By Carmen Mia de Maria Tello Roig
In early 2023, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared that the state would prevent public schools from participating in an optional AP course, the College Board’s new AP African American studies course. His recent rejection of the College Board’s advanced placement course occurred because it included queer theory and “inappropriate questioning” of gender identities, making it a “difficult and unsuitable” course for high school students.
According to the DeSantis administration, the advanced placement course touched upon queer topics that violated the governor’s “Don’t Say Gay” laws, which took effect last summer throughout Florida. A particular detail not overlooked by educators nationwide was the intersectionality of Queer and African American studies. His rallying supporters are keenly aware that race, gender, and class overlap. In rallying the Republican vote against gender education, he also targets and contests critical race theory and the Black pioneers that powered through social movements.
Targeting Queer and African American studies is a crucial aspect of DeSantis’s plan to rebuild a new brand of social conservatism by alienating minority groups. We must understand that Florida’s current administration seeks to create a new era of social reforms targeting and attacking minority groups that do not unite under a whitewashed patriotic front. You might be asking yourself, what does it mean to be patriotic? The DeSantis administration seems to believe that censoring critical historical facts, fighting against inclusive and anti-racist literature, and promoting unapologetic, white-centered history is patriotic.
In this unbelievable trend of conservatism, we see a state clammer up with stances that run on the political and social alienation of groups of people who fail to embrace his version of the truth. But the question remains; Why do optional African American history courses threaten Ron DeSantis?
Ron DeSantis says he banned the African American history course because of content about prisons and Queer theory. But in trying to erase Queer theory, Ron DeSantis is trying to delegate which pieces of history are “canon and true.” Often this limiting “canon” made by those in power will overshadow and damage the expression of the most vulnerable, like queer people of color.
The “Stop WOKE” law throws the experiences of the African American community, LGBTQ+ people, and other minority groups into a prohibited category. Prohibited from discussing the way the Black freedom movement inspired early gay activists and how they overlapped. The law prohibits students from learning about Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, and other gay POC activists. What does that say about the current political agenda? Are people of color’s history and contributions to the country some error that must be cleaned from history books to give most republicans peace of mind? Banning diverse books and curriculum prevents students from a factual and accurate education. Politicians promoting limits to the sort of education children can get tend to have a White Savior complex, and in this, they have found a way to admonish the Black community. It is performative and thus dangerous to its core. From racial policing, lack of inclusive education, and using AAVE vernacular in his slogan, Ron DeSantis is becoming the figurehead of suppression in all aspects of American life.
On the East Coast, echoes of these laws are starting to reach educators and lawmakers alike. New York has been a stronghold for Democrats and liberal education systems, but universities such as CUNY must remain a steadfast fortress against such policies. Students from all social classes and cultures benefit from a pluralistic education filled with possibilities.
Even when navigating through the first semester (often when students complete their required common core), first-year students can read and analyze a series of personal and professional essays from people of diverse backgrounds, with stories and experiences that a lot of us would not have been able to read if CUNY censored the voice of minorities.
Queensborough Community College offers HIST-136: African American history (formerly HI-136), ENGL-223: African American Literature, and ARTH-128: History of African Art. These courses explore African cultural survival and Black Americans’ social, artistic, and literary contributions. Students and teachers hope that CUNY will continue to provide a place for students and learners to acquire valuable history and civil rights knowledge, but most importantly, to see themselves reflected in literature and curriculum.