Originally published in the Orlando Sentinel on February 28, 2023.
February marks Black History Month, a time to celebrate the resilience, strength, and
achievements of the Black community. This February also serves as a precursor for Florida’s
upcoming legislative session. While the session officially begins on March 7, we are in the midst
of a series of interim committee weeks leading up to the official start.
The intersectionality of Black History Month and the upcoming session begs the question: how
can one comfortably celebrate Black history and discuss furthering civil rights when the state of
Florida continues to impose “anti-woke” pieces of legislation and our teachers are afraid to
teach the horrors of slavery and Jim Crow?
“Anti-woke” bills and continued rhetoric spewing from leaders within Florida’s Capitol chastising
diversity, equity, and inclusion are proving to be dangerous. These actions undermine the
progress that has been made towards creating a more just society, and actually prevent much
of the training our own military has used for more than 70 years.
America’s military was one of the first institutions in the 1940s to try to integrate and give African
Americans equal opportunities. Our armed forces worked hard to teach soldiers of different
races how to get along. They taught the history of African Americans so that the white soldiers
would respect and accept their darker-hued peers. Learning the history of another community
diminishes prejudice and people work together more constructively.
Still to this day, branches of the military and the Department of Defense honor several
observation periods throughout the year (i.e. Native American Month, Hispanic Heritage Month,
Asian American And Pacific Islander Month, and Women’s History Month). During these
periods, distinguished speakers are often brought in to give presentations highlighting how
different communities were harmed by state-imposed limitations and how our nation learned to
provide opportunities across the board. These programs, frequently dubbed by the Department
of Defense as diversity, equity, and inclusion education programs, are well-used and liked by
members of our armed forces.
Florida should look at our armed forces and the efforts of other nations like Germany and South
Africa to confront their difficult pasts, as these nations openly share their difficult pasts as a way
to move forward and reconcile. Not shut the mouths of educators, bar courses, and ban books.
Sharing historical information about the wrongs of a nation is the way that mutual respect and
understanding of problems caused by structural inequities is developed. It is concerning that the
State of Florida seems to blatantly ignore our military’s well-established diversity training efforts
and instead send mixed messages. For example, the Governor is sponsoring a Black History
Month Student and Educator Contest this year but is simultaneously shutting down anything and
everything that even resembles the dimensions of diversity, equity and inclusion in our schools
Let’s be clear: our system of government is not intended to reflect one viewpoint, but rather to
find common ground and represent a plurality of views. An educated citizenry is needed for a
strong democracy. A strong democracy marks a touchstone of a truly strong nation.