Black Republicans Aren’t Happy With DeSantis About Florida’s New Teaching Guidelines on Slavery

And Team DeSantis is doubling down.

Republican presidential candidate Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at the Republican Party of Iowa's 2023 Lincoln Dinner in Des Moines, Iowa, on Friday.AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall

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Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has built his political brand on attacking “wokeness” and refusing to back down—his super-PAC is even called Never Back Down—but his support for Florida’s new education standards that include the claim that slavery helped African-Americans develop skills for their “personal benefit” is testing how well those two strategies can co-exist.

The new policies implemented by DeSantis administration in Florida, require teachers to teach middle school students that enslaved people “developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.” It’s a theory with little historical justification—in fact, only two of the 13 members of the working group tasked with developing the new standards even agreed with the idea. And it’s been condemned by Black leaders and historians across the board, with the CEO of the NAACP decrying the new educational standards as “policy violence.” The latest bad news for DeSantis is a decision by one of the largest historically Black collegiate fraternities to pull its annual convention—a major affair attracting thousands of participants and bringing in millions of dollars of economic activity.

But DeSantis, who has targeted tourism mega-giant Disney for being too “woke,” has shown he’s not particularly bothered by potentially harming his state’s tourism industry in the pursuit of his “anti-woke” policies. What might be more painful are the political attacks from inside his own party by Black conservatives.

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), who is also running for president, struck a tone of horrified disbelief in discussing DeSantis’ support for the new standards.

“What slavery was really about was separating families, about mutilating humans and even raping their wives. It was just devastating,” Scott said at an event in Iowa on Thursday. “So, I would hope that every person in our country, and certainly running for president, would appreciate that.”

Rep. Byron Donalds, a Florida Republican and one of the few Black GOP members of Congress, tweeted this week that, even as a supporter of new “anti-woke” educational standards, he couldn’t stomach the idea that slavery was a benefit.

As mild as the criticism was, the DeSantis campaign seemed eager to escalate the fight, with a DeSantis campaign spokesman rushing to label Donalds—a close ally of former president Donald Trump—as an ideological ally of Vice President Kamala Harris.

“At the end of the day, you got to choose: Are you going to side with Kamala Harris and liberal media outlets or are you going to side with the state of Florida?” the spokesman told reporters. The DeSantis campaign has kept up the attacks on Donalds, going on to accuse him of being a “supposed conservative” who is swinging “for the liberal media fences.”

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This is the rubber-meets-road moment: the early days in our first fundraising drive since we took a big swing and merged with CIR to bring fearless investigative reporting to the internet, radio, video, and everywhere else that people need an antidote to lies and propaganda.

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