DeSantis' alternative African-American history is doomed: Black conservatives can't replace CRT

The AP changed its course after Florida's GOP governor complained it lacked balance. But what is the opposing view?

By Chauncey DeVega

Senior Writer

Published February 6, 2023 5:42AM (EST)

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis recently declared that it was a crime to teach the Advanced Placement (AP) African American studies course to Florida's high school students. The Republican claimed that African-American studies has no "educational value" and basically is some type of trojan horse and "mind virus" to indoctrinate young (white) people in woke ideology. DeSantis and his agents specifically targeted the AP African American studies course because it included gay and queer authors, the Black Lives Matter Movement, references to critical race theory, intersectionality and reparations.

However packaged and massaged, DeSantis and his agents are communicating their belief that Black people don't have any "real" history that merits being taught at an advanced level in public schools, or anywhere else. This, however, is obviously not true.

It is also the very definition of white supremacy and racism. 

DeSantis' latest attempt to purge Black history is insulting and dehumanizing to Black people. Such acts of erasure and othering are also a prelude to and encouragement for actual physical violence against Black people as well. [More African Americans were lynched in Florida on a per capita basis than in any other state in the country.] These efforts also assume that white people (and others invested in Whiteness) are dimwits too controlled by white racial fragility to be exposed to complex truths and facts about American society. 

What DeSantis and the other Republican fascists want is a country where white people are never made to feel uncomfortable.

Moreover, these attacks are part of a national political project by Republicans. The strategy and tactics are being tested at the state level before being expanded across the country. Florida (along with Texas) is one of the main laboratories for this evil experiment. And predictably, the College Board, which administers the AP courses and exams surrendered to DeSantis' hostage-taking. Meanwhile, more than 24 states have tried to limit or ban critical race theory from the classroom, according to a tracking project by UCLA.

There are large sums of money involved in selling the AP curriculum to America's schools. As Judd Legum of Popular Info notes, "right-wing criticism of the AP African American Studies course presents a financial threat. It needs more students than ever to enroll in AP courses" after many colleges and universities shifted to a test-optional admissions process during the pandemic. As such, the College Board surrendered — because profits matter more than principles.

Want a daily wrap-up of all the news and commentary Salon has to offer? Subscribe to our morning newsletter, Crash Course.

In an interview at Time Magazine, Harvard University historian Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, who helped to design the AP African-American Studies pilot course, offered this rebuttal to DeSantis' thought crime attacks:

The governor also says AP African American Studies would "indoctrinate" students.

One of our goals is to have students look at topics from a variety of angles. This is the farthest thing from indoctrination. How you look at a subject from different angles is best done through interdisciplinary work. And this is an interdisciplinary course.


One of the major points that comes out of this course is that Black people are not a monolith. The people of African descent are themselves of different ethnicities, of different ideologies and political persuasions. They are different as far as income, as far as education. And we're trying to capture that complexity. There's certain things that will be similar. But the richness of it is the complexity within a narrative that allows for students to disagree. And we want students to disagree. We want respectful and civil debate.

So in an effort to appease DeSantis and his thought crime enforcers, the College Board has included a project in its revised AP African-American studies course where students can focus on "black conservatives."

But what would this actually look like in practice?

As I explained in an earlier essay here at Salon there is a long and rich history of authentic Black conservative thought that confronts white supremacy and is born of a real sense of love and linked fate to the Black community. Malcolm X and Marcus Garvey are examples of authentic Black conservatism (both in the form of Black Nationalism) that is rooted in the Black community. An accurate consideration of their political thought and contributions would almost certainly not be included in DeSantis' preferred teaching.

But for today's Republican Party, "black conservative" is a type of performance and character, a political race minstrel show, where Black people are used as human puppets to validate, pander to, legitimate, and perform white supremacy and other anti-Black beliefs under the guise of "conservative values." A "black conservative" curriculum would likely include the following inaccuracies, outright lies and white supremacist storytelling as the following:

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a Republican and racism would no longer be a problem if we just followed his dream and stopped talking about it. Black America's problems would be cured if Black people just followed King's vision and stopped "hating" white people and voting for Democrats.

"Black Confederates" were some of America's original conservatives. They were great patriots and should be studied as proof that the Civil War was not over slavery but instead "states' rights" and "individual freedom." 

Thomas Sowell, Clarence Thomas, Shelby Steele, and Herman Cain are the greatest black Americans to ever live.

Right-wing libertarianism, objectivism, and "free markets" are the best path to real freedom for Black America. Milton Friedman, Ayn Rand, and Ronald Reagan are the closest things to God.

"The Democrat Party" destroyed the Black family.

Abortion is a form of "genocide" to destroy "the black race".

There is a vast parallel set of public and private institutions including think tanks, schools, mass media, public relations firms, donors, political entrepreneurs, and other individuals and organizations that are dedicated to developing, financing, and circulating right-wing disinformation and propaganda. As seen with today's "black conservatives" it is very lucrative to feed at this trough. DeSantis' assault on public education and his thought crime agenda reflects a larger dynamic where today's Republicans and "conservatives" believe that dogma and self-serving myths are the same as empirical reality and facts. In that alternate universe, partisanship, right-wing orthodoxy and political correctness replace the facts, reality, and the truth.

What DeSantis and the other Republican fascists want is a country where white people are never made to feel uncomfortable. In essence, white people should never be made to feel challenged in "their own country" by Black or brown people who dare to speak the truth. The ability to choose how, where, when and in what ways that one will be made to feel uncomfortable (or not) is one of the basic tenets of white privilege – and other forms of privilege as well. DeSantis and his allies in Florida and across the country are abusing African-American history (and education more broadly) to fit that expectation. At the Washington Post, Karen Attiah summarizes this upside down nightmare dreamworld of white fantasies and paranoia as: "Instead, by singling out AP African American studies, Florida is showing us what the end game was always about: making institutional anti-Blackness lawful again".

In the end for Desantis, Trump, and those many tens of millions of other Americans who worship at the throne of Whiteness, America is a White man's country and Black and brown people are just guests.

By Chauncey DeVega

Chauncey DeVega is a senior politics writer for Salon. His essays can also be found at He also hosts a weekly podcast, The Chauncey DeVega Show. Chauncey can be followed on Twitter and Facebook.

MORE FROM Chauncey DeVega