(JACKSONVILLE, Fla.) — Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to Florida Friday to keep up her “fight” back against new, controversial Black history standards approved unanimously this week by the state’s board of education.
Among the changes approved Wednesday was a section of “benchmark clarifications,” and among those was one that states “instruction includes how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.”
“How is it that anyone could suggest that amidst these atrocities [of slavery], there was any benefit to being subjected to this level of dehumanization?” Harris said in a fiery speech at the Friday event.
Acts of violence “against and by” African Americans are also mentioned in lesson plans included in the new changes.
These changes come after the Florida legislature passed GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis’ “Stop-WOKE” law, described as an act that creates protection for students and workers, allowing them to not feel “discrimination based on race, color, sex or national origin.”
The vice president was in Jacksonville, Florida, “to deliver remarks on the fight to protect fundamental freedoms, specifically, the freedom to learn and teach America’s full and true history,” according to a White House official.
She also planned to “convene parents, educators, civil rights leaders, and elected officials to address these attacks and work together to protect fundamental freedoms, including the freedom for women to make decisions about their own bodies, the freedom to live safe from gun violence, and the freedom to vote,” the official said.
During a speech Thursday in Indianapolis, Harris called the policy an “insult” to Black Americans.
“Just yesterday in the state of Florida, they decided middle school students will be taught that enslaved people benefited from slavery,” Harris told attendees of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority’s national convention. “They insult us in an attempt to gaslight us, and we will not stand for it.”
The changes have been widely criticized by civil rights leaders and educators.
NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson called the move “an attempt to bring our country back to a 19th century America where Black life was not valued, nor our rights protected.”
The state’s largest teachers’ union, the Florida Education Association, called the guidelines “a step backward” and accused DeSantis, who has made cultural issues a centerpiece of his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, of “pursuing a political agenda guaranteed to set good people against one another.”
“How can our students ever be equipped for the future if they don’t have a full, honest picture of where we’ve come from?” Andrew Spar, the union’s president, said in a statement. “Florida’s students deserve a world-class education that equips them to be successful adults who can help heal our nation’s divisions rather than deepen them.”
In response, DeSantis tweeted, “Democrats like Kamala Harris have to lie about Florida’s educational standards to cover for their agenda of indoctrinating students and pushing sexual topics onto children.”
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