Ron DeSantis has been clear on his thoughts and feelings towards marginalized communities, especially LGBTQIA and African American groups. He has used his executive powers to stalk these communities repeatedly throughout his time in office. Rollback to 2019-2020 when he attempted to pass The Combating Violence, Disorder and Looting and Law Enforcement Protection Act. It was his imperialistic and racist package to stop assemblies and protect law enforcement.
When reading the outline of this horrific bill, its historic manipulative flare cannot be ignored.
The “Law and Order” language inside this legislation appears to be borrowed words and sentiment from Richard Nixon. More than 50 years ago Nixon obtained the presidency with similar codified language. Nixon stood on a platform that instilled fear and suspicion towards African Americans and working class citizens. This “Law and Order” slogan was also adopted by George Wallace in 1968. It was a dog whistle to keep blacks in line.
DeSantis is attempting to resurrect historic colonialism by targeting certain communities. Take this bullet point from the bill’s outline, for example:
- Prohibition on Violent or Disorderly Assemblies: 3rd degree felony when 7 or more persons are involved in an assembly and cause damage to property or injury to other persons.
Nixon utilized this exact tactic: First, he instilled fear in white voters across the political spectrum. Then, he was able to solidify force by calling an end to protests, marches, and boycotts. Most of the protests that he wanted silenced were responses to economic/racial issues and war. That move earmarked his intolerance for anything other than white conservatism.
Fast forward. Right before celebrating Black History month in 2023, Ron DeSantis and his government banned new advanced African American history. His reasoning? He said the proposed course “lacks educational value and is contrary to Florida law”.
Oh, the Florida law that from Reconstruction until the Civil Rights movement allowed white people to carry out lynchings as a way to terrorize, punish, and control Black people? According to the NAACP, between 1900 and 1930, Florida had the highest ratio of lynchings of any state in the country based on the size of its Black population.
Take for example 12 lynchings that happened in Milton, Florida between 1875 and 1937. The victims included a young unnamed Black man in 1884 whose body was chopped into pieces by white men who claimed he assaulted a young lady who had been riding a horse; an unnamed Black man in 1915 who was hanged from a telephone pole and whose body was riddled with bullets after he was accused of assaulting a 6-year-old girl; and Bud Johnson, a World War I veteran who was burned alive in 1919 after refusing to sign over his father’s land in Jay after his father passed away.
Like shadows of history, black sawmill workers and loggers in the area that is now part of the Big Cypress National Preserve and its environs, made a way of life laboring in fearful and dangerous circumstances. They raised families, worshiped in harmony, and then disappeared with little notice taken of their presence, their passing or their contributions. In less than five decades, a way of life, and many of the people who lived it, has been dispersed from public memory. More is known about the ancient Calusa and Tequesta Indians than is known about this segment of the population from our recent past, and the tremendous contributions they made to our country and the world. It almost begs the question, “Were they ever really there at all?” There are only passing references to “negro labor” in the best-known history books.
Is this the history that DeSantis doesn’t want known and taught? The Florida that has endeavored to erase the existence, contributions, and value of African-Americans? Yes. It seems so.
Robin Harris is an activist for Black, LGBTQIA, low-income, and other marginalized people. She is an organizer for Central Florida Mutual Aid and collaborates with GO Humanity service team Orlando Oasis on disaster recovery.
GO Humanity organizes poverty alleviation efforts around the globe with an emphasis on empowering vulnerable communities.