5 Times Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis Used Political Power To Cancel Black People
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has his eyes on a possible 2024 White House run, has grabbed national headlines for a series of controversial policies that negatively impact Black Floridians. He’s apparently branding himself as the far-right’s rising star who’s unafraid to turn back the clock on the Black progress.
The former three-term congressman stepped into the national spotlight during his 2018 gubernatorial race against Andrew Gillum, the former Tallahassee mayor and Florida’s first major party Black candidate for governor.
It didn’t take long after Gillum won the Democratic nomination for DeSantis, the Trump-backed GOP nominee, to stir controversy when he allegedly blew a racist dog whistle, using the racist epithet “monkey,” during a Fox News interview.
“The last thing we need to do is to monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda with huge tax increases and bankrupting the state,” DeSantis said of Gillum, The New York Times reported.
Now in his second term as governor, DeSantis has emerged as a conservative leader whose policies appear to influence other Republican governors, creating a far-right policy roadmap in the culture wars.
Below are five policies DeSantis used to cancel Black people.
1. Abolish diversity and inclusion programs
In January, DeSantis announced that he plans to end state college diversity, equality and inclusion programs. He wasted no time, taking aim at historically progressive New College of Florida, a public liberal arts school in Sarasota.
DeSantis’ hand-picked trustees who oversee New College voted 9-3 on Feb. 28 to abolish the school’s diversity office, The Associated Press reported. The trustees claimed that it was necessary to eliminate the program because it had a reverse discrimination effect, saying they prefer a merit based system – which, by the way, has favored white men for generations.
2. AP African American Studies
DeSantis has emerged as the de facto leader of a trend among conservative governors to ban Advanced Placement African American Studies in high schools
The Washington Post reported Feb. 18 that at least four states – Arkansas, North Dakota and Mississippi and Virginia – were reviewing the College Board’s proposed AP course for conflicts with state education policies or laws restricting how race is discussed in classrooms.
That wave came after DeSantis banned the course because he said it lacks educational value and violates state laws.
Speaking at a Jan. 23 press conference, DeSantis claimed that some of the course material includes critical race theory (CRT) and has an agenda to indoctrinate students, pointing to topics on Black LGBTQ studies, reparations, mass incarceration and the Movement for Black Lives.
CRT is a college-level academic framework to analyze systemic racism that is not taught at elementary or secondary schools. But the term “critical race theory” has been co-opted by DeSantis and other conservatives as a catch-all phrase to silence discussion about systemic racism.
3. Whitewash America’s racist history
Under DeSantis’ leadership, Florida’s 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.
Educators and Black activists have accused DeSantis of trying to whitewash America’s racist history, but DeSantis has doubled down, largely ignoring his critics.
Marvin Dunn, professor emeritus at Florida International University, told The Washington Post that he documented the Newberry Six lynchings but fears that the painful history will disappear under DeSantis’ WOKE Act.
In 1916, a white mob lynched the Rev. Josh J. Baskin and five other Black Floridians, hanging them from an oak tree, over accusations of a stolen hog.
“I can’t tell the story of the Newberry Six without expressing my disgust for the lynching of a pregnant woman,” Dunn said. “As a teacher who has spent 30 years going from place to place in Florida where the most atrocious things have happened, I don’t know how to do that. And I don’t want the state telling me that I must.”
4. Ex-felons voting right
DeSantis is bucking a bipartisan trend toward restoring voting rights to ex-felons. Lawmakers in at least 14 states have proposed a wave of legislation restoring voting rights to individuals with past felony convictions, according to a recent Brennan Center for Justice report. This trend is seen in blue and red states.
Felony convictions prevented approximately 4.6 million Americans from casting ballots in 2022, according to The Sentencing Project.
Historically, this disenfranchisement has disproportionately impacted African Americans. One in every 13 voting-age African Americans couldn’t vote in 2017 because of felony voting laws – a disenfranchisement rate more than four times higher than for other Americans, a Brennan Center report stated.
In 2018, Florida voters approved Amendment 4 to restore voting rights of 1.4 million Floridians barred from casting a ballot because of past felony convictions, except for those convicted of murder or a sexual offense.
The Tallahassee Democrat reported that DeSantis, shortly after becoming governor, championed legislation to keep hundreds of thousands of otherwise eligible former felons from legally voting. The law required them to pay their past legal financial obligations. But a lack of available records made it difficult for them to track what they owed in fines or restitution.
Florida Republicans later passed a bill DeSantis wanted that created the Office of Election Crimes and Security, the so-called voter fraud police. In August 2022, officials charged 20 ex-felon for illegally voting in the 2020 elections.
But the arrested individuals, most of them Black, believed they were eligible to vote because the state had given them a voter registration card, NPR reported. Police body cam footage, obtained by The Tampa Bay Times, showed how shocked they were to hear they were being charged with voter fraud.
5. Disempower Black Floridian voters
In a rare move for a governor, DeSantis pushed his Republican-dominated legislature to dilute Black voting power even more than they wanted during Florida redistricting.
In April 2022, Republican lawmakers approved a new congressional map that DeSantis created, which eliminated two districts represented in Congress by Black Democrats, CNN reported.
DeSantis’ map dismantled a district in North Florida that connected Black communities from Tallahassee to Jacksonville and an Orlando-area district represented by then Rep. Val Demings.
GOP lawmakers originally wanted to maintain the level of Black districts, but DeSantis threatened to veto their proposals. Indeed, after the House and Senate passed their own map in March that the governor didn’t like, DeSantis called legislators back to the capital for a special session and twisted arms to get his way.
According to Politico, DeSantis became the first governor in recent history to submit a congressional map, which he filed on the eve of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, during the redistricting process.
DeSantis’ ultimate aim is to challenge the legality of provision in the federal Voting Rights Act and state Constitution that ban the dilution of minority voting strength, NBC News reported, citing sources familiar with his thinking.