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“A Slap in the Face”: Afro-Latino Scholars Criticize DeSantis for Dismantling Advanced African American Studies


By turning down a high school class on black history, the Florida governor launched a plan to ban diversity programs at state universities. This in a state defined by the intersection of Black, Latino and Indigenous culture.

By Susanne Gamboa -

NBC News

Educator and community activist Ted Victor was outraged when he learned that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis had decided that the

AP African American studies

course his daughter planned to take “significantly lacked educational value.” ”.

“Without educational value, like something you can throw away, something you can just throw away, something that says you're not as important as other people,” said Victor, who is Afro-Latino and has taught for 25 years in middle schools, high schools and at the university level.

The son of a Cuban father and an Asian mother, Victor was 17 years old in college before realizing he was part of the black diaspora.

Learning this from another college classmate led him to change his undergraduate major from math and computer science to African American studies.

Students listening to a seminar at the Latino Information Science and Technology Summit and Career Fair at the Hyatt Regency Hotel.Jeff Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty

“How can you label a town and its history as worthless?...How come my daughter can take world history, American history, European history and no one thinks twice about it?

In other words,

she can study your ancestry, but my ancestry, her ancestry, has no academic value?"

she asked.

DeSantis' crusade against diversity and race comes in a state first settled by the Spanish, where

intersections of Black, Latino and Native American culture and history abound.

The first Gen Z member of the US Congress, Rep. Maxwell Frost, is a Democrat from Florida who identifies as Afro-Cuban.

How can you label a town and its history worthless?"

Ted Victor, Afro-Latino educator

It is also a state where, as in other parts of the US, Afro-Latinos still fight for recognition of their place in American history and culture, while

fighting discrimination, including within the Latino community.

By banning the AP African American studies course, DeSantis said it was not education but indoctrination.

He said the course segments on intersectionality (understanding how race, gender, class, sexual orientation, for example, can marginalize people), reparations, mass incarceration, and the role of



theory they were a political agenda and not an educational one.

DeSantis pushed back against criticism that his ban on the course impedes the study of African-American history.

The state already requires the teaching of African-American history, “all the important stuff,” DeSantis said last month at a news conference.

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But the AP course isn't African-American history, it's African studies, which addresses culture and the intersections of identities, said Brandt Robinson, who has a master's degree in African-American studies and has taught for 26 years.

“Many of the people in Florida who are Latino are Afro-Latinx.

For a lot of people who are Latino, that's intersectionality — you're demonizing a term that pretty much describes a lot of Americans,” Robinson, who is white, said of DeSantis.

“It just reveals that what we really need is to do a better job in our education system,” he said.

Paul Ortiz, who wrote the textbook

“A History of the Latinx and African American United States”

and is a professor of history at the University of Florida, noted that this month 28 presidents of Florida state universities issued a statement saying they would eliminate any academic requirements that “forces belief in critical race theory or related concepts such as intersectionality.”

You are demonizing a term that pretty much describes a lot of Americans."

Brandt Robinson, MA African American Studies, 26 years teaching

“What an insult,” Ortiz said.

“If you are Afro-Latino, your whole life has been intersectional.

You live, and you unite, culturally, visibly, these different worlds”.

Desantis's office referred NBC News' request for comment to the Department of Education, which had not responded as of Friday afternoon.

The College Board, the nonprofit organization that regulates

Advanced Placement

, or AP classes, released a revised version of the course, saying the changes had been planned long before DeSantis' criticism.

The changes came in areas that DeSantis had criticized, including the section on intersectionality, the Black Lives Matter movement, and reparations;

they are now optional study materials.

Fordham University law professor Tanya K. Hernández, author of the book

"Racial Innocence: Unmasking Latino Anti-Black Bias and the Struggle for Equality"

, or, "Racial Innocence: Unmasking Anti-Black Discrimination and the Struggle for equality," called DeSantis' recent moves "an attack on racial literacy."

