Vice President Kamala Harris has rebuffed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ offer to discuss Florida’s African American history curriculum, which she has been criticizing since late last month.
“Well, I’m here in Florida, and I will tell you, there is no roundtable, no lecture, no invitation we will accept to debate an undeniable fact: There were no redeeming qualities of slavery,” Harris said at the African Methodist Episcopal Church’s 20th Women’s Missionary Society quadrennial convention in Orlando, Florida, on Tuesday.
DeSantis’ Monday invitation came 10 days after Harris first misrepresented the state’s black history curriculum, by saying, “It is not only misleading, it is false and pushing propaganda.” But DeSantis and other critics of Harris say she is taking one sentence out of the entire curriculum completely out of context. Among the nearly 200 items in the curriculum, the supposed “benefits” of slavery were only mentioned once.
The academic standards for teaching African American history as outlined in Florida’s Department of Education website list many requirements. Schools are to teach, among other things, African Americans’ contributions to the founding of America, as well as their influences in Florida and the rest of the country.
High school students in Florida will also be required to learn about the history of slavery in Africa, Asia, the Americas, and Europe prior to 1619.
The controversy arose from a curriculum footnote stating that “instruction includes how slaves developed skills, which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.”
“How is it that anyone could suggest in the midst of these atrocities that there was any benefit to being subjected to this level of dehumanization,” Harris said.
The specific clause that mentions the “personal benefit” is not even a topic unto itself, but a caveat to be taught alongside the key role African Americans played in the Reconstruction era.
The curriculum does not suggest that those who developed useful skills while under slavery diminish the atrocities of slavery to any extent. The curriculum even specifies that “the harsh conditions and their consequences on British American plantations (e.g., undernourishment, climate conditions, infant and child mortality rates of the enslaved vs. the free)” must be taught.
In his letter to Harris, DeSantis said her comments about the state’s curriculum proved to be another example of how “D.C. politicians choose to malign [Florida] and its residents.”
“In Florida, we are unafraid to have an open and honest dialogue about the issues,” DeSantis said. He even quipped that Harris “clearly [has] no problem ducking down to Florida on short notice,” after she did so in late July, specifically to attack the curriculum.
“I am officially inviting you back down to Florida to discuss our African American history standards. … I will ask Dr. William Allen — instrumental in the development of our impressive new standards — to join,” DeSantis said, referring to the black professor and political scientist who helped develop the curriculum.
“We welcome you, of course, to bring [teachers union president] Randi Weingarten or someone else who shares your view about the standards.”
Appearing Wednesday on the Fox News Channel’s “The Faulkner Focus” program, DeSantis explained: “I’m fighting back against false narratives. I do not let people like Kamala Harris or the media take false narratives and run with them. We will stand our ground, and we will speak the truth.”
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