Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on Wednesday further dug his heels into his defense of his state’s slavery curriculum and sharply rebuked what he described as “bad faith” criticism against him.
“Well, first of all, those are criticisms in bad faith, Harris, because, as you suggest, there’s hundreds of pages of painstaking detail,” DeSantis told Fox News host Harris Faulkner. “This was done by Black history scholars, most of whom were Black themselves. They are not shilling for slavery. They are showing the injustice of slavery.”
DeSantis, who’s running for president in 2024, then defended the particular line in the curriculum that has drawn significant pushback. The line tells teachers to instruct students on “how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.”
DeSantis continued, “But that particular passage wasn’t saying that slavery was a benefit. It was saying there was resourcefulness, and people acquired skills in spite of slavery, not because of it.”
DeSantis has faced harsh criticism from Democrats and from Black conservatives in his party in response to the state’s revised educational guidelines on teaching slavery. Some of the criticism has acknowledged that the line in question represents only a small part of what they describe as an otherwise robust education on slavery. DeSantis’s education board, however, has resisted efforts to revise the curriculum, both before and after the new standards were approved.
Recently, Vice President Kamala Harris (D) traveled to Florida to call attention to the issue, prompting DeSantis to issue an invitation to her to discuss the curriculum. She refused.
“Right here in Florida, they plan to teach students that enslaved people benefited from slavery. They insult us in an attempt to gaslight us, in an attempt to divide and distract our nation with unnecessary debates, and now they attempt to legitimize these unnecessary debates with a proposal that most recently came in of a politically motivated roundtable,” Harris said in remarks in Florida.
“Well, I’m here in Florida and I will tell you, there is no roundtable, no lecture, no invitation we will accept to debate an undeniable fact: There were no redeeming qualities of slavery,” Harris added.
In the interview Wednesday, DeSantis defended his state’s efforts to enact Black history standards, estimating that his state was one of just over a dozen to have them in place.
He said the working group was created to develop even stronger standards, and that “they did a good job.”
“I think it’s wrong to demagogue people,” he added. “And I think that a guy like me, I’m fighting back against false narratives. I do not let people like [Vice President Kamala] Harris or the media take false narratives and run with it.”