Kamala Harris Reams Out Florida’s Plan to Teach Kids That Slavery Benefited Black People

“They insult us in an attempt to gaslight us and we will not stand for it," Harris said at a convention Thursday night.

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Kamala Harris Reams Out Florida’s Plan to Teach Kids That Slavery Benefited Black People
Photo:Anna Moneymaker (Getty Images)

Vice President Kamala Harris took Florida’s state Board of Education to task on Thursday night at a convention for Delta Sigma Theta, a historically Black sorority. On Wednesday, the board approved a new set of curriculum that will teach middle schoolers that enslaved Black people “developed skills” from being enslaved, “which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.” The new academic standards for social studies were outlined in a 216-page document.

“Just yesterday, in the state of Florida, they decided middle school students will be taught that enslaved people benefitted from slavery,” Harris said to applause. “They insult us in an attempt to gaslight us and we will not stand for it.” Her speech was reminiscent of her 2017 questioning of Attorney General Jeff Sessions during a Senate hearing into Russian interference in the U.S. election, that helped make her a national star.

The curriculum changes were approved due to the “Stop WOKE” Act, or the “Stop Wrongs To Our Kids and Employees” Act, being passed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2022. Paul Burns, chancellor of the state education department’s Division of K-12 Public Schools, essentially called any concerns over the changes fake news. “For the folks in the media and in the teachers union who are watching, we want you to please pay close attention because you’ve been peddling really a false narrative,” Burns told NBC South Florida.

Among the objectors to the new academic standards is state Sen. Geraldine Thompson, a Democrat, who represents Florida’s 15th district which is where the Ocoee Massacre, one of the worst acts of racial violence in U.S. history, occurred. In 1920, the massacre in Ocoee, Florida ignited after Moses Norman, a Black resident, was twice barred from voting on election day. A white mob—in search of Norman and to prevent other Black people from voting—burned down Black-owned buildings and killed up to 35 Black residents, including July Perry, who was believed to be sheltering Norman.

The new benchmarks specifically include the Ocoee Massacre, but with troubling language, Thompson said. “Instruction includes acts of violence perpetrated against and by African Americans but is not limited to 1906 Atlanta Race Riot, 1919 Washington, D.C. Race Riot, 1920 Ocoee Massacre, 1921 Tulsa Massacre and the 1923 Rosewood Massacre,” the document reads.

Thompson said the “against and by” language is worrying. “When you look at the history currently, it suggests that the massacre was sparked by violence from African Americans,” Thompson said, according to NBC South Florida. “That’s blaming the victim. When in fact, it was other individuals who came into the Black community and killed individuals, burned homes and schools and lodges.”

Unfortunately, yet unsurprisingly, Florida’s erasure of the horrors of slavery wasn’t the only upside-down piece of legislation that Harris had to call out. “Speaking of our children, extremists pass book bans to prevent them from learning our true history. Book bans in this year of our Lord 2023,” Harris said. “While they do this, check it out. They push forward revisionist history.” It is truly an insane time to be a student in Florida.

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