Florida vs. Truth (Which Means Florida vs. All of Us): How to Stand Up

When folks say, “Shit just got real,” they generally mean shit just got real for them. Clearly, shit has been real for several hundred years in this country for vast numbers of people.

(Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons: Dedicated to the Foot Soldiers of Birmingham Park)

But Florida, under the leadership of Ron DeSantis, just made it real for me. As a former history teacher, realizing that Florida’s new “Stop Woke Act” would penalize most of my old lesson plans was a watershed moment.

Wait–they’d be coming for me? I’m a member of the dominating caste! (FPHS graduation 2009–wish I could remember who took the photo!)

What would the Stop Woke bill do? According to the Florida ACLU:


● This bill flips the script – deeming non-discrimination trainings as a source of discrimination.

● Under this bill, employees could sue their employers for discrimination if: ○ They claimed a feeling of “discomfort” during equity and inclusion training. ○ They claimed a feeling of “guilt” for being a man after attending sexual harrassment training. ○ They claimed a feeling of anguish after attending a session on implicit bias. ○ They claimed a feeling of “psychological distress” after being taught about discrimination perpetrated against LGBTQ people by others.

So. All it takes is one disgruntled student, and that teacher might have to choose between shutting up, getting their district sued, or getting fired (the most likely option)

Even more chilling, as the Florida ACLU describes, this bill would CENSOR HONEST CONVERSATIONS, exactly the kind of conversations our country is only beginning to recognize we need:

● This bill gives the government broad censorship over honest conversations about our nation’s history and the root causes of injustice and discrimination. Teachers and employers should be free to have these tough conversations. (Can you imagine teaching ANYthing without reference to the truth of the past??? Me neither.)

● It will have a chilling effect — schools will be hesitant to create open dialogue about our country’s history of slavery, Jim Crow, the civil rights movement, LGBTQ history, and other subjects to avoid legal liability.

So, my former students–all those role plays we did, inhabiting the lives of people on either side of historical divides?

Like here: Shawnese Heyer and Emani Lemasutele, facing off as a member of the Cherokee Nation and President Andrew Jackson.

Out the window. Toast. Get out your (highly redacted) texts, kids, while I hand out the accompanying worksheets.

So…who’s ready to take this lying down?

* * *

Thought so. If you’re as outraged as I am about Florida’s assault on the truth, here’s an outlet for you.

The Institute for Common Power (part of Common Power, the Seattle-based progressive organization which has helped keep me sane since November 2016) is staging a good, old-fashioned, 24-hour Teach-in For American Democracy, May 17, in Florida.

It’s a call to conscience and to common sense. It’s a spotlight on the shameful censorship Florida is trying to instill. It’s a courageous step–I know this because the organizers are already receiving death threats in Florida.

And it’s all on Zoom, and it’s free.

If you click on the above link during any hour of the Teach-in on May 17, you can tune in to hear lectures by activists and academics–some famous names, but all folks like you and me who are horrified at the idea that truth is now under legal attack under the leadership of a governor who is running for President.

We’re all busy. On May 17, I don’t plan to sit at my computer watching speaker after speaker inspire and energize me. But I DO plan to keep my audio playing in the background of my day, and I DO plan to let the idea of a Teach-in percolate into my own days, reminding me of the power of AMPLIFICATION when it comes to justice.

In fact, I’m starting right now, with this blog post.

You know what they say: See something, say something.

I say, I stand with THESE folks. Can you join me May 17? Can you pass this along?

(Courtesy Wikimedia Commons and National Park Service)

2 thoughts on “Florida vs. Truth (Which Means Florida vs. All of Us): How to Stand Up

  1. As a native Floridian, and after spending the last three years in Florida, I can tell you that there are plenty of people who don’t like DeSantis and are appalled by his politics. But unfortunately, just like Trump, he is enabling small-minded, prejudiced people, and there seem to be plenty of those, too. Thanks for writing this, Gretchen. We all need to keep speaking up and shining light in the dark corners.

  2. Laurel, as a native North Carolinian, I can relate to that unease one feels when a whole area gets tarred by the same brush (tar heeled, in my case)…a good reminder. The folks from the dark corners seem to be ascendent right now, which is why I emphasize De Santis’ government, not Floridians. But yes, let’s hear it for the ones who push back!

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