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Kamala Harris Gives Fiery Speech About Florida Whitewashing History of Slavery

Kamala Harris Gives Fiery Speech About Florida Whitewashing History of Slavery

Vice President Kamala Harris

“To debate whether enslaved people benefited from slavery — are you kidding me?” she said.

Cwnewser

Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to Florida Friday to highlight that state’s latest approach to teaching public school students falsehoods about American history.

Speaking about the Florida State Board of Education curriculum updates approved earlier in the week, Harris gave a fiery speech at the Ritz Theatre and Museum in Jacksonville. Harris added the last-minute trip after it was revealed that middle school students in the state would be taught that slavery actually benefited some enslaved people during one of America’s darkest periods.

Harris explained that attacks on education are outrageous, given the importance of teachers’ impact on students.

Harris said her first-grade teacher attended her law school graduation.

“I am a product of teachers and an educational system that believed in providing the children with the full expanse of information that allowed them (and encouraged them) to then reach their own conclusions and exercise critical thought in a way that was directly intended to nurture their leadership,” Harris said.

She said that because of that approach, she is now vice president of the United States.

“Part of true patriotism means fighting for a nation that will be better for each generation to come,” she said.

In global settings, she said, people look up to American leaders because of their earned respect.

“When you’re a role model, people watch what you do to see if it matches what you say,” she said. “So understand the impact that this is having not only for the children of Florida and our nation but potentially for people around the world.”

“We want to know that we are seeing our children out as role models of a democracy who therefore know the importance of speaking and telling [the] truth, the importance of understanding [that] when you are a leader, you must know history,” she continued.

She said that people around the world are clear about American history but that Republicans are “building in a handicap” by teaching kids things that are not true.

Citing the Constitution’s preamble, Harris said, “Implicit in those words was an understanding we are imperfect and we must be honest about that to understand then our history.”

She said that she was deeply concerned about what was happening in Florida.

“Let’s be clear; I do believe this is not only about the state of Florida. There is a national agenda afoot,” she said.

“What is happening here in Florida? Extremist so-called leaders for months have dared to ban books. Extremists here in Florida passed a law, 'don’t say gay,' trying to instill fear in our teachers that they should not live their full life and love who they love,” Harris said. “And now, on top of all of that, they want to replace history with lies.”

Harris explained, “Middle school students in Florida [are] told that enslaved people benefited from slavery. High-schoolers may be taught that victims of violence or massacres are also perpetrators….They insult us in an attempt to gaslight us, and we will not have it.”

As part of setting the foundation for their children to become productive citizens, Harris emphasized that parents teach children to always tell the truth as one of their first lessons.

“I think we should model what we say,” Harris said. “These extremist so-called leaders should model what we know to be the correct and right approach if we really are invested in the wellbeing of our children. Instead, they dare to push propaganda to our children. This is the United States of America. We’re not supposed to do that!”

In response to Harris’s detailed description of slavery’s horrors and history, the crowd began to cheer in appreciation of the truth.

“When adults know what slavery really involved — come on — adults know what slavery really involved! It involved rape. It involved torture. It involved taking a baby from their mother,” she said. “It involved some of the worst examples of depriving people of humanity in our world. It involved subjecting people to the requirement that they think of themselves and be thought of as less than humans. So in the context of that, how is it that anyone could suggest that in the midst of these atrocities that there was any benefit to being subjected to this level of dehumanization? [That] in the midst of these atrocities that there was some benefit?”

Harris characterized attacks on school curricula as misleading and propagandistic.

She said that parents expect that when their children go to school, they will be taught facts, and teachers should be encouraged to do so.

“They should not then be told by politicians that they should be teaching revisionist history in order to keep their jobs,” Harris said, incensed.” What is going on?”

She added that people should not be distracted by the bogus debates some perpetuate.

“This is unnecessary,” she said. “To debate whether enslaved people benefited from slavery — are you kidding me? Are we supposed to debate that? Let us not be distracted by what they’re trying to do, which is to create unnecessary debates to divide our country.”

She closed by saying that together, united behind the truth, people should carry on the fight for what is right.

“We know our collective history. It is our shared history,” she said.

This week, news broke that new Florida education standards discuss how “slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit,” according to a 216-page document published by the Florida Department of Education regarding the state’s social studies standards for 2023.

Educators and advocates are also concerned about the curriculum teaching students that Black people perpetrated violence during racial massacres.

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Christopher Wiggins

Christopher Wiggins is a senior national reporter for The Advocate. He has a rich career in storytelling and highlighting underrepresented voices. Growing up in a bilingual household in Germany, his German mother and U.S. Army father exposed him to diverse cultures early on, influencing his appreciation for varied perspectives and communication. His work in Washington, D.C., primarily covers the nexus of public policy, politics, law, and LGBTQ+ issues. Wiggins' reporting focuses on revealing lesser-known stories within the LGBTQ+ community. Key moments in his career include traveling with Vice President Kamala Harris and interviewing her in the West Wing about LGBTQ+ support. In addition to his national and political reporting, Wiggins represents The Advocate in the White House Press Pool and is a member of several professional journalistic organizations, including the White House Correspondents’ Association, Association of LGBTQ+ Journalists, and Society of Professional Journalists. His involvement in these groups highlights his commitment to ethical journalism and excellence in the field. Follow him on X/Twitter @CWNewser (https://twitter.com/CWNewser) and Threads @CWNewserDC (https://www.threads.net/@cwnewserdc).
Christopher Wiggins is a senior national reporter for The Advocate. He has a rich career in storytelling and highlighting underrepresented voices. Growing up in a bilingual household in Germany, his German mother and U.S. Army father exposed him to diverse cultures early on, influencing his appreciation for varied perspectives and communication. His work in Washington, D.C., primarily covers the nexus of public policy, politics, law, and LGBTQ+ issues. Wiggins' reporting focuses on revealing lesser-known stories within the LGBTQ+ community. Key moments in his career include traveling with Vice President Kamala Harris and interviewing her in the West Wing about LGBTQ+ support. In addition to his national and political reporting, Wiggins represents The Advocate in the White House Press Pool and is a member of several professional journalistic organizations, including the White House Correspondents’ Association, Association of LGBTQ+ Journalists, and Society of Professional Journalists. His involvement in these groups highlights his commitment to ethical journalism and excellence in the field. Follow him on X/Twitter @CWNewser (https://twitter.com/CWNewser) and Threads @CWNewserDC (https://www.threads.net/@cwnewserdc).