Last year, Gov. DeSantis signed the "Stop Woke" act into law, one that's most constitutionally suspect tenet provides: 

A person, by virtue of his or her race, color, sex, or national origin, bears personal responsibility for and must feel guilt, anguish or other forms of psychological distress because of actions, in which the person played no part, committed in the past by other members of the same race, color, national origin..."

Did you know that back in the 1990's, that the Florida legislature mandated that Black History must be taught in K-12 classrooms across the State? That measure, coupled with a requirement that Holocaust History be featured as well, arose during the time when the State of Florida compensated survivors of the deadly 1923 Rosewood Massacre near Gainesville—all the while recognizing the state's notorious past as a hot bed of Black lynchings, Black disenfranchisement, and rigid racial segregation. 

Rubin Stacy, 37, was lynched to death in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in 1935 for the alleged offense of “scaring” a white woman.

The mandate, still on the books as Florida Statutes §1003.42(2)(h), provides teaching in pertinent part:


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 contributions of African Americans to society.

Back when I was general counsel for the Florida NAACP from 2006-10, one of the issues that we petitioned then Republican Gov. Charlie Crist was that the implementation of the state's Black History mandate had not been as universally heralded or woven into the state's educational fabric as Holocaust education. Nevertheless, both then and as recent as 2022, the fact that the law was on the books, at minimum, allowed individual teachers in Florida's 68 districts to fashion Black history lesson plans as they deemed fit. 

That was until the modern Republican Party began using "Critical Race Theory," a relatively obscure law and graduate school concept that analyzes American history and economics through the lenses of systemic racism and white supremacy, as a rhetorical device to convince its dim-witted supporters that "The Blacks" are seeking to make “good Christian white folks” feel bad about the evil acts that preceding generations of so-called Christian white folks perpetrated upon Black people during slavery and Jim Crow. 

Two white women protest the sale of this formerly white church to a Black congregation seeking to move into segregated Fort Worth, Texas circa 1956…

Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, a potential candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024, coined the phrase "Florida is where Woke goes to die" during his re-election campaign last year—and rolled out the same idiotic phrase last week during his first swing through Iowa, home to the early and critically important Iowa presidential preference caucuses next year.

As typical when the village idiots develop solutions where no problems exist, DeSantis' Stop Woke Act suggests that Florida teachers, by developing lessons that adhere to the original state law that slavery, abolition, Jim Crow, and Black achievement are taught each year, are intentionally seeking to make the descendants of the slave masters, sharecrop farm landholders, company store owners, KKK and White Citizens council members feel guilty about what their parents and grandparents did to Black people. 

Not only are such suggestions by DeSantis and his kind patently absurd, but it dilutes the real purpose of teaching history in any society, which is to teach the good, the bad, and the ugly so that the latter two—the bad and the ugly—are not repeated by the present and future generations. 

While the legitimacy of Stop Woke is still under federal judicial scrutiny after my old friend and colleague from the University of Florida Levin College of Law, U.S. District Judge Mark Walker, entered an injunction declaring the law unconstitutional on First Amendment grounds last fall, in the meantime, Florida teachers remain in limbo and in fear that if they teach real Black (American) history, that they face the risk of losing their jobs or their freedom in "Despot DeSantis'" Florida. 

Florida school districts are also facing the reality that an entire legion of village idiots are now tasked with determining which textbooks are best suited to teach versions of history that comport with Despot DeSantis' "see no evil, hear no evil" approach to Black history.

Earlier this week, the NY Times chronicled the efforts of one company, Studies Weekly, that, similar to the old "Weekly Reader" of my youth in the 70's and 80's, provides information on numerous social studies and historical topics for elementary school students.  

The Times analyzed three different versions of Studies Weekly's treatments on Rosa Parks, the iconic civil rights leader who was instrumental in launching the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955—and propelled a then 26-year old pastor, Dr. Martin Luther King, into international prominence for leading the boycott.

While seemingly benign subtleties, the malignancy above is that by the third excerpt, the racial and systemic racism part of the lesson no longer exists! To the young elementary aged minds that read excerpt three, they very likely may conclude that Rosa Parks was exercising a choice of seats no different from choosing Cinnamon Toast Crunch over Raisin Bran as a breakfast cereal each morning 😡!

When confronted with this discrepancy, the Florida Department of Education suggested that the Studies Weekly company “had overreached,” adding that, “Any publisher that avoids the topic of race when teaching the Civil Rights movement, slavery, segregation, etc. would not be adhering to Florida law…”

But the problem, Florida DOE (read-DeSantis) is that Studies Weekly was only seeking to tailor its lesson to comply with the Stop Woke Act standard that (white) students are not to be instructed in a way that could make them feel guilty or ashamed about the evil acts of their racial ancestors.

The Rosa Parks lesson is instructive to all of us today in that her act of civil disobedience, one that was later joined by sit-ins, wade-ins, and Freedom Rides on segregated Greyhound and Trailways buses, reminds us that the racist powers back then, men like Alabama Gov. George Wallace (D), Mississippi Gov. Ross Barnett (D), and Arkansas Gov. Orval Faubus (D), only yielded to demands to end Jim Crow laws when they realized that Black people and their white allies would not rest until those laws became null and void.

Similarly, our charge to keep in this present age is to agitate, legislate, and litigate against legal sophistry like the “Stop Woke Act” to send a message to the modern racists and race baiters like Gov. DeSantis (R), Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), and Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R), that we will not be intimidated by their attempts to mute modern Blacks and our white allies who realize the dangers of teaching white-washed American history.

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Chuck Hobbs is a freelance journalist who won the 2010 Florida Bar Media Award and has been twice nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary.

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