Guest column: State education policy change won’t stop discussion about racism’s impact – The Florida Times-Union

On June 10, Florida’s State Board of Education, initiated by Gov. Ron DeSantis and led by Commissioner Richard Corcoran, made the decision to eradicate Critical Race Theory (CRT) from the curriculum of public school education predicated on the unfounded belief that it will indoctrinate students, teaching them to hate America.

Education Week succinctly says that at the heart of the 40+-year-old theory “is that racism is a social construct, and that it is not merely the product of individual biases or prejudice, but also something embedded in legal systems and policies.”We interpret this action to be political posturing in direct response to the cries and demands for racial equity and justice that have been voiced around the world over this past year.

Duval County Public Schools (DCPS) and others have pointed out that CRT is not and has not been part of the state’s standards. They have reconfirmed their commitment to ensuring that American History states the facts of the roles Black Americans have played in the development of this country.

Our school district has even been recertified as an “Exemplary School District” by the Florida Commissioner of Education’s African American History Taskforce for “adhering to the state’s required instruction of the history and contributions of African Americans.” 904WARD along with district administrators, teachers, students and many other community stakeholders participate on this taskforce.

We understand that some members of our community may feel unheard and frustrated by the decision to ban critical race theory. The decision to restrict the state curriculum is not only juxtaposed to our recent DCPS renaming effort, where the names of racist and oppressive members of history were removed from some of our schools, but unashamedly minimizes the role that race has played in the very foundation of our country. It negates the valued viewpoints of the community as well. 

Now is the time to continue to support our school district and teachers as they work diligently to ensure our curriculum accurately reflects the facts around the role that race and racism continues to play in the shaping of our country and its policies in an age-appropriate manner. This bill could diminish the teachings of these facts, robbing children of the opportunity to learn a complete and robust American history. 

This decision does far more than ignore Black-American history. It also seeks to restrict the history of many different communities in America, including Asian Americans and Indigenous people, from history books. Instructing students with a version of history that is incomplete does not allow students to learn the truth and engage in critical thinking.

The decision to constrict teachers’ abilities to encourage our children to critique the role that race played in shaping our country does not only erase history from the past but will affect how today’s stories are told tomorrow. Our recent immigration concerns, like Latinx people being detained at the American Mexican border and put into Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) camps may not accurately be retold or perhaps not mentioned at all in history lessons. Some of these people, such as Francisco Erwin Galicia from Texas, were targeted because of their race, despite being American citizens.

Whether or not these truths are taught in schools, families still have the right and responsibility to teach an accurate account of history to their children. We can take action in our homes to combat the impacts of this bill. As a community, we can still expose our students to multiple aspects and perspectives of history.

Provide your children with a supplemental history curriculum, such as the ones offered by Reconstruction—a program intended to teach about the contributions of Black Americans in an identity-affirming way. Also, explore Jacksonville’s local history at the Ritz Museum. Subscribe to The Jaxson to learn about Jacksonville’s past and present. Read local literature such as It was Never About a Hotdog and a Coke and Never Forget Who You Are: Conversations About Racism and Identity Development. Listen to the oral histories collected as part of the Asian American History Project at the University of Florida. Sign up to receive information from the City of Jacksonville’s Asian American Advisory Board and Hispanic American Advisory Board. Become a member of the First Coast Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Visit the Museum of Science and History’s Currents of Time exhibit and the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve to learn about the Indigenous populations that inhabited northeast Florida before the Spanish arrived. Support the DCPS African-American History Task Force. Watch videos from the Jacksonville Community Remembrance Project to learn how lynchings in Jacksonville during the Jim Crow era still impact our community today. Have a Race Cards conversation in your community. Teach your children the truth.

The State Board of Education’s decision will not change the past, nor will it stop us from talking about and addressing the impact racism has on communities. We will teach and celebrate history that acknowledges and respects the people before us with reverence and dignity. 

Kimberly Allen, CEO of 904WARD, a local nonprofit organization dedicated to ending racism in our community