The year is 2023, but the recent turn of events makes it feel like we’re living between 1849 and 1950 when racial oppression was blatant and ubiquitous. It’s been 400 years since slavery ended on paper but the harrowing realities of racism sprinkled with a few dashes of audacity are still prevalent in America, and right now, Florida takes the cake.
The sunshine state, governed by Ron DeSantis, decided to take us quite a few steps back with the 2022 Stop W.O.K.E Act–legislation that says race should be taught in an “objective” manner and shouldn’t “indoctrinate or persuade students to a particular point of view.”
Imagine trying to be “objective” about slavery–a violent and vile man-made system that killed and destabilized millions of Black families. You don’t have to imagine though, because Florida schools are preparing to incorporate said objectivity in curriculum. There’s plenty of outrage over an approved plan through Florida’s board of education to teach kids that Black people benefited from slavery because they “developed skills.”
“They’re probably going to show that some of the folks that eventually parlayed, you know, being a blacksmith into doing things later in life,” said DeSantis at a recent press conference, adding that “scholars” put together the standards, which he said are “rooted in whatever is factual.”
I can feel fire raging from my fingertips as I type this. I feel a concussion of anger, sadness, helplessness and disdain brewing inside of me. This new requirement reminds me of how little America still thinks of Black people. In addition to former slaves and their descendants still having to live through the traumatic effects of slavery and being offered zero restitution for the crimes committed, they also have to now watch their history be rewritten because it makes white people uncomfortable.
To teach Black kids that their ancestors benefited from slavery is grooming them for further racial abuse. I guess we also benefit from discrimination, systemic poverty, and police brutality as well since we’re talking crazy.
We don’t tell other groups who have experienced such tragedies that it was beneficial to them. Jewish people will likely never be taught that they developed skills that benefited them from the Holocaust.
As a Black woman and a mother to a Black son living in Florida, my first response is to deny this is happening at all and even worse, happening in a state I live in. But it is happening and as disgusting as it is, this is a reality I have to deal with.
One course of action I’m taking, which I’ve been thinking about for some time now, is homeschooling coupled with unschooling. Many Black families are doing the former now. Census data found that at the start of the pandemic in 2020, 3.3% of Black families were homeschooling and that number rose to 16.1% by fall that year. I have been ruminating about how racism is ingrained in every system we engage with in America and ways I can minimize the impact on my son. One is by removing him from mainstream schools where he’s likely to experience racial bias, at least until he’s older.
I’m not going to lie–I’ve been apprehensive about it because I’m a single mom and my freedom is of the highest value to me. I would not be the best version of myself if I had to spend every waking moment with my son. Luckily, while researching my options, I came across a Black-owned micro school in South Florida. Micro schools are like a hybrid of private and homeschools with a focus on small class sizes, personalized learning, mixed-age classrooms and a one-room schoolhouse. I’m not sure how much longer we’ll be in Florida, but while we’re here, I’d like school to be a safe space and fertile ground for my son to thrive as a young Black boy.
I do wonder if there are other states that are safer for Black people to live in, but then I remember I’m in America and racism is interwoven into the very fabric of this country. Leaving is always an option but racism is everywhere so perhaps building resilience is the best alternative to running. While I can’t directly control policies (my vote counts but so do millions of others) and racism, I can control my child’s education. This is a reminder of the importance of being your child’s primary source of learning. I cannot leave schools or racist systems to educate my son about who he is and teach him his history–it’s my job to navigate that ship.
Aside from voting and putting ourselves in positions of power, one of the only ways to survive being Black in America is to foster a deep indestructible form of self-love; one that reminds you daily that being Black is a powerful and enchanting experience and that this skin we live in is otherworldly. These are truths I instill in my son daily because I know he’ll leave the confines of our home and be told the opposite. I’m hoping this knowledge, love for Blackness and confidence will serve as an anchor if he ever ends up in a school with a teacher telling him Black people benefited from slavery. We did not benefit from slavery, but we will thrive and our kids will thrive in spite of it.