Hernández, whose book uses legal cases to show the persistence of Latino racism against black Latinos and its impact in areas such as education, housing and employment, disagreed with the College Board's reviews, which made some contemporary issues optional.

Cuban pianist and composer Bebo Valdes, 87, plays piano with Jazz at Lincoln Center's Afro-Latino Jazz Orchestra at the Jackie Gleason Theater in Miami Beach, Florida on October 19, 2006. Bebo has won two Latin Grammys and a regular Grammy and his latest CD was nominated for another Grammy. Roberto Schmidt / AFP via Getty Images

“Censoring some of the most important issues we face as a society also impedes the ability to

understand the extent to which entrenched racial disparities are the result of systemic barriers

and not the alleged moral failings of different racial and ethnic groups,” said Hernández, who she is afro-latin

“Hindering students' ability to understand the racialized world in which they live undermines their ability to gain the knowledge necessary to make our world truly inclusive and just,” he said.

Typically, students who score well on standardized tests take AP courses that provide those who complete them with exposure to college-level instruction and college credit that they can carry with them to an institution of higher learning, said Christopher Busey, Associate Professor at the University of Florida in the Teachers, Schools and Society program and faculty member of the Latin American Studies and African American Studies programs.

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In his research, Busey, who is black and whose children are Afro-Latinos, has called for better treatment for Afro-Latinos in the K-12 curriculum.

He wrote in a 2017 analysis of US high school world history textbooks that educators could no longer allow history textbooks and other social studies materials to limit Afro-Latino representation to the mix. of races, racial hierarchy and slavery.

Afro-Latino history is complex and multi-layered,

she wrote, and deserves extensive treatment in narratives from kindergarten through grade 12.

Research from Stanford University has found that even

non-AP ethnic studies courses have had positive effects on students,

including those at risk of dropping out.

Our white students also need to learn this rich history."

José Vilson, director and co-founder of EduColor

While Republicans like DeSantis have tried to restrict instruction on race and diversity, academics and teachers like Busey and Robinson have felt the backlash.

Busey said he has been avoiding speaking to the media, while Robinson said he had to send all his teaching materials to the school board when a parent accused him of being a "Marxist," claiming a book he was using was aligned with the Project. 1619 because it had the year 1619 in its title.

A review committee cleared him.

DeSantis recently announced that he plans to block state universities from having programs on diversity, equity and inclusion, and critical race theory.

José Vilson, executive director and co-founder of EduColor, an organization dedicated to issues of race and social justice in education, said DeSantis's criticisms and rejection of the AP course provide a blueprint for how other college standards can be made "worse." classes, creating a chilling effect on other race studies classes.

Cuban-American singer Celia Cruz (1925-2003) at 'El Concierto Por La Vida', an AIDS benefit, at Lincoln Center, New York, November 1998. Jack Vartoogian/Getty Images / Getty Images

“If you can attack AP African-American studies, you can attack that whole standard more generally,” he said.

“This is not just for blacks, Latinos or


-Latinx , it is for everyone, because our white students also need to learn this rich history, especially given

the density of Cubans, Americans and Puerto Ricans (in Florida),

many of whom adhere to his African ancestry," he said.

Nancy Raquel Mirabal, an associate professor in the American Studies program at the University of Maryland, has published research on the Afro-Cuban community that migrated to Ybor City and Tampa, Florida, to work in cigar factories at the same time as the American Revolution and the writing of the Constitution that was taking place in the American colonies.

“The black Cubans as the first migrants worked together with the white Cubans because of the language, because of their shared experiences.

But as time goes by, the white Cubans separate from the black Cubans,” he said.

Segregation then leads black Cubans to create a more African-American diasporic identity, said Mirabal, the daughter of Dominican immigrants.

“Florida is doing a lot of damage because it has a large


and black community there.

This idea that their history is not important is a slap in the face for their first migrants,” said Mirabal.

Source: telemundo

All news articles on 2023-02-06

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