This is an opinion column.
Leave me alone. Leave us alone, Ron DeSantis.
Leave Black people out of your failing-grade mess. Out of your cold, steely-eyed glare. Out of your hardened heart.
Leave us out of your ignorance.
You want to be president, cool. You want to be the new flagbearer for the fearful right; go for it.
You wanted to hand-pick the Republican National Committee chair; sorry that didn’t work out for you.
You want to be Donald Trump, clearly. Or at least to take his place as the snarling, haughty face of the Republican Party. Take your best shot, governor.
But leave Black people out of it. Leave us out of your feckless war against woke—a word you and your ilk have wrenched and twisted beyond its true meaning. By any insightful definition, “woke” simply means to be “alert” and especially concerned about social injustice and discrimination.
Yet you and your army of fearful minions have weaponized it and put us—anyone who wants to see America live up to its creeds of fairness, freedom, and justice for all—in its crosshairs.
You’ve put Black people in your crosshairs. Because it’s like catnip to your core constituents.
You bullied the National Hockey League into altering its Pathway to Hockey Summit, a recruiting event originally billed for registrants who are female, Black, Asian/Pacific Islander, Hispanic/Latino, Indigenous, LGBTQIA+, and/or disabled registrants. After you fired a warning shot from the anti-woke assault weapon, the league capitulated and opened sign-up to white men—notwithstanding that the league’s recruited mostly white men since its founding more than a century ago. Where were you then?
I’m almost afraid to mention this: Are you going to march over the NASCAR in Daytona Beach and throw hissy fits over its Diversity Internship and Drive for Diversity Pit Crew Development programs? They’re restricted to members of specific racial/ethnic groups (women are welcome in the pit crew program) and were created to help these historically white-men-almost-only sports become inclusive. Become more like America.
Don’t you dare.
As you strive to climb, stop stepping on us. Stop stepping on Black people.
Leave us alone. Especially our best and brightest. Heck, the best and brightest among all students.
Stop trying to block their brains from knowledge. From knowing the full breadth of our experiences in this nation, in the world. From knowing the good, the bad, and even the queer.
In banning Advance Placement African American studies, you claim it “lacks educational value”.
Which means to you, our journey lacks value. Our contributions, our accomplishments, our sacrifices, our experiences, our joys—it all lacks value. Our quest for reparations lacks value. What matters to us lacks value to you.
Our pain lacks value.
You recruited a lackey state Department of Education to be your yes chorus, to wave the word “indoctrination” like a fiery torch in defending your deed. “Our system is for educating kids, not indoctrinating kids,” you’ve said many times, often to crowds filled with folks who don’t know the full meaning and breadth of that word, either.
Well, take a seat and learn: Schools have been “indoctrinating” students for generations, teaching curriculums crafted from someone’s perspective. (Not ours) Teaching their view of what was and is—emphasis on their.
In high school, I was “indoctrinated” from an American history book that squished 246 years of Black enslavement into a few paragraphs, that mentioned only Black Americans Booker T. Washington, George Washington Carver, and Rev. Martin Luther King.
That, in essence, left us out.
I was “indoctrinated” with lessons on wars, on communism, on the Ku Klux Klan, on myriad events, perspectives, and evils—and given the tools to discern for myself how I would view them.
You’re cool with teaching the history of communism—as it might be reflected in the approved AP courses on European and other histories—yet not the history of Black feminism.
One definition of indoctrination describes it as “teaching the acceptance of a set of beliefs uncritically”.
Dude, that’s been happening since long before we were born.
Thankfully, it’s changing. Thankfully, school systems and teachers nationwide are increasingly broadening the perspectives taught in classrooms. Broadening the names of those who shaped our nation. Broadening the events that shaped our nation. Broadening the vital game-changing thoughts, ideas, and perspectives—almost all of which were deemed radical at some juncture—that shaped us.
And giving them the tools to digest and discern for themselves how it shapes their thinking.
Advanced Placement courses, governor, are meant to stretch and challenge students who’ve shown an ability to handle being stretched and challenged. Who desire to be stretched and challenged. Who don’t fear being stretched.
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Roy S. Johnson is a Pulitzer Prize finalist for commentary and winner of the Edward R. Murrow prize for podcasts: “Unjustifiable”, co-hosted with John Archibald. His column appears in The Birmingham News and AL.com, as well as the Huntsville Times, and Mobile Press-Register. Reach him at email@example.com, follow him at twitter.com/roysj, or on Instagram @roysj.
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