Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis staunchly defended Florida’s Black history curriculum Wednesday after facing pushback from both Republicans and Democrats.
The Florida governor joined “The Faulkner Focus” to respond to criticism from VP Kamala Harris and some Republicans, like Sen. Tim Scott and Rep. Byron Donalds, claiming that many of the critics are acting in “bad faith.”
“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.”
DeSantis was put on defense after Harris and left-wing media outlets claimed Florida’s curriculum teaches students that slaves in the U.S. “benefited from slavery” — an accusation which DeSantis’ administration has fiercely denied.
A reporter asked Scott last week for his thoughts on the controversy at a campaign stop outside Des Moines, Iowa, and the South Carolina senator spoke broadly about the evils of slavery.
“There is no silver lining in slavery,” Scott said. “The truth is, anything you can learn that — any benefits that people suggest you had during slavery, you would’ve had as a free person. What slavery was, was really about separating families, about mutilating humans and even raping their wives. It was just devastating.”
Donalds had joined Harris by speaking out against the curriculum, arguing “the attempt to feature the personal benefits of slavery is wrong and needs to be adjusted.” He called the rest of the standards “good, robust and accurate.”
The sentence that sparked controversy stated, “instruction includes how slaves develop skills, which in some instances could be applied for their personal benefit.”
DeSantis said the passage is not being interpreted fairly.
“This was done by Black history scholars, most of whom are Black themselves. They are not shilling for slavery. They are showing the injustice of slavery. But that particular passage wasn’t saying that slavery was a benefit. They were saying there was resourcefulness and people acquired skills in spite of slavery, not because of it. And then they used those when they achieved their freedom,” said DeSantis.
The Florida Republican called out Harris specifically, arguing she endorsed an AP African-American history course that was rejected in Florida due to concerns about Marxism and other left-wing ideology.
“It had the same exact provision. And you’ve seen that same basic provision have been in other curricula. Nobody ever said anything and indeed nobody said anything about this, these guys put this together in a public fashion and there were comments,” he added.
“When we eliminated critical race theory, people lied then saying we didn’t want to teach about the history of African-Americans. In reality, that same bill required us to develop even stronger standards, and that’s why this working group was created. So they did a good job. I think it’s wrong to demagogue people,” he said, adding that critics picked one passage out of hundreds of pages of “painstaking” details about Black history.
DeSantis previously hit back at Donalds at a campaign stop in Iowa, where he delivered an ultimatum; either side with what he calls the “Free State of Florida” or side with Harris “and liberal media outlets” who have attacked the curriculum.
“So at the end of the day, you got to choose. Are you going to side with Kamala Harris and liberal media outlets? Are you going to side with the state of Florida?” DeSantis said.
“I think it’s very clear that these guys did a good job on those standards. It wasn’t anything that was politically motivated. These are serious scholars,” he said. “So don’t side with Kamala on that, stand up for your state.”
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