Miami’s Black Affairs Board Chair Apologizes To Florida Governor After Board Member Called Him ‘Racist’

Florida’s governor faces protest from Black leaders for his opposition to AP African American Studies Course, but one chose to say sorry.

Miami-Dade County’s Black Affairs Advisory Board apologized Friday (Feb. 3) to Gov. Ron DeSantis days after a member called him a racist, explaining that the member’s comment didn’t reflect the views of the entire group.

“Words matter,” Pierre Rutledge, leader of the community advocacy group, said at the press conference, according to the Miami Herald. “As chair, I must start by saying we want to pull that back. There’s nothing wrong with saying ‘We’re sorry.’ That’s not what we intended to say or be depicted by anyone. And that’s not the feeling of this board.”

At a Feb. 1 advisory meeting, board member Stephen Hunter Johnson, a Miami lawyer, said, “Our governor is racist,” during a discussion about DeSantis’ controversial decision in January to block the optional Advance Placement African American Studies curriculum for high school students. DeSantis has said the curriculum lacks educational value.

Florida Gov. DeSantis Defends Banning AP African American Studies In State High Schools

The Herald reported that no one objected to Johnson’s comment at the meeting. Board members voted unanimously for Johnson to co-author a letter to DeSantis stating their opposition to DeSantis’ position on the AP curriculum.

At the Feb. 3 press conference, Rutledge released the final version of the letter, which expressed the board’s displeasure with DeSantis’s decision but didn’t criticize him directly.

According to the Herald, Johnson's original draft to DeSantis stated the board members “find that your administration has engaged in overt racism and anti-Blackness, for purely political purposes.”

Johnson told the Herald after the press conference that he was disappointed to see fellow board members retreat from a confrontation. “The Black community has been far too polite for far too long in the face of overt racism,” he said. “And it is our obligation to call it out when we see it and are confronted with it.”

DeSantis continues to face widespread criticism from Black leaders in Florida over his objections to the AP African American course, as well as other policies that appear to target the community.

“I can’t call the governor racist. I don’t know him personally. I don’t know his heart. But what I do know is that the policies that he brings forward, it always seems to attack Black people and people of color,” Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam said, according to local station WSVN.

On Feb. 1, the start of Black History Month, the Miramar City Council unanimously approved a resolution denouncing DeSantis’ ban of the AP curriculum. Miramar is located in Broward County, Florida’s southwestern corner.

“The governor at any time can take actions that can come against our city,” Messam added, “but we want to show we are not afraid; we will stand up for our residents.”

DeSantis has accused the College Board, the nonprofit that oversees AP courses, of proposing a curriculum with an agenda, highlighting topics on Black queer studies and the Movement for Black Lives.

He also suggested that the curriculum may include Critical Race Theory (CRT), a college-level academic framework to analyze systemic racism that is not taught at elementary or secondary schools.

DeSantis is one of several conservative politicians who have opposed CRT, which they erroneously use as a catch-phrase for classroom lessons on America’s racist history and the Black struggle for equality.

Under DeSantis’ leadership, the Republican-dominated state legislature passed a measure dubbed the “Stop WOKE Act'' that the governor signed into law last April. It restricts how race is discussed in public schools, colleges and workplaces. Among other things, it prohibits instruction that could make students feel responsibility or guilt for historic wrongs because of their race, gender or national origin.

Florida College Board Revises AP African American Studies Curriculum And Adds ‘Black Conservatism’

The College board recently revised the curriculum after state officials voiced opposition last month, slashing several Black scholars and authors but making other additions. Several authors or scholars associated with CRT, BLM, the queer experience and Black feminism were cut. One addition was Black conservatism, which will be offered as a research project.

A rally to protest DeSantis’ position to the African American Studies course is scheduled for Feb. 16 at the state capitol in Tallahassee, Fox New reports.

"Black history matters. Black history is not inferior. And Black history does not lack educational value," Rev. R.B. Holmes, pastor of Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in Tallahassee, said in an announcement of the rally, according to Fox News.

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