Scholars and Activists Join Open Letter Condemning Political Intrusions on Scholarship and TeachingHistorians in the News
tags: Florida, African American history, censorship, Advanced Placement, intersectionality, critical race theory, College Board
As academics, artists, advocates, policy-makers and concerned persons from different parts of the world, we emphatically oppose the attacks being waged on educational curricula in the United States and elsewhere against intersectionality, critical race theory, Black feminism, queer theory and other frameworks that address structural inequality. We join the thousands of signatories who have opposed censoring critical content in public and higher education. We also agree with the 30 Black LGBTQ organizations that have denounced the “relentless attacks that have led to book banning, curriculum censorship, politically motivated purges of educators, and an exodus of skilled teachers”.
Here we write as concerned individuals in professions ranging from education and research to policymaking, clinical care, and advocacy who have benefited from and continue to use intersectionality and a family of related concepts in our work. In this letter, we express our concerns about the coordinated and dangerous disinformation campaigns that seek to discredit and censor vital tools such as intersectionality and Black feminism. This strategy has surfaced in conjunction with the recent debacle concerning college-level curriculum for high school students in the United States, but has appeared elsewhere as well.
Since the summer of 2020, an emboldened and well-resourced faction in the United States, and increasingly around the globe, has declared war on hard-fought advances in civil and human rights, social justice and democratic participation. This faction, which includes multiple state legislators and governors, has attacked the democratization of the teaching of US history, attempting to censor concepts that sprang to life out of decades of struggle against racism, sexism, ableism, colonialism and related forms of domination.
Promoters of this racially extremist agenda have banded together with others across the political spectrum to wage a war against their own invented grievance that they have labeled as “woke-ism”. They have attacked librarians, surveilled and harassed teachers, canceled classes, banned books and weaponized the law to forbid ideas, frameworks and viewpoints in the nation’s schools, colleges and workplaces. Their campaign has not only targeted and demonized antiracist work, but they broadened their attacks to discredit frameworks that Black women and queer people have produced in order to explain, describe and transform the conditions of their lives.
The consequences of the assault on these ideas are painfully evident in the rollout of the College Board’s Advanced Placement African American Studies (“AP AAS”) curriculum, a college-level course available for high school students in all 50 states. The College Board’s interest in launching the AP AAS curriculum – a proposal that had languished for over a decade – was “reinvigorated” by the multi-generational, multi-racial, and transnational movement sparked by the killing of George Floyd. This “racial reckoning” in the summer of 2020 increased the demand for ways of understanding and defeating systemic racism. It also ignited a powerful backlash against the very idea that racial injustice and its intersections with other forms of inequality delimit the opportunities of African descendants and other racially marginalized people. Yet the College Board, a billion-dollar American non-profit that serves a gatekeeping role in higher education, remained silent when this conservative backlash collided with their stated objectives in launching the course. This silence continued even after the Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, denounced an early draft of the course as having “no educational value” because it included material pertaining to structural racism, intersectionality and Black queer studies.
A growing number of activists, intellectuals, academics, and others have signed this open letter hosted by the Action Network
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