Real Talk | We come fighting



In Florida, public school and university administrators, faculty and librarians live in terror. The state has become a knowledge prison. Gov. Ron DeSantis has created an anti-knowledge infrastructure. He has passed legislation, built a policing apparatus, and recruited a volunteer army to abolish academic freedom and imprison knowledge.

DeSantis has outlawed instruction on African descendant people that does not comply with conservative views. The Florida Department of Education (FDOE) has constructed a bureaucratic network to force compliance with HB 7, “The STOP W.O.K.E. (Wrongs Against Our Kids and Employees) Act” and the “Individual Freedom Act” (SB 148). And DeSantis has unleashed a lynch mob, his so-called “Woke busters,” which include the “Moms of Liberty” to repress knowledge on race and gender throughout the “Sunshine State.” Surprise, surprise, the “big game” they’ve targeted is not a high school AP course, but rather university-level Black/Africana Studies and diversity programming.

Earlier this week, I participated in writing the Association for the Study of African American Life and History’s (ASALH) response to DeSantis and the FDOE’s rejection of the AP African American Studies (APAAS) course and the College Board’s capitulation to conservative criticism. The stories I heard from college faculty, librarians and concerned citizens are frightening.

One Black/Africana Studies faculty member described a chilling meeting with the provost and a university legal counsel. The provost instructed them to adjust their teaching “to stick to the facts.” Then the college lawyer informed them that “they would not be able to access their courses on the Canvas system (a web-based teaching management tool) until they signed a legal document stating they would comply with HB 7.”

A person who operates a school media center informed us that violation of the law was a class 3 felony, the same as theft of a vehicle or firearm, and armed trespass. If convicted, you could be incarcerated for up to five years and fined up to $5000.

In addition to outlawing topics and interpretative theories, and criminalizing faculty, DeSantis has turned loose a lynch mob composed of Moms for Liberty (M4L) and his “Woke busters.” Both groups have harassed school personnel and school board members. Jennifer Jenkins, who defeated M4L co-founder Tina Descovich for a seat on the Brevard County School Board in 2020 reports, “I had private investigators following me around, sending death threats to me.”


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