ASWAD Public Policy & Social Justice Committee statement on Florida's AP African American Studies Ban
News and Announcements
Thursday, February 02, 2023 09:14 AM

The Association for the Study of the Worldwide African Diaspora unequivocally condemns Florida’s recent decision to block the approval of an Advanced Placement course in African American Studies in its public schools.

The January 18th decision is the latest in a series of actions by Florida’s elected officials to dismantle and ban curricula that center people of color and queer communities, including the Stop WOKE Act and the Parental Rights in Education Bill (better known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill). These actions are a grave threat to academic freedom and attempts to foster school environments where all students can learn and thrive. They also reverse decades-long struggles to make K-12 and college curricula reflect the diversity of communities in the United States and globally. Florida is a state where the Black and Latinx populations constitute over 43 percent of the population, and where many members of these communities hail from African Diaspora communities outside of the United States. Given these demographic realities, it is unconscionable for state leaders to willfully deny students the opportunity to elect to learn about the histories and contemporary experiences of Black people through the AP course in African American Studies.

Mobilizing a familiar argument, that the study of Black life constitutes cultural propaganda, Florida officials have argued: "We do not accept woke indoctrination masquerading as education." These efforts form part of a wider surge in anti-Black legislative maneuvers across the US, and indeed throughout the globe, that have attempted to silence critical engagements with theories of race, histories of racial violence, and studies of gender and sexual difference. They form part of a rising tide of attempts to discipline and punish the intellectual production and political activism that have long nourished African American and African Diaspora Studies, Ethnic Studies, and Gender and Sexuality Studies at the collegiate level, and to systematically dismantle the efforts of K-12 educators to implement similar programs of study at the pre-collegiate level. On a broader scale, creating such inaccessability to learning about Black populations represents an effort to consolidate a white supremacist ethno-nationalist state, at a time when far-right extremism and fascist populism have seeped into the fabric of daily life in the United States and throughout the globe.

For the Florida Department of Education, some of the most “concerning” themes of the proposed curriculum – Intersectionality and Activism, Black Struggle in the 21st Century, Black Queer Studies, The Movement for Black Lives, Black Feminist Thought, and the Reparations Movement – are among the very concepts that have energized and been energized by the long struggle for Black freedom, and that have consistently animated the scholarship of this organization’s membership. Moreover, the scholars whose work the Board explicitly attacks – Kimberlé Crenshaw, Angela Davis, Roderick Ferguson, bell hooks, and Robin D.G. Kelley, among others – have been mentors, friends, and political allies/comrades whose scholarship and activism have profoundly shaped many of our members’ research projects, syllabi, political imaginaries, and freedom dreams. Otherwise stated, our intellectual universe has been placed in the cross-hairs of a coordinated anti-Black assault by political leaders. Yet Again.

We pointedly situate this latest attack on Black life and intellectual production within a global context of reactionary anti-Black forces, from the violent, anti-immigrant rhetoric of the Vox Party and the Brothers of Italy in Spain and Italy, respectively, to the recent assassination attempt against Colombia’s first Black vice president, Francia Márquez. ASWAD remains vigilant in our commitment to challenge anti-Blackness and white supremacy across the globe, and stands ready to assist in all endeavors to educate, enlighten, and inspire critical thinkers around the world.