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Ben Crump: Florida’s New Curriculum, Claiming “Benefits” of Slavery, Will Cause “Psychological Trauma”

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We speak with civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump about two recent cases of anti-Black racism making headlines in the United States: Florida’s new curriculum standards that teach students the “benefits” of transatlantic slavery to enslaved people, and a set of lawsuits against Northwestern University accusing the school’s athletic teams of widespread and institutionalized hazing, including physical, racial and sexual abuse. Crump is representing former Northwestern football players in one of the lawsuits. Republican presidential contender and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has doubled down on the Florida Board of Education’s new rules that require educators to teach students that enslaved Black people “developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.” Crump, who says he may sue the state over the changes, notes, “It has the potential to cause serious psychological trauma to African American students, and we will not stand for it.” Meanwhile, Crump has called the cases at Northwestern the beginning of the “me too” movement for college sports.

Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Ben, I wanted to ask you — Juan, did you have another question on the Malcolm X assassination?

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: No, no. Go ahead, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: All right, let me introduce the clip, and this is in Florida. I want to switch topics and ask you about the Republican presidential contender, your governor, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who’s doubled down on the Florida Board of Education’s new rules that require educators to teach students that enslaved Black people, quote, “developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.” On Friday, Governor DeSantis defended the curriculum.

GOV. RON DESANTIS: I think that they’re probably going to show some of the folks that eventually parlayed, you know, being a blacksmith into doing things later in life. But the reality is, all of that is rooted in whatever is factual. They listed everything out. And if you have any questions about it, just ask the Department of Education. You can talk about those folks. But, I mean, these were scholars who put that together. It was not anything that was done politically.

AMY GOODMAN: The NAACP has called Florida’s new curriculum a, quote, “sanitized and dishonest telling of the history of slavery in America.” And, Ben Crump, the last time you were in New York at the Audubon Ballroom, you were threatening to sue DeSantis and the state of Florida. He’s talking about what he calls, really, the upside of slavery.

BENJAMIN CRUMP: Yeah, Amy, it’s deplorable. It is sickening. It is astonishing that in 2023 we can have a person who is the second in contention for the Republican nomination telling his supporters and his state that he governs that it is going to be mandated now that students in Florida, starting from middle school on, will have to be taught that slavery had positive benefits. And it is asinine on every level. It has the potential to cause serious psychological trauma to African American students.

And we will not stand for it. We will explore every possible legal remedy in the court of law. I know activists, civil rights leaders, ministers, business leaders all throughout the Black community who will fight in the court of public opinion against this heresy. It is — I mean, it is akin to trying to teach the next generation, the young people, that slavery was not that bad. And if we don’t teach our children true history and they don’t learn from the sins of the past, then it is very likely that we will repeat those horrors. And we will not allow that to happen.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Ben Crump, we only have about a minute left, but I wanted to ask you also about another mushrooming scandal at Northwestern, in the Northwestern University athletic program. You represent Lloyd Yates, a former quarterback and wide receiver with the Northwestern football team. Could you talk about the importance of what’s happening there?

BENJAMIN CRUMP: Yes. Lloyd Yates, a courageous young man who was the quarterback for the Northwestern University football team, whose coach, Fitzgerald, has been fired amidst this hazing scandal, was the first named plaintiff to file a lawsuit, the first person not to stay behind anonymity but put his name and face out there, launching what I believe, Juan, to be the “me too” moment for college sports, that we hopefully will eradicate this physical, psychological and, in Lloyd’s case and many others at Northwestern, sexual hazing. And it’s no way they can justify this. It needs to be condemned and not condoned in any manner. And we believe, just like with the sexual abuse scandals at Michigan State and Ohio State, that Northwestern needs to step up and set a precedent for what will not be tolerated.

AMY GOODMAN: Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, we thank you so much for joining us, was in New York yesterday, today in Miami, Florida.

That does it for our show. Congratulations to Igor Moreno on the birth of his daughter, Alicia Anya Moreno-Camarena! Welcome to the world, Alicia!

Democracy Now! is currently accepting applications for interns in our archive and development departments. Learn more and apply at democracynow.org.

Democracy Now! is produced with Renée Feltz, Mike Burke, Deena Guzder, Messiah Rhodes, Nermeen Shaikh, María Taracena, Tami Woronoff, Charina Nadura, Sam Alcoff, Tey-Marie Astudillo, John Hamilton, Robby Karran, Hany Massoud and Sonyi Lopez. Our executive director is Julie Crosby.

To see transcripts and our video or audio podcasts of each show, go to democracynow.org, as well as our extended interview with Isabel Allende. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

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