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Yes, DeSantis Banning AP African American Studies IS That Serious

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCF chapter.

Well, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is celebrating Black History Month in an interesting way: by erasing Black history. If you live in Florida, then you’ve surely been kept in the loop on his latest shenanigans. If not, then let’s get you filled in.

On January 23, DeSantis announced his decision to ban the AP African American Studies course from Florida high schools. He adamantly defended himself by claiming that the course “significantly lacks educational value,” and that it supported a “political agenda.” Since then, his decision has been met with criticism from state officials, teachers, and even the College Board itself.

Pause. Do you remember that book we all had to read in high school titled 1984, by George Orwell? If not, the novel is set in a dystopian society where the facts of history are manipulated and rewritten every day. In response to DeSantis, Governor J.B. Pritzker of Illinois said, “One Governor should not have the power to dictate the facts of U.S. history.” 

The similarity is disturbing. With the blatant removal of Black history and whitewashing of Florida’s curriculum, DeSantis could very well be rewriting the history of our nation by omitting the voices of marginalized communities, and this isn’t even the first time he’s attempted to do so. 

In March 2022, public Florida schools from K-12 were banned from educating students on topics relating to gender identity and sexual orientation as a result of DeSantis’ “Don’t Say Gay” bill. His “Stop WOKE Act,” approved in March 2022, prevents teachings of Critical Race Theory (CRT) and other subjects that would elicit feelings of “guilt, anguish or any form of psychological distress,” due to race, color, sex, or national origin. The vagueness of this bill in particular is exactly why DeSantis has been able to so easily exclude the Black experience in schools, businesses, and even literature

Since these recent bills, I’ve heard some students insist that it’s horrifying, but “at least colleges and universities don’t have to deal with it.” 

Well. About that. DeSantis is currently actually looking to extend such policies to other state institutions and businesses. This would include the removal of diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives at Florida businesses and universities. As a result, this will include the alteration of coursework across state institutions. For example, Florida scholarships meant for Hispanic/Latino and Black communities would be barred, and campus activities and organizations educating others on CRT would be considered illegal as well. 

DeSantis’s efforts to regulate how race is taught in classrooms isn’t even a matter of politics, but a matter of silencing people of color, deeming their history culturally irrelevant. Erasing a group’s history marginalizes its impact on the country because there is no reference to its progress. The AP African American Studies course educates students on influential Black historical figures, like Malcolm X and Langston Hughes, and allows for insightful, meaningful discussion on topics like Black feminism, the Harlem Renaissance, and the Civil Rights Movement. To say that this course “significantly lacks educational value,” sends the message loud and clear about which courses supposedly do.

In short, yes, DeSantis banning the AP African American Studies course in Florida is absolutely that serious for both high school and college students alike. While there are resources available online and in physical books to learn about these topics, is there a future where those resources are eliminated as well? Is there a future where knowledge of Black history is restricted nationwide? 

Thankfully, college campuses in Florida have been fighting back against DeSantis’s educational policies. On February 23, UCF students rallied outside the Student Union to protest his attacks on the LGBTQ+ community and racial minority groups. FIU, UF, and USF students also participated in the statewide walkout, expressing concerns for their school’s Black Student Unions and Pride Student Associations. DeSantis’s latest bills affect these groups and so many others, so it’s about time that we all start taking his antics more seriously.

Raiya Shaw is an undergraduate student at the University of Central Florida pursuing majors in Sociology and English: Creative Writing. She loves performing slam poetry, solving jigsaw puzzles, and consuming large amounts of coffee.