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U.S.: Racist denialism takes hold in Florida

Originally published: Resumen: Latinoamericano and the Third World on August 7, 2023 by Anahi Rubin (more by Resumen: Latinoamericano and the Third World) (Posted Aug 11, 2023)

The Florida State Board of Education approved new guidelines for teaching black history, after Gov. Ron DeSantis and the state’s Republican congressmen passed new laws, which limit educational content in schools. The new guidelines include teaching students that “slaves developed skills that in some cases they were able to use for personal gain.”

The Florida Education Association criticized these rules:

Governor DeSantis is embracing a political agenda that will produce clashes between people. He is also misleading young people, who deserve to know the truth about American history, both good and bad.

But not all Republicans feel the same way. Tim Scott, the only black congressman in the party emphasized, “There was no silver lining to slavery: slavery separated families, it was devastating.” Vice President Kamala Harris also criticized these regulations, and would go to Jacksonville, Florida, to hold a press conference on the issue.

Ron DeSantis has been leading Florida since 2019. His conservative, anti-immigration, anti-LGBT movement and anti-woke culture conceptions have led him to present laws that were rejected by a large number of the population. The so-called “Don’t Say Gay” provision prohibits teachers from addressing gender identity to children in kindergarten through 3rd grade. It also states that parents can determine whether books recommended by teachers have improper content, leading to their prohibition.

Another piece of legislation is with respect to the use of guns: as of DeSantis’ arrival, no permit is required for carrying.

The division

But the rule that is creating the most controversy is the denial of slavery, a fact that affected millions of African-Americans for four centuries. Until now the view of the barbarity of slavery seemed to equal all ideologies, from liberal to conservative. With this new conception by DeSantis, society is again being divided. Although not everyone relates slavery to the U.S. economy: it is important to remember that 12 million Africans arrived in the Americas and 650,000 entered North America, according to historian Ronald Segal.

In 1625, 23 Africans were brought in “slave” ships to the American continent. The first place where they arrived was Virginia and 100 years later, 293,000 Africans already constituted 42% of all slaves in the country. Human beings considered as objects and part of the property of the plantation owners; with the right to buy them, sell them and even give them as collateral for loans granted by banks. JPMorgan, the largest American bank, acknowledged in 2005 that between 1831 and 1865, its subsidiaries Citizen Bank and Canal Bank exercised these despicable practices.

The slave system was the basis for the growth of the colonies. Although many only mention the slave-owning South, a little less is said about the North, which also profited from the business. The South provided raw materials, cotton, lumber, tobacco; the North took a large percentage of the profits. For example, New York kept 40% of the money earned by financial firms, transportation businesses and insurance companies.

“Slavery was an incredibly important element in the U.S. economy,” said Harvard University professor Sven Beckert, a specialist on the subject.

When Abraham Lincoln decreed the end of slavery in 1865, many of the slaves went to the industrialized cities of the North, where they thought they would have a better life. This was not exactly the case: in New York they only found jobs in construction with lower pay than white workers received, so they had to work longer hours. Walking around the city you can see a sign that says Wall Street: where the city’s first slave market used to be, now the stock exchange operates. The profits left by the slave trade were around U$S 4 billion. Never a better place to establish the largest financial sector in the world.

The atrocities perpetrated over the centuries under the institution of slavery in the U.S. are extensive. They include forced labor, whipping, rape and murder. DeSantis’ suggestion, that millions of enslaved people in this country benefited in some way from their enslavement, is a mockery and lacks enormous historical recognition of the many African Americans who led liberation movements such as Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman and, of course, the Civil Rights struggles led by Reverend Martin Luther King and closer in time Black Lives Matter.

The denialist policies of the governor of Florida will surely be confronted by the African American people, following the path of struggle of their ancestors.

Source: Cuba en Resumen

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