September 23, 2023

2024 presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis has defended Florida’s new Black Historical past curriculum, which directs educators to show that “slaves developed abilities which, in some cases, might be utilized for his or her private profit.” 

Did slavery have advantages for Black folks? 

Some main figures on the proper appear to suppose so. 

Practically 160 years after slavery was abolished in the US, a Republican candidate for president and conservative media figures are arguing that being enslaved could have benefited some Black individuals who “developed abilities” whereas being handled as property as an alternative of human beings. 

The politician in query is Florida governor and 2024 presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis, who has in latest days defended his state’s new Black historical past schooling requirements, which embrace the assertion for center college instruction that “slaves developed abilities which, in some cases, might be utilized for his or her private profit.”

The brand new curriculum, which was permitted by DeSantis’ hand-picked Florida Board of Training final week, has been broadly criticized by Black People, historians, tutorial consultants, and Democrats as whitewashing American historical past.

However Fox Information has prominently defended the brand new tips on their main exhibits for the higher a part of every week and DeSantis has additionally stood by the trouble. 

“They’re most likely going to point out that a number of the people that finally parlayed, you recognize, being a blacksmith into doing issues later in life,” DeSantis mentioned on Friday in response to a reporter’s query concerning the new curriculum.

On the similar time, nonetheless, DeSantis tried to create far between himself and the requirements, saying he wasn’t concerned in creating the brand new educating supplies. However the requirements have been launched after a much-publicized and profitable effort by DeSantis to overtake the state’s schooling legal guidelines as a way to limit how academics can speak about race and racism. 

“Governor DeSantis began this hearth with the invoice that he signed and now he doesn’t need to take accountability for no matter is completed within the aftermath of it,” Chris Christie, DeSantis’ fellow GOP presidential major opponent, mentioned Sunday on Face the Nation. “‘I didn’t do it’ and ‘I’m not concerned in it’ usually are not the phrases of management.”

Vice President Kamala Harris additionally criticized the brand new curriculum, emphasizing the atrocities related to slavery.

“It concerned rape.  It concerned torture.  It concerned taking a child from their mom. It concerned a number of the worst examples of depriving folks of humanity in our world,” she mentioned at a speech in Jacksonville on Friday. “It concerned subjecting to folks the requirement that they’d consider themselves and be regarded as lower than human.”

Whereas DeSantis has confronted a barrage of criticism and has discovered himself earnestly debating the potential advantages of being enslaved, many figures in right-wing media have come to his protection, insisting that the curriculum doesn’t say what it actually says. 

“They’re educating how Black folks develop abilities throughout slavery in some cases that may be utilized for their very own private profit,” Fox Information host Jesse Watters said Friday on his prime time present, simply moments after saying, “Nobody is arguing slaves benefited from slavery. Nobody is saying that. It’s not true.”

The shortcomings of that argument have been picked aside by Marvin Dunn, a professor emeritus at Florida Worldwide College. 

“One of many major issues about slavery, past the bodily injury that it did to folks of so many generations, was that it prevented folks from changing into what they may have change into,” Dunn informed the Washington Put up. “So what if you happen to grew to become a carpenter or a blacksmith or an excellent maid? Your probabilities of that weren’t decided by you, it was decided by any individual else. That’s not a rationalization for enslavement.”

Watters once more defended the curriculum on his exhibits on each Monday and Tuesday, whereas insisting on the similar time that “nobody’s saying slaves benefited from slavery.”


His fellow Fox Information colleague Greg Gutfeld took one other strategy to defending the requirements, noting on Monday that Jewish folks “needed to be helpful” as a way to survive focus camps through the Holocaust.

“Did you ever learn Man’s Seek for That means?” Gutfeld requested his Jewish colleague, Jessica Tarlov, after she made a connection between slavery and the Holocaust. “Vik Frankl talks about the way you needed to survive in a focus camp by having abilities. You needed to be helpful. Utility! Utility stored you alive!”

Gutfeld’s remarks have drawn criticism from the Auschwitz Museum and precipitated consternation inside Fox. 

One other line of protection utilized by Watters and different supporters has been to level out that the state supplied up 16 examples of previously enslaved folks “parlaying” abilities they discovered as slaves into jobs later in life. However a Tampa Bay Occasions report discovered that a few of these folks have been by no means enslaved within the first place, whereas others discovered their abilities after escaping slavery. 

The curriculum has additionally obtained criticism for different inclusions, akin to a directive to check “acts of violence perpetrated in opposition to and by African People,” together with the “1906 Atlanta Race Riot, 1919 Washington, D.C. Race Riot, 1920 Ocoee Bloodbath, 1921 Tulsa Bloodbath and the 1923 Rosewood Bloodbath,” all of which have been violent race riots carried out by white folks in opposition to harmless Black folks. 

DeSantis and his allies within the media have additionally defended the curriculum by claiming that it was created by a 13-member “work group,” with enter from an African American historical past activity pressure. Two members of that work group, William Allen, and Frances Presley Rice, have publicly stood by the brand new requirements. 

“Florida college students need to find out how slaves took benefit of no matter circumstances they have been in to learn themselves and the neighborhood of African descendants,” they mentioned in a press release.

However neither Rice nor Allen are impartial or apolitical. Rice is the co-founder and chairman of the Nationwide Black Republican Affiliation and because the publication Progress Report reviews, she has an extended historical past of expressing and amplifying excessive and at-times offensive views. This consists of the publication of {a magazine} with conspiratorial, far-right headlines akin to “Democrats embrace their little one molesters” and “Democrats wage struggle on God.” 

Allen, in the meantime, is a conservative political scientist who labored for the Reagan administration and at the moment serves as a scholar at a right-wing spiritual public coverage suppose tank. 

The controversy surrounding the brand new curriculum is simply the newest instance of blowback in opposition to DeSantis’ efforts to overtake Florida’s public college schooling system as a way to censor the educating of US historical past and racism. Earlier this 12 months, the state rejected an Superior Placement course on African American research, saying it “considerably lacks academic worth.” 

DeSantis has additionally made it simpler for a small variety of politically ideological dad and mom to request books be banned from school rooms and faculty libraries for all youngsters. This has led to dozens of books being pulled from college cabinets throughout the state, together with a minimum of 100 in Clay County, Florida following complaints by a single particular person.

Given DeSantis’ excessive ideological views and his assaults on public schooling over the previous two years, it’s maybe not completely shocking that he and another conservatives have reached the purpose of debating whether or not slavery had “private profit[s]” for Black folks. Nevertheless it’s no much less absurd, as Will Hurd, a former member of Congress and one among DeSantis’ opponents within the 2024 Republican presidential major discipline, identified. 

“Slavery wasn’t a jobs program that taught helpful abilities,” Hurd mentioned in a tweet on Friday. “It was actually dehumanizing and subjugated folks as property as a result of they lacked any rights or freedoms.”