“Protect the Children” They Say … WHICH Children???

When I read Charles Blow’s column last night, my breath caught in my throat and I felt tears welling behind my eyes.  I knew it needed to be shared, to be read and thought about far and wide.  Please take a minute to read it and think about the injustice being done to nearly half the children in this nation.   “Protect the children,” DeSantis and others say … but what they really mean is protect the white children and to hell with all others.

The Other Children in the DeSantis Culture War

Charles M. Blow