Black History/Academic Freedom Under Attack in Florida

It is, of course, sadly ironic that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who once waved the banner of “no government,” is now using big government for his culture war on US history and, specifically, AP African American Studies – during Black History Month no less. It is also appropriately ironic that this year’s Black History Month theme is “Resistance.”

The overreach of the governor’s office has been on full display in recent weeks as he doubles down on his fight against “woke indoctrination” – and the very foundation of academic freedom – by calling for diversity programs to be dismantled at the state’s colleges and universities, threatening professors, students and librarians along the way.

This cannot and will not stand. While it will almost certainly be challenged in court, the American Anthropological Association finds this blatant attempt racist in its intent and effects. Indeed, the Court said in Keyishian v. Board of Regents (1967), imposing “any strait jacket upon the intellectual leaders in our colleges and universities would imperil the future of our Nation.” The court also recognized that such scholarship “cannot flourish in an atmosphere of suspicion and distrust,” adding that “teachers and students must always remain free to inquire, to study and to evaluate, to gain new maturity and understanding; otherwise our civilization will stagnate and die.”

Black History is American History. These issues are fundamental, not optional.

As anthropologists who study both the biology of humankind and the variety of human culture, we can state categorically that this proposed legislation is not based on cultural evidence or any sort of understanding of the nature of race. It is based on intimidation, harassment, hatred, and oppression. The American people are better than that. We are a nation of many, and our future will be better when we embrace a more inclusive culture of tolerance and understanding.

AAA reaffirms its commitment to the values of diversity, equity, and human rights. We call on our colleagues to apply their professional research, scholarship, practice, and teaching to continue overturning the deeply entrenched institutional sources of race-based inequality that are barriers to a more just and sustainable world.