DeSantis v. Black Studies (2023): New Dog, Old Tricks
Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857) nullified citizenship for former slaves, Brown v. Board of Education (1954) attempted to outlaw racial segregation in schools, The Civil Rights Act (1964) prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin; are likely some of the legal cases students learn about in AP African American studies. These cases were not only important to Black American citizens, but they also significantly impacted the ways in which we function as a country today.
But why should it take an AP African American Studies course to learn about important Black history? The answer is, “It shouldn’t.”
The cloak of too-little-too-late via this new AP African American Studies course has drawn ire from the right, of course, but why not from elsewhere? This latest foray from the College Board to introduce African American Studies is nothing more than an utter farce, dressed in progressive clothing.
I say this for three reasons:
1) This new AP offering does little more than reinforce white supremacy. The number of current AP offerings in the humanities is quite expansive. There is AP US History, World History, Civics, US Government and Politics, European History, etc. However, the woeful erasure of the contributions and even the very lives of African Americans within these courses is truly abhorrent. Instead of embarking on usurping the White Supremacy embedded in the long-standing AP curriculum, the powers-that-be instead elected to ignore the core problem they created, which, in fact, is the foundational reason an AP African American studies course is needed in the first place. White supremacy at the College Board and elsewhere fuels itself by doling out breadcrumbs instead of the loaf of duly owed reparations.
2) Students of color will not have access anyway. It is widely known and recognized that the under-enrollment of students of color, specifically Black and Latinos, in AP courses is at epidemic levels. This phenomenon continues to persist because AP offerings are slim-to-none in schools that a majority of students are of color. Moreover, even in majority white schools that have a critical mass of students of color, structural racism continually obstructs enrollment and success of Black and Latino students. Given this phenomenon, the current move to ban AP African American studies is less about access for students of color, but more about restricting much-needed education of white students.
3) White folks could care less. The AP track ultimately boils down to individual choice. This then begs the question: Are White students banging down the door to enroll in AP African American studies? Is the White community breathing a sigh of relief that their children finally have the opportunity to learn about the history of African Americans? I can confidently say the answers to these questions are: Not many, if any, white students, and an emphatic “no” from the white community at large. When being given the option either to enroll in the other white-centric AP history courses with the high likelihood these credits will seamlessly transfer to institutions of higher education or journey into the uncomfortable space of learning about the legacy of white supremacy and its effects on the African American community, I think the preferred option is clear for many white students and families.
Ultimately, the pretty package of developing and offering an African American studies AP course represents putting cracked eggs in a flimsy basket. If the well-intentioned purpose was to chip away at white supremacy in the K-12 curriculum, this is not it. The College Board’s foray at developing an African American AP curriculum is merely a Trojan horse that will continue to re-inscribe white supremacy.