A series of bills signed into law by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis are drawing calls about double standards and inconsistency in the way race is taught in state schools.
Last week, DeSantis signed into law a mandate that public K-12 schools must teach Asian American and Pacific Islander history. This week, the governor signed a separate law that forbids colleges from spending money on diversity and inclusion efforts and limits race and gender teaching at universities.
The latter is just the latest salvo from the governor in his war on "wokeness," which has included rejecting the teaching of African American studies in Florida schools. Asian American studies, however, is totally fine by DeSantis, apparently.
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Asian-American leaders in the state aren't falling for it. As Gregg Orton, who leads the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans, told NBC News, "racial justice can't be a zero-sum game for communities of color."
Orton went on to say, "When you advance a bill that uplifts AAPI communities, but don’t want to acknowledge the fact that in the same state, there are real intentional efforts to invisiblize or erase Black history, or [critical race theory], you are on the wrong side of history… it’s hard to draw any other conclusion than they are actively trying to use the Asian American Pacific Islander community as a wedge here."
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The co-founder of Stop AAPI Hate, Manjusha P. Kulkarni, said Asian American experiences can't be separated from those of other groups, including Blacks. "We cannot address racism and hate in a silo," Kulkarni said. “We know that our communities are interconnected.”
Kulkarni added that a bill DeSantis signed earlier this month that would prevent Chinese nationals from buying property or land in Florida is a sign that the governor isn't interested in seeing Asian communities "in our full humanity."
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It's unclear how much of the governor's recent signings have to do with trying to re-energize his dipping presidential poll numbers. Former President Donald Trump has been widening his lead against DeSantis in polling for the 2024 presidential race.