By Xavier Andrade

In late January, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and his administration banned an advanced placement African American studies course that would’ve been taught in some Florida classrooms. The move came only days before the celebration of Black History Month. 

As a young Latino college student who resides in California, Florida is thousands of miles away. But the rejection of this course certainly hits home. 

College-bound high school students throughout Florida will get the chance to learn about the potential majors they’ll want to explore with access to AP classes such as European history, Chemistry and Physics, just to name a few. 

But what about the students who want to learn about diversity after high school? What about Black students who yearn to become an expert on their ancestral history? 

According to the College Board, students who take AP courses and exams are more likely than their peers to attend college and graduate on time. This move by DeSantis puts these students at a disadvantage. 

It’s important to note that this decision was made by Florida’s State Board of Education, a board appointed by DeSantis consisting of six white members and only one member of color. 

To dive deeper, the curriculum of the proposed course consisted of four units. The first unit covered the origins of the African diaspora, the second freedom, enslavement and resistance, the third the practice of freedom, and the fourth movements and debates. While the course’s title focuses on African American studies, the curriculum also covers intersectionality, which covers injustices of ethnicity, class, gender and disability identity. 

Our Latinx community is also targeted by this slash of the curriculum. Florida is the state that is home to the third most Afro-Latinx people in the United States. African American studies is also a study of the history of the Afro-Latinx community in the United States, taught through intersectionality. When DeSantis ignorantly claims that this course is  “unnecessary,” I think about how many young Afro-Latinx students are being kept from learning about their history, a history that has been kept from us for decades.

Caricature of Ron Desantis, adapted from a Creative Commons licensed photo from Gage Shidmore’s Flickr photostream. Illustration: DonkeyHotey/licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

But this latest attack hits on a deeper level. DeSantis, who has been Florida’s far-right governor since 2019, has already shut the door to the possibilities of learning about our LGBTQ  community with the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which outlaws the teaching of sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third-grade classrooms. 

DeSantis has shown the type of agenda he has attempted to push in Florida. The constant divisive messages that right-wing politicians like DeSantis use to defend their anti-LGBTQ and anti-diversity studies rhetoric is through their alleged fight against the “woke” left. 

As a Latino, this worries me.

Deandre Miles-Hercules, a doctoral linguistics researcher at the University of California, Santa Barbara, explains that the roots of the term “woke” comes from Black social activists who in the 1920s used it as a term directed toward the black community to wake up from the injustices that they had faced on a day-to-day basis. 

The rejection of AP African American studies impacts more communities than people think. It impacts my community in a very negative way. 

It worries me when I think about the next generation of young Latinx students who will continue to be misrepresented in school curricula because we are much more than Cesar Chavez and the farmworkers movement. These figures only cover a fraction of Latinx representation, while the hundreds of Afro-Latinx heroes are kept hidden from our Latinx community. 

DeSantis’ decision also brings into question what other curriculums are going to be outlawed in the state; what other perils are in store for Black and brown activists; and how these decisions will influence other governors and administrators across the country who also subscribe to this right-wing rhetoric.  

Florida’s state representative Fentrice Driskell expressed outrage over DeSantis’ rejection of the course by stating “that at this moment in Florida, history feels dark for those of you who love freedom — and I’m talking about actual freedom, not the so-called freedom what the governor talks about.”  

Driskell also added: “We’re worried about the full true history of our Black, Native American, Hispanic, Asian and other minority groups being erased, their full true history being erased from school textbooks.”

May our stories be erased no more.