Florida’s Revised History Curriculum: Same Old Racism in New Form

If you’ve been paying attention to the mainstream, liberal media, you may have seen commentators and Democratic Party politicians expressing outrage at Florida’s revised social studies standards. They’re mostly objecting to a specific section in the African American History section that actually says: “Instruction includes how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.” People are right to be appalled. The Florida school standards say that Black people benefited from slavery!

There is little in either that or in other sections of the curriculum about how enslaved Blacks were tortured to produce a commodity. Nor is it mentioned that the vast majority of slaves didn’t live long or have opportunity to do things “for their personal benefit.” And, in another section, the curriculum tries to blame Africans themselves for slavery by citing the role of warfare and slave trading in Africa. While it is true that some African states and rulers participated in the slave trade in Africa, that trade was driven by European states and their need for labor in the western hemisphere.

Because of the political firestorm that they knew this curriculum would become, the writers intentionally included lots of detail on Black history that often isn’t discussed, probably to be able to say that they were inclusive. But despite the details they use as window dressing, the standards are insulting and something like gaslighting – attempting to teach us that what we know to be true isn’t really true. Although the standards include lots of detail, they distort the bigger picture.

Left out completely is any mention of how the South’s political and economic reliance on slavery was the driving factor causing the Civil War. Left out is anything about the hundreds of slave revolts, or about Reconstruction or Jim Crow. Left out completely are more recent radical Black organizations like the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Black Panther Party, and many others, while Thomas Sowell and Shelby Steele (both Black conservatives who are well paid by Stanford’s Hoover Institution to defend the status quo) are mentioned as “political figures who advanced American equality and representative democracy.” What a joke and an insult to generations of Black freedom fighters!

This is just the latest in a long history of lies about the history of racism in this country that the ruling class of capitalist profiteers use to foment racial conflict among working people, to distract from our real conflict that we — Black, white, and other working people — have with the bosses who profit off these divisions every day.

The revised Florida history standards: another weapon the ruling class uses to keep Black people and the rest of us under their thumb.