Harris takes aim at Florida black history rules promoted by DeSantis

WASHINGTON (FloridaToday.news) — Vice President Kamala Harris makes a last-minute trip to Florida on Friday to discuss changes to state education standards that critics say downplay the horror of slavery.

This is the latest example of Harris being the White House’s custodian of cultural issues such as race, schooling and abortion, championed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, the Republican presidential nominee.

The Florida Board of Education voted Wednesday to approve a revised black history curriculum that meets legislation DeSantis says is needed to prevent liberal indoctrination.

The new curriculum includes instructions on how the slaves benefited from the skills they acquired. In the lower grades, he also focuses more on the accomplishments of African Americans rather than the injustice they faced due to slavery and segregation.

Harris already considered the decision Thursday in Indianapolis, where she spoke at the Delta Sigma Theta sorority’s national convention.

She said the “extremists” were promoting a “revisionist story” according to which “slaves benefited from slavery”.

“They are insulting us in an attempt to gaslight and we will not tolerate that,” Harris said.

She added that “there is so much at stake right now: our most basic rights and freedoms, fact versus fiction, the founding principles of what it means to be a democracy.”

Harris avoids referring to DeSantis by name, instead referring more generally to “so-called leaders” who she says deprive Americans of their rights and manipulate history for political purposes.

President Joe Biden and Harris launched their election campaign around the protection of freedoms.

In a video announcing his bid for a second term, Biden warned of Republicans “dictating what health decisions women can make, banning books and telling people who they can love, all of which makes it hard for you to vote.”

Christian Ziegler, chairman of the Florida Republican Party, said that Harris was ignoring problems on the U.S.-Mexico border in order to “teach Florida parents that their children belong to the government, and the government has the right to indoctrinate and sexualize our children.”

He said that “government overuse of parental rights has already been rejected by a large majority in Florida.”

Harris will speak Friday in Jacksonville, a rare Democrat spot of light in Florida, where party nominee Donna Deegan was elected mayor in May.

Despite being a swing state for a long time, Florida is becoming safer for Republicans and has recently moved to the right under DeSantis.

As governor, he signed into law a number of education issues, such as banning drag shows in schools and introducing new toilet requirements for transgender people.

In 2022, he signed into law what he called the Stop the Awakening Act, which restricts the teaching of race in schools and which the governor used to criticize critical race theory, a subject he called “crap.” Essentially, the law states that students cannot be made to feel guilty about their race because of the injustices of the past.

Critics said the law was an attempt by DeSantis to suppress an accurate account of black history. The law is being challenged in court.

“The full measure of African-American history is not the elected Rosa Parks here and Martin Luther King Jr. there,” said Democratic State Senator Bobby Powell, who is black. “This is a vast collection of stories spanning several centuries, lessons in cruelty and inhumanity intertwined with the determination of people to live and breathe freely. This is as much the story of Florida as the story of the whole country, and it needs to be told in its entirety.”

Earlier this year, the DeSantis administration rejected a College Board graduate course on African American history that DeSantis said was “indoctrination.”

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