Common Dreams – Students and others attend a walkout to protest Florida education policies outside Orlando City Hall on April 21, 2023 in Orlando, Florida. (Paul Hennessy/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
The past eight months have been devastating blows for any marginalized person in the US. In February, the College Board responded to Florida Governor Ron Desantis’s ban on AP African American History by overhauling the curriculum for the rest of the nation.
Removing lessons that addressed both historical and contemporary struggles of slavery, intersectionality, queer history studies, the Black lives matter movement, the curriculum essentially guts the connection between the past and the present.
In doing this, it becomes difficult for future generations to know their history and advocate for a just future. Earlier this month, Desantis announced a ban on AP Psychology for Florida high schools, citing a disagreement with the courses’ content of sexual orientation and gender identity.
But why does Florida matter? The most obvious answer is that people live there, approximately 21 million people and rising. It is impossible to ignore civil and human rights violations occurring in the south, as those most marginalized often reside within those states.
We cannot afford to write off the actions of the Southern states while quietly hoping it does not affect “more progressive states”. When Desantis bans African American History or AP Psychology, the efforts never stop there. A few weeks ago, the Florida curriculum was approved to teach that slavery held benefits for slaves as they were able to ‘cultivate’ new skills.
In altering the teaching of a major historical event, it gives rise to a sinister distortion of modern-day oppression. If we believe that slavery held benefits for those enslaved, the logic follows that the legacy of slavery is no more severe than simple skill bartering.
With this new understanding of both the past and the present… What happens to the future? What happens to racial progress as a whole when the stem of its inequity is no longer recognized as truth?
It leaves us with a present in which the Supreme Court is able to gut affirmative action with the same logic of Brown vs. Board of Education, citing Brown’s promise to provide equal opportunity to every student. It leaves us with a future that authorizes private businesses to discriminate against marginalized people with very little discretion.
It leaves us with a shaky future of abortion protections, as the supreme court now leaves bodily autonomy as a right of the states to determine.
As the Federal and Local courts continue to strike down freedoms with the approval of the State Legislature, it is essential that both our movements and our outrage are intersectional.
In essence, intersectionality understands that there are people who hold multiple marginalized identities that ‘intersect’ to create unique oppressions. A Queer Black Woman is at all times Black, Queer, and a Woman, meaning that they face racism, homophobia, and sexism concurrently.
Considering intersectionality is necessary to evaluate how harmful a policy will be and what should be advocated for in its place. When FL banned African American History, they specifically cited an issue with Queer History being taught in schools. An understanding of intersectionality allows us to predict the banning of AP psychology for their mention of gender and identity studies, as well as understand the ban on gender-affirming healthcare within the state.
A Black Queer person is dually harmed by these decisions, as well as by the supreme courts striking of affirmative action and promotion of sexuality discrimination within private businesses. When we refuse to address these issues of intersectionality, those in the margins are left vulnerable.
My advice for those wishing to organize? Consider the stakeholders and make them your ally. Understanding that the AP Psych ban is an issue of educational equity, LGBT Rights, and historical erasure allow us to consider who is most impacted by this decision. With their concerns at the center, the goals of social movements become more encompassing and push us closer to true liberation.
So when beginning organizing, use intersectionality as your guide. It’s likely to bring communities together, challenge the status quo, and expand our ideas of what liberation truly entails.