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DeSantis Blames 'Queer Theory' for AP African American Studies Course Rejection

DeSantis Blames 'Queer Theory' for AP African American Studies Course Rejection

Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida

Critics of Florida's governor say that he needs to take the class that he's trying to ban to understand what he's talking about.

Monday morning, Florida’s anti-LGBTQ+ Republican governor, Gov. Ron DeSantis, addressed questions about his education department’s recent rejection of an AP African American Studies course, claiming its inclusion of queer theory made it inappropriate for Florida’s students to learn.

According to DeSantis, the advanced placement course on Black history included a lesson on “queer theory,” which runs afoul of the governor’s “don’t say gay” law.

“This course, when I heard it, didn’t meet the standards. I figured, ‘Yeah, they may be doing CRT,’” DeSantis told reporters in Jacksonville. “It’s way more than that. This course on Black history, what [is] one of the lessons about? Queer theory. Now, who would say that’s an important part of Black history, Queer theory? That is somebody pushing an agenda on our kids.”

Queer theory, broadly defined, is based on rejecting of the idea of "normal" — most often it's used to dismantle notions of what normal is in relation to gender and sexuality.

The curriculum, obtained by The Advocate, includes an eight weeks unit on movements and debates important to the Black experience in America.

The 19th lesson, or section 4.19, describes the segment on Black Queer Studies.

“This topic explores the concept of the queer of color critique, grounded in Black feminism and intersectionality, as a Black studies lens that shifts sexuality studies toward racial analysis,” the description reads.

The curriculum indicates that students may examine texts by Black scholars such as Cathy Cohen, Roderick Ferguson, or E. Patrick Johnson.

At Northwestern University, Johnson is dean of the School of Communication. His academic and artistic contributions span African American studies, gender and sexuality studies, and performance studies.

According to Johnson, this AP African American Studies course is crucial to educating young people about the history of African Americans, including those who identify as LGBTQ+ today and in the past.

“If those like the Florida governor would educate themselves first, before hindering the education of our young people, they might realize that great thinkers and writers like James Baldwin and Audre Lorde, as well as a host of others, are the progenitors of what is now Black Queer Theory,” Johnson tells The Advocate.

“It would be best that those who are not scholars of African American history to leave the question of what should and should not be included in that history to those scholars,” he says.

Press Secretary for Equality Florida, Brandon Wolf, agrees with Johnson’s assessment.

“It sounds like Ron DeSantis would himself benefit from taking AP African American Studies, as he has no knowledge of the critical role that queer people have played in Black history in our country,” Wolf tells The Advocate. “Bayard Rustin, James Baldwin, Audre Lorde, and so many others helped shape American history, and learning about the contributions of Black LGBTQ people absolutely has educational value, despite the governor’s objections.”

Wolf adds: “DeSantis has staked his political career on book banning, government censorship, and replacing lessons on arts, culture, and our history with whitewashed, anti-LGBTQ propaganda. Educational institutions deserve better than his politically-motivated assaults on truth. Students deserve better.”

Representatives for DeSantis were not immediately available.

Earlier this month, Florida’s Department of Education refused to allow the College Board’s AP African American Studies curricula in public schools. The College Board is a nonprofit organization that develops and coordinates AP courses and exams, which provide students with opportunities to earn college credits for exceptional coursework.

It was rejected because it violated Florida law against teaching critical race theory, or CRT, which is an academic study that suggests that systemic racism persists in the country.

DeSantis has banned the teaching of topics around race, sexuality, and gender identity by implementing Florida’s “don’t say gay” law and the Stop Woke Act, which bar the discussion of matters associated with those topics.

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