The Inextricable Link Between Black and Queer History: Florida's own past is filled with the lessons it is trying to outlaw.

AuthorHagopian, Jesse

'The Florida Department of Education (FDOE) does not approve the inclusion of the Advanced Placement (AP) African American Studies course," read a memo from the agency on January 12. "As presented, the content of this course is inexplicably contrary to Florida law and significantly lacks educational value."

FDOE's decree cast an ominous shadow over the entire discipline of Black history by suggesting that a course in the subject "significantly lacks educational value." One rightwing commentator called the new AP class perverse--and I'm not making this up--because it was created by scholars of African American studies. "It shouldn't be a surprise that an AP curriculum developed with the input of practitioners of African American studies at the university level would contain all the same perversities and warped ideas," Rich Lowry wrote in the New York Post.

As ludicrous as this argument is, unfortunately, it appears that the College Board--the creator of the AP class--agrees. After the FDOE and Florida's Republican Governor Ron DeSantis criticized the content of the course, the College Board decided to celebrate Black History Month by officially releasing the curriculum on February 1, stripped of the works of leading scholars of Black history. Some scholars stricken from the curriculum include Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, a professor of African American studies at Northwestern University and author of From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation; Kimberle Crenshaw, a law professor at Columbia University and a founding scholar of critical race theory; Roderick Ferguson, a professor of women's, gender, and sexuality studies at Yale University; and the late bell hooks, who was a leading theorist of critical pedagogy and Black feminism.

College Board Chief Executive Officer David Coleman launched a massive public relations campaign designed to reassure the public that the decision to censor the curriculum had nothing to do with Florida's ban of the course. "Far before the governor spoke up," Coleman claimed, "we'd announced that we were going to release the revised framework on the first day of Black History Month." But as James Baldwin, one of the authors whose works were removed from the list of required readings, once said, "I can't believe what you say, because I see what you do."

Likewise, Taylor of Northwestern wrote, "It is certainly believable that the preliminary version of the class would have been revised, but it is unbelievable that rightwing complaints did not influence the final outcome." While the College Board undoubtedly would have made some revisions, as is to be expected with the creation of any course, Taylor is clearly correct in asserting that the final content of the course was modified in response to the GOP's campaign against antiracist teaching in Florida and elsewhere.

The truth is, the College Board generates more than $490 million from AP classes, and they would lose money if their curriculum was banned by states like Florida--as DeSantis has threatened to do after disagreement over even the new, watered-down version. Moreover, even if we accept the official position that the College Board was not swayed by intense anti-critical race theory campaigns, it still begs the question: Why did they expel some of the curriculum's most valuable content?

Subject matter expunged from the course includes discussions of the Black Lives Matter movement, reparations, mass incarceration, and the Black queer experience. This attack on teaching Black history comes in the context of forty-four states that, since January 2021, have introduced bills or taken other steps that would require teachers to deceive students about race, gender, and sexuality. Many of the bills prohibit teaching that the "United States is fundamentally racist or sexist" or ban any teaching that could make students "feel discomfort" when discussing racism or sexism. Eighteen states have imposed these anti-history gag laws since last year, and they aren't confined to just the South or to "red"...

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