Opinion: Is Black History Month Still Legal in Florida?

Walter Rhein

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February is Black History Month. This is an important month because it helps provide a foundation so that we might all better understand each other. Understanding builds compassion and unity, which ultimately lead to the prosperity of our nation.

However, the divided political climate ushered in by the previous president, whose term of service ended in a traitorous coup attempt on the Capitol has left our society reeling.

In the aftermath of that infamous day, more politicians have seized upon cultivating the seeds of division as a viable political strategy. Many states have banned the study of critical race theory, even though the theory is currently not taught in K-12 public schools.

It’s not difficult to anticipate that opponents of critical race theory will soon set their sights on Black History Month. To date, there has been little effort to educate the public on what critical race theory even is, much less teach it.

Concerns that critical race theory is a “problem” could be universally dismissed as “fake news.”

However, although concerns about critical race theory might have been fabricated to sow the seeds of division, the laws put in place to prevent it are very real.

Anyone in the United States of America who respects the country, the founding fathers and individual freedom should be concerned by any attempt of any government agency to place restrictions on poorly defined concepts.

Most recently, Florida blocked an advanced placement course on African American studies. There is a conflict because it’s reasonable to assume anything intended for that course can and should be presented to a class during black history month.

Part of the cause of the disconnect we’re experiencing as modern Americans is that nobody is clear on what is being banned. This leads to people unfairly losing their jobs. Simply including the phrase “critical race theory” is not an explanation because there is widespread confusion about what that phrase means.

Are schools not allowed to teach about slavery?

Are schools not allowed to teach the true history of the Civil War?

Are schools not allowed to teach about slave breeding farms?

Are schools not allowed to teach about the slave trade?

Are schools not allowed to teach about Jim Crow laws?

Are schools not allowed to teach about the civil rights movement?

All of these things are fundamental historical concepts that are critical to developing an accurate understanding of modern civilization.

A prominent republican politician once decried the idea of taking down Confederate statues. She said it would be better to keep those statues up so that she could explain that history to children.

Why then are so many Americans content with the idea of censoring black history? They often call it “indoctrination,” but what about telling the truth of history represents indoctrination?

Recently, teachers in Florida have been forced to remove books from their classrooms. When I was growing up, schools encouraged children to read. We were encouraged to have access to books. What happened?

Black History Month is a critical time because, in addition to providing students with the truth of history, it also demonstrates the tactics of authoritarian regimes. Think about it! What could be more authoritarian than the slave era?

Much of what is called “critical race theory” amounts to little more than informing the public about the tactics oppressors use to strip people of their rights. What could be more fundamentally American than training children to be wary of oppressors?

Critical race theory is not a black versus white issue, it’s an oppression versus decency issue. I’d rather live in a society where children were encouraged to read. When children read, they learn how to think for themselves. When you take books from schools, all you do is control the information children receive.

Children need to learn the consequences of voter suppression. Children need to learn about the injustices of the slave era. Children need to develop an appropriate revulsion for the concept of government censorship.

Children need to learn these things, and they also need to learn what happens if we allow encroachments upon our freedoms to go uncontested.

Those that don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Look in a book. See what awaits you if you allow the government to suppress the truth about history.

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Walter Rhein is an author with Perseid Press. He also does a weekly column for The Writing Cooperative on Medium.

Chippewa Falls, WI

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