Republicans Stir Up Hornet’s Nest in Florida Black Attacks—Concerted National Plan Needed

by Pat Bryant

Several hundred diversified blacks, whites and people of color marched and rallied in Tallahasse, Florida’s capitol.  The action was the latest response to Republican Party attacks on Black education in Florida and the United States. Coordinated by Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network several hundred young and old descended the state capitol.  They say America must not go back to it’s racist past.   

The controversy has many moving parts. Bishop Rudolph McKissick Jr. makes the situation clear for everyone. McKissick is pastor of Jacksonville’s Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, the oldest Black Baptist church in Florida.

Blacks Lead a Protest in Florida

Speaking of DeSantis McKissick said “if this governor had his way this would not be happening today, not simply because of what we are marching for, but when I look at this audience it is an audience of diversity and inclusion. In Ron DeSantis’ world we would not be able to gather because of the differences that are here…Different does not mean deficient…The lying talking points of your Republican Party will not stand. We are not saying you don’t want Black history, we are saying we won’t let you have it your way. We will not let you tell our story from your perspective. And we will not let you redact our history so your children are comfortable. Your children can and other generations can be comfortable now because our ancestors were uncomfortable then.”

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis leads the attack in Florida and in places he campaigns across the country. “Wokeness” is the new “N” word for DeSantis, former South Carolina Governor  Niki Haley, former Vice President Mike Pence and former President Donald Trump.

DeSantis led the Florida legislature to ban 175 books. These books tell the story of Black icons like Rosa Parks, Hank Aaron, Martin Luther King. Now public school teachers cannot teach history in a manner that white children feel the guilt of their ancestors. Books that supplement all subjects in public schools must be approved. If not approved, teachers must take them out of the classroom or cover them.

Bethel Missionary Baptist Church

The protest march, under the watchful eye of police dogs, retina surveillance cameras, and cell phone monitors, might have been illegal under Florida’s new laws that restrict protests. DeSantis most recent attacks on Black education are on the College Board’s AP Black History course, a national elective available to honor students. The Board caved in to DeSantis’ attacks on “Black Queer history”, connections on race and class, Black reparations, Black feminism, and the Black Lives Matter Movement.  The Board has said it will remove those sections DeSantis objects and place them in an addendum. Also removed were significant writers like Kimberle Crenshaw and Bell Hooks. Now DeSantis is considering defunding the College Board and its test in Florida. That potentially will make Florida students less competitive with students nationally and Florida less attractive to potential faculty.

An 85-year-old paratrooper Colonel Wilson Barnes who served in three Vietnam campaigns, assignments in Centcom, and the Pentagon marched.  The decorated soldier said the NAACP and Urban League and other groups must become more active, and youth must be educated. “We must walk our communities, register voters and get the Democrat Party more active.”

Blacks Lead a Protest in Florida

MSNBC anchor Joy Reid was present and interviewed students and community leaders for the Reid Out. Reid said Florida has suffered many attacks from DeSantis and the Republicans. She hopes that the march is a beginning of a Black and progressive response. “This governor is a bully and the only way you can deal with a bully is to fight back,” Joy Reid said.

The March and rally had all the building blocks for a national movement except convening leaders of the different groups locally and nationally and a finance strategy.  There was no evidence that funding has been developed to make the response to the Republican/DeSantis anti-wokeness a movement. Still its a good thing to see Blacks lead protest in Florida.

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