AMSA stands against Florida’s Racist, White Supremacist Curriculum

July 26, 2023

By Rohini Kousalya Siva MD MPH MS, National AMSA President 

Just when you thought Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis couldn’t get any worse, he’s supporting the Florida State Board of Education’s new education standards which include teaching K-12 students that slavery had “benefits” for enslaved people. DeSantis, Commissioner of Education Manny Diaz, and state board of education member MaryLynn Magar believe it is appropriate to teach our children, our future generations, that enslaved people “developed skills which […] could be applied for their personal benefit.” 

This concerning and disturbing display of historical revisionism, not only violates any sort of decency standard, but also amounts to a distressing act of white-washing. To be clear, this is not stemming from ignorance, but from a willful, malicious attempt to push an agenda of white supremacy and anti-Black racism. This is also a clear demonstration of the fascist desire to control all aspects of an educational system in order to advance the narratives (propaganda) that facilitate fascist control over all aspects of a society. 

While DeSantis signed the “Stop WOKE Act” (CS/HB 7) last year, seemingly aiming to protect the fragile egos of a subset of white people who don’t want their white children to feel bad about being white, he has blatantly disregarded the deep harm caused by promoting a narrative in our educational system that downplays the historical suffering endured by Black people under slavery, and the on-going harm caused to Black people in a society that continues to operate under white supremacist anti-Black racism and anti-Indigeneity. He along with his like-minded white supremacist, fascist “friends” are directly hindering the genuine progress of our country and perpetuating a harmful narrative that dismisses the impact of systemic racism and denies the lived experiences of marginalized communities. 

DeSantis is running a distant second to Trump in national polling for the Republican presidential nomination, and his desperation has only made him more eager to prove himself to the MAGA supporters as a more destructive, more extreme bigot worthy of their adoration. This is what he aims to do by defending a racist curriculum stating that “scholars” put together this “academic standard” (read as “manipulative narrative” – or, to put it more directly, propaganda). Under the guise of “educational reform” this is actually a direct attack against educational truth and truthfulness; under the cloak of “teaching history” this is actually a direct attempt to grab total power to control the narrative that shapes the present and future reality. It is exceedingly important to keep in our focus all the ways that fascist movements seek to control what historical narratives are allowed to be told, and how they are told (especially through the systems of formal education) in order to control what kind of future reality is allowed to unfold. For this reason, we cannot just critique this so-called reform – and those who support it – as merely foolish and misguided; It is manipulative, nefarious, and very, very dangerous. As an organization representing tens of thousands of future physicians – current students who have committed to life-long learning – the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) will  not stand for this. 

At AMSA we are ethically and morally committed to pushing back against those who engage in whitewashing history. We are committed to truth, honesty, and integrity in education. We are unwavering in our dedication to confront uncomfortable truths of the past, including abhorrent realities of slavery and its devastating impact on the lives of millions of people even to this present moment. We empower our members to be compassionate advocates for justice. If you want to learn the truth of our history and fight against fascist political operators such as Governor DeSantis and his propagandist operatives in agencies like the Florida Board of Education, join us to be a real scholar.  Enroll in one of the AMSA Scholars Programs for the 2023-24 academic year which include Racism in Medicine, Transgender Health, Sexual Health, Health Justice, and Premedical program, just to name a few. The Fall Scholars Programs begin in September, and registration is open! Knowledge is power, and armed with the truth, we have the strength to combat those who attempt to create false histories in order to invert what people will know and accept as “truth” in the present and in the future.