Ron DeSantis's Black education standards were written by far-right activist
"Democrats embrace their child molesters," they once wrote
Welcome to a Sunday edition of Progress Report.
Today we’ve got new original reporting on Florida’s new Jim Crow education curriculum, actual Nazis on the march, and long-awaited confirmation of political mass murder (even if news outlets won’t call it that).
(Yes, I promised promised that the next edition of this newsletter would offer a more optimistic story about our democracy. These new developments have bumped that story to midweek, but it’s coming!)
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The co-author of Ron DeSantis’s racist revamp of Florida’s African-American history curriculum is a right-wing documentary film producer and author who has published screeds admonishing Democrats as racists and socialists.
The other was the chairman of the US Commission on Civil Rights — under Ronald Reagan. He’s also the lead scholar at The Center for Urban Renewal and Education, a right-wing religious public policy think tank.
Frances P. Rice, the co-chair of Florida’s African American Standards Workgroup, spent 20 years in the Army, serving in distinguished non-combat legal roles, including at the Pentagon, before retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel. Then it was on to the private sector, overseeing government contracts for the McDonnell Douglas Corporation and then a stint as a business professor.
It’s in her third act in which right-wing ideology has come to the fore. Rice is the co-founder of the National Black Republican Association, a 501(c)(4) that launched in 2005 and quickly lost most of its other board members due to her provocations.
Rice became known in local Florida GOP circles for hard-edged assertions of the Reagan-era rhetoric that now come from conservative Black influencers such as Candace Owens. In the early 2000s, Rice handed out pins that called Democrats “Poverty Pimps,” and in 2005, insisted on blasting out a press release that praised President George W. Bush for his historically catastrophic response to Hurricane Katrina. (The failure of that response was so profound that even the guy who started the Iraq War was forced to apologize.)
Funds from the NBRA were used to finance billboards and radio ads that claimed that “Martin Luther King Jr. was a Republican,” a myth that has been regularly refuted by historians.
In 2008, Rice began a crusade against then-Sen. Barack Obama during his historic campaign for the White House. The provocations were legion, and in many ways a preview of the GOP’s next evolution. Her tactics included radio ads that called the Democratic Party “a racist party” and claimed Obama’s friends were “unrepentant terrorists.” She also used party money to print a magazine called The Black Republican, which far-right headlines such as “Democrats embrace their child molesters” and “Democrats wage war on God.”
One issue of The Black Republican included a photo of KKK members burning crosses, accompanied by a caption that read “Every person in this photograph was a Democrat.”
Much of Rice’s work fixates on the roles of the two major parties before the political realignment that began with the New Deal and was completed by the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. A textbook that she co-authored, Black History 1619-2019: An Illustrated and Documented African-American History, is also a selective history, loaded with mistruths that find ways to soften the edges of slavery and depict 1950s southern Dixiecrats as representative of the modern Democratic Party.
The book has been celebrated and shared by such intellectual heavyweights as Dennis Prager and California recall failure Larry Elder. A more condensed version of Rice’s version of 21st century history is outlined in a 2018 post she wrote called “Unveiled: Democrats’ Racist Past.”
A few select passages, to illustrate the point:
As author Michael Scheurer succinctly stated, the Democrat Party is the party of the four S’s: Slavery, Secession, Segregation and now Socialism.
The socialist policies of the Democratic Party are at the root of the pathos in black communities. To their eternal shame, Democrats fight every effort of Republicans to help blacks get out of poverty. Democrats oppose school choice opportunity scholarships that would help black parents get their children out of failing schools. Nixon’s “Southern Strategy was an effort on his part to get fair-minded people in the South to stop voting for Democrats who did not share their values and were discriminating against blacks.
Democrats today denounce Republican Senator Barry Goldwater as anti-black. However a review of Senator Barry Goldwater’s record shows that he was a Libertarian, not a racist.
Rice wrote Black History 1619-2019 with Sandy Yocum, a white small business owner with whom Rice co-founded the Yocum African-American History Association.
The organization produces school curriculum based on conservative revisionist history, and much of it mirrors what’s in Florida’s new education standards. Its lessons on slavery are designed to minimize the guilt of white people, as is made evident in these slides from the cringe-inducing Power Point presentations it produces for home-schooled audiences. Eat your heart out, South Park.
The facts, as they exist here, are misleading; for example, the Castle of Ghana was built by white slave traders from Portugal, Holland, and England, designed to hold Black Africans captive before the final leg of their journeys to plantations. But that goes entirely unmentioned. Naturally.
That final slide alludes to Barbary Slavery, an alt-right obsession that was slipped into Florida curriculum despite disavowal from the professor who produced most of the scholarship on the subject, as Progress Report revealed on Thursday.
On Friday, Ron DeSantis gave a full-throated defense of its most immediately controversial aspect, the suggestion that slavery taught Black people skills that could “be applied applied for their personal benefit.” His insistence that it was based in fact was blustery but lacked the sort of self-assurance and arrogant indignity that his angry responses to the press normally carry.
It’d be too generous to say he doesn’t believe the racist and absurd notion — he reportedly offered a very sympathetic narrative for the Confederacy during his own short stint as a teacher — but perhaps he had an idea that pending revelations would only bring him more trouble.
Soon after, Rice and Dr. William B. Allen, the other chair, issued a scathing letter defending the suggestion that slavery taught Black people useful skills for post-emancipation life, complete with a list of 16 alleged beneficiaries of bondage. Historians and people with access to Wikipedia very quickly shred the list apart, refuting each and every example.
Rice also defended the curriculum on several LinkedIn posts, which were deleted by Sunday evening.
Death, Nazis, and DeSantis
The DeSantis administration, of course, is far more focused on ideology than accuracy, no matter how high the stakes, and does little to pretend otherwise. The message that DeSantis seeks to convey in his education policy is clear enough that Nazis across the state continue to count him as one of their own.
On Saturday, a group of neo-Nazis loitered on the side of the highway in Palm Beach, holding up signs like this one:
The photo is a grab from the Instagram live video of a punk who confronted them, but he has since gone private. I can only imagine why.
Now, one more item on DeSantis…
On Saturday, the New York Times published an investigation that confirms what I’ve been saying for the past three years: DeSantis deliberately sabotaged his state’s response to Covid, leading to the unnecessary deaths — and I’d call it murder — of tens of thousands of Floridians.
The Times tracks DeSantis’s descent down the anti-vax rabbit hole, which was fueled in part by his voracious appetite for fringe medical studies and fast bonds with their kook authors. Between revelations from those involved in his Covid response, a timeline that tracks his increasingly deranged decisions alongside the right’s rejection of vaccines, and a review of his campaign rhetoric, it’s clear that DeSantis wasn’t bamboozled by bad science, but instead used it to justify cynical decisions driven by pure politics (and sociopathy).
None of this come as a surprise, of course. For the first eight months of the pandemic, until the 2020 election, I carefully tracked the increasingly reckless decisions and public statements made by Republicans as they moved away from responsible leadership to cynical rejection of even the most basic safety protocol. A review of the site I ran during that time reveals that DeSantis’s pivot to proud cretin began all the way back in May 2020, which gives him a prominent role in the death of 80,000+ Floridians.
The site is offline now, but here’s a sample:
It’s ugly, ugly stuff. DeSantis may be crashing and burning in the primary, but the fires he’s ignited at home in Florida continue to engulf millions.
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