So, shit is happening in Florida’s education systems and I need to process. One of the things I need to write through is, what is probably an unknown move, Florida’s approving the requirement of Asian American history in Florida’s public education system.
Being AANHPI Heritage Month, it is no surprise that Florida passed legislation related to the community this month. The Florida legislature passed and Governor Desantis signed into law Florida House Bill 1537 which amended a 1994 law, FS 1003.42, which laid out required instruction within the public education system. This latest bill included amending the required instruction to include “the history of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, including the history of Japanese internment camps and the incarceration of Japanese-Americans during World War II; the immigration, citizenship, civil rights, identity, and culture of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders; and the contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to American society. Instructional materials shall include the contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to American society”.
This bill is littered with both/and perspectives. While it is a grand gesture of inclusion, this action by the Florida legislation is also a huge performative action when laid out in the full context of the state education landscape, as leaders dismantle DEI. While being the first state to require the instruction on the history of the Asian American community, it comes shortly after the Advanced Placement course on African American studies was rejected.
However, beyond the optics there is a deeper game being played. The use of the Model Minority Stereotype is in full force continuing to create divides within and between communities of color.
When you read the full piece of legislation, you can also read the required instruction on the African American community. However, the text includes not only what can be instructed but also parameters: “The history of African Americans, including the history of African peoples before the political conflicts that led to the development of slavery, the passage to America, the enslavement experience, abolition, and the history and contributions of Americans of the African diaspora to society. Students shall develop an understanding of the ramifications of prejudice, racism, and stereotyping on individual freedoms, and examine what it means to be a responsible and respectful person, for the purpose of encouraging tolerance of diversity in a pluralistic society and for nurturing and protecting democratic values and institutions. Instruction shall include the roles and contributions of individuals from all walks of life and their endeavors to learn and thrive throughout history as artists, scientists, educators, businesspeople, influential thinkers, members of the faith community, and political and governmental leaders and the courageous steps they took to fulfill the promise of democracy and unite the nation. Instructional materials shall include the vital contributions of African Americans to build and strengthen American society and celebrate the inspirational stories of African Americans who prospered, even in the most difficult circumstances. Instructional personnel may facilitate discussions and use curricula to address, in an age-appropriate manner, how the individual freedoms of persons have been infringed by slavery, racial oppression, racial segregation, and racial discrimination, as well as topics relating to the enactment and enforcement of laws resulting in racial oppression, racial segregation, and racial discrimination and how recognition of these freedoms has overturned these unjust laws. However, classroom instruction and curriculum may not be used to indoctrinate or persuade students to a particular point of view inconsistent with the principles
enumerated in subsection (3) or the state academic standards. The department shall prepare and offer standards and curriculum for the instruction required by this paragraph and may seek input from the Commissioner of Education’s African American History Task Force”.
These two passages have stark differences and implications.
- For the AAPI curriculum, it is short, sweet, and to the point with no reservations or warnings while for the African American curriculum is presented with concerns about educating students on this community and requires parameters and clarifications.
- There seems to be a problematic assumption that discriminatory laws that have been overturned have corrected systems oppression and racism.
- In the midst of the state’s vigorous stop woke movement, including eliminating funding for DEI in higher education, eliminating the use of critical race theory, anti-trans bills and more, up lifting a community that has been perceived as a white-adjacent, polite, law-abiding group who has achieved a higher level of success than the general population through some combination of innate talent and pull-yourselves-up-by-your-bootstraps immigrant striving creates a divide and misconception of the Asian American community and exacerbates the abusive relationship that has been created by the privileged majority.
From my perspective these are the subliminal messages in legislation that gives the foundation of legitimacy for other communities to validate and uphold oppressive systems. To use one community against another in order to validate oppressive systems deepens dives between our communities and the coalition work we undertake.
And this is the DeSantis game plan. Divide and conquer. DeSantis’ philosophy and life view is dangerous to the future of our country, if we want one of diversity, equity, inclusion and social justice. If we want one that serves the people and not politician egos the “Florida Blueprint” needs to stop with Florida.
As we continue to navigate the onslaught of state legislation across the country in regards to social justice including DEI, trans-rights, LGB+-rights, drag performances, pro-choice and so much more, go deeper beyond the headlines and sound bites. There is a deeper game being played that is the true threat to our future.
Thanks for listening!
Peace, Love and Pandas