasn’t their only issue with the new curriculum. The working group also raised concerns about requiring schools to teach about violence perpetuated by Black Americans within the context of horrific acts of violence against the Black community, including the Tulsa Race massacre.
This particular fight isn’t a great look for DeSantis, who is hemorrhaging money and desperately needs to look like a serious candidate and not a less interesting Donald Trump knock-off. And it’s certainly taking up more air-time than his newly unveiled economic plan, which was intended to make him look strong on policy. For now, it seems DeSantis is committed to trying to gaslight the nation into believing slavery was a good thing, regardless of how ridiculous it looks from the outside.