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Florida, Once the Land of Make Believe, Now a Real-Life Horror Under Ron DeSantis

ColumnMay 25, 2023
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By Amy Goodman & Denis Moynihan

“We’ve braved the belly of the beast.
We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace,
and the norms and notions
of what just is
isn’t always just-ice.”

These lines are from The Hill We Climb, a poem recited by then-22-year-old Inaugural Poet Amanda Gorman at President Joe Biden’s swearing in on January 20th, 2021. Her words resonated with extra force that day, as she wrote the poem just two weeks earlier, on January 6th, as she watched the Trump-inspired MAGA mob storm the U.S. Capitol. Trump’s desperate efforts to overturn his 2020 election defeat failed, but the racist, nativist movement of Trumpism is still alive and well. More than two years later, Gorman’s remarkable poem is back in the news. It was published as a book not long after the inauguration, and this week Gorman tweeted that the book had been banned from an elementary school library in Miami-Dade County, Florida.

That Florida is the state where this highly acclaimed literary work was banned should come as no surprise. Under Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, who formally launched his presidential campaign on Wednesday in a glitch-ridden Twitter livestream hosted by billionaire Elon Musk, Florida has become ground zero for systemic, state-sponsored censorship, intolerance and discrimination. DeSantis clearly sees his path to the White House is to out-Trump Trump.It seems there isn’t a historically marginalized group or progressive policy that DeSantis isn’t willing to attack.

DeSantis is casting shade over the Sunshine State. Residents, citizen and non-citizen alike, are suffering under a barrage of punitive legislation, targeting the LGBTQ community, African Americans, and immigrants. DeSantis signed a draconian 6-week abortion ban in April. A year before that, he launched n campaign against The Walt Disney Company after Disney publicly opposed his anti-LGBTQ legislation, dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” law. He originally banned the College Board’s Advanced Placement African American studies course in an assault on Critical Race Theory.

The NAACP is so alarmed with Florida’s drastic policies that it has issued a travel advisory for the state. “Florida is openly hostile toward African Americans, people of color and LGBTQ+ individuals,” the NAACP’s advisory reads. ”Before traveling to Florida, please understand that the state of Florida devalues and marginalizes the contributions of, and the challenges faced by African Americans and other communities of color.”

LULAC, the League of United Latin American Citizens, seconded the travel ban, in response to a DeSantis-signed law going into effect on July 1st, that severely criminalizes undocumented immigrants. “LULAC believes that these hostile and dangerous new laws create a clear and present danger to Latinos in Florida and to Americans in general,” LULAC President Domingo Garcia said on May 17th. “We’re issuing a travel advisory for anybody traveling to Florida. Florida is a dangerous, hostile environment for law abiding Americans and immigrants…you can be arrested for literally taking somebody to the hospital, for literally taking somebody to Disney World.”

DeSantis’s attack on education didn’t stop at the AP African American studies course. He targeted Florida’s renowned, progressive public New College of Florida, replacing its board of trustees with hand-picked political hacks who immediately fired the president and key administrators and dissolved the school’s diversity office.

In response, the American Association of University Professors formed a Special Committee on Academic Freedom and Florida. In a preliminary report issued this week, the committee wrote:

“Academic freedom, tenure, and shared governance in Florida’s public colleges and universities currently face a politically and ideologically driven assault unparalleled in US history. Initiated and led by Governor Ron DeSantis and the Republican majority in the state legislature, this onslaught, if sustained, threatens the very survival of meaningful higher education in the state.”

This is all part of DeSantis’s so-called “War on Woke,” which he intends to take national should he win the White House. People are organizing to stem the damage DeSantis is doing on a daily basis in Florida.

PEN America, Penguin Random House and several authors and parents are suing the school board in Pensacola, Florida, for banning books from school libraries.

“We are suing in Escambia County to challenge the removal of books from classroom and school libraries,” Suzanne Nossel, CEO of PEN America, said on the Democracy Now! news hour. “This effort disproportionately targets books by and about authors of color, LGBTQ narratives…we’re asking the school board to put these books back on the shelves, and the court to vindicate children’s right to read.”

“History has its eyes on us,” writes Amanda Gorman in The Hill We Climb, currently unavailable to elementary school readers in Miami Lakes, Florida.

“We will not be turned around
or interrupted by intimidation
because we know our inaction and inertia
will be the inheritance of the next generation.”

Related Story

StoryMay 05, 2023Freedom to Learn: Nat’l Day of Action Targets Ron DeSantis, “Anti-Woke Cabal” over Book Bans & More
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