Over five hundred years of systemic oppression deprived Black people of basic civil rights the right to safely live. The legacy of slavery still exists, producing an environment that forced my grandmother to dropout of school in the fourth grade and forced my grandfather to dropout of school after the fifth grade so that they could help their family survive by working. The legacy of slavery provides people like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis the ability to deny students of color and LGBTQ students the right to learn about their history.
The constant battle to provide students with accurate educational information and history lessons is due to the lack of national standards on how Black history should be taught. Thus, allowing state governments and confederacy groups to control what information students learn. Governor DeSantis believes that queer theory has no place in AP African American studies classes, and the inclusion of it is proof of an “agenda” being pushed on children. Black history encompasses so many different overlapping communities, making it essential that students learn the theory of intersectionality as crafted by Kimberlé Crenshaw, and find out how their experience in the world might compare to someone of a different background. It is imperative to learn that segregation existed in all spaces, including queer spaces, and that queer Black people and Black transgender women launched the LGBTQ+ movement with the Stonewall Riots. It was up to people like Storme Delarvie to help integrate drag shows, and in collaboration with Marsha P. Johnson, to create the LGBTQ+ rights movement, laying the groundwork for the rights we have today. The actions of Governor DeSantis suggest that learning about African American studies at any level is disposable and unnecessary, and can now be applied to any class or curriculum that does not fit into the conservative agenda.
Alas, instead of providing all students with a rigorous curriculum, and encouraging them to engage in critical thinking, the feelings of anti-LGBTQ white supremacists matter more than providing students with a sound education. The recent news from Florida is nothing new. The erasure and censorship of our history has existed for years, with textbooks in Texas calling enslaved Africans “immigrants” and “workers” in 2015. The slow and steady censorship throughout the years of the true history of this country has now provided people like U.S. Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene the opportunity to attempt to prevent schools from teaching even the most elementary understanding of racism to students. The actions of Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Governor Desantis have prevented professors from coming to their respective states to teach, furthering the education gap.
The notion that the experiences of Black LGBTQ+ people is not relevant to Black history, yet Black conservative ideology is an integral part of an African American Studies course, is absurd. Without Black LGBTQ+ leaders, drag shows would still be segregated, the LGBTQ+ Rights Movement would not have launched, and the first Freedom Ride would not have happened. We cannot allow people to dictate what should be included in our history, and what should be ignored.
If we allow this to continue without action, the censorship of minorities will rise across the country. Choosing to cut out theory about reparations, queer theory, intersectionality, and the Black Lives Matter movement, days after the release of body camera footage of a Black man being beaten to death in Memphis and a Black double amputee murdered by police, is violence. It is violent because while Black people are being beaten and murdered by the police, the students are deprived of the ability to learn about the history of policing in this country and the many other instances of violence that Black people experienced while enslaved, during Reconstruction, during Jim Crow, throughout the twentieth century, and now.