Many in the Black community believe some White conservatives have hijacked the meaning of “woke” to advance their positions in a culture war.
“We are standing here enlightened, empowered, and we are woke as hell,” said Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.). “So, you can try to continue with your anti-woke agenda, but the only people who ain’t woke is you.”
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has created a dedicated following amongst Florida conservatives, and beyond, for speaking out against diversity efforts and discussions of discrimination in the classroom and the workplace.
But now his critics in the Black community are hitting back, labeling his stop woke agenda as “racism at its core,” according to Florida state Sen. Shevrin Jones.
Years ago, the term “stay woke” became a popular saying amongst conscious Black Americans, warning them to stay aware of all the racism and discrimination still prevalent.
As countless Black Americans lost their lives because of police brutality, the movement to stay “woke” gained international attention, as activists as far as Asia began protesting police brutality and systemic racism aimed at Black Americans.
After the 2020 murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, many Black Americans stated that some of their White friends began reaching out to learn more about the Black plight, vowing to take a stance against anti-Black racism whenever they saw it.
However, that unity between many Black and White Americans did not last as long as some activists would have liked.
Like many movements that attempt to improve the condition of Black Americans, the Black Lives Matter movement began to receive backlash and ridicule for some of the mistakes that some of the Black Lives Matter leaders and chapters made.
Many Republicans politicians like DeSantis and former President Donald Trump began pushing back on the so-called “woke agenda,” even though many Black activists claim the aim of the movement was only to create more equality and less racism and discrimination.
Conservatives across state and local governments began speaking out on so-called critical race theory being taught in K-12 schools, although critical race theory is an elective taught in law schools and some graduate schools.
Nevertheless, many Republican city council members, school board members and residents of various cities began using the critical race theory issue as a campaign issue, saying that teaching actual American history, which includes racism and slavery, made some White parents and schoolchildren feel guilty for what their ancestors may have done to people of color.
Ceasing on that culture war issue, DeSantis began his stop woke movement, which includes banning an advanced placement Black history course because it allegedly has no educational value.
Bowman said, “To the Republican Party and Ron DeSantis—do me a favor—pick up a book and read. Read an African-American history curriculum so that you can understand that the birth of European history started on the continent [of] Africa. We know that you are trying to erase that history because you don’t want Black people to have knowledge [of] itself.”
To combat DeSantis and other Republican politicians who are attempting to limit the teaching of Black history, Bowman and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) reintroduced the African American History Act, which would allocate $10 million over the next five years to the National Museum of African American History and Culture to support Black history programs.
Because of criticism that DeSantis has received for eliminating A.P. Black History, the possible presidential candidate has hinted about eliminating all advanced placement courses in the “Sunshine State.”
Furthermore, he has contemplated eliminating the SAT test, which many colleges use for the admissions process.
Many high school students and their parents favor taking as many advanced placement courses as possible because it allows students to receive college credit while still matriculating through high school.
Those college credits received before stepping foot on a college campus can help reduce the cost of college because many of the prerequisites have been completed before graduating high school.
However, Florida is not alone in its effort to limit discussions of race and racism at schools.
States like Texas, Virginia, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Georgia and Mississippi now have laws on the books the restrict certain aspects of race from being discussed in the classroom.
Many Republican politicians like DeSantis have stated that teaching about racism and homophobia is indoctrinating young students.
However, many critics believe that not talking about race and homophobia indoctrinates students too by teaching them that racism and other forms of discrimination do not exist.
DeSantis has also faced similar criticism from the LGBTQ+ community for so-called don’t say gay bill.
Many critics of stop woke and don’t say gay believe that it will lead to more hate and bullying aimed at Black and gay students in Florida.
Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-Fla.), the first member of Generation Z in the United States Congress, believes that DeSantis’ actions are “more than a culture war.”
Frost said, “This is direct violence on our communities. It will result in death. It will result in trauma. It will result in people being bullied in school. There are real tangible effects here that we have to talk about. It’s not just DeSantis talking. This is real for our kids. This is real for our communities.”
Many educators and scholars believe that educating students about the real history of racism in America could lead to building bridges and correcting some of the sins of the past.
Bowman added, “Knowledge is power. It uplifts humanity. When we have more knowledge, we make better decisions, and then we can solve humanity’s most pressing issues like hunger and climate change and homelessness and poverty—and all the stuff you don’t want us to solve.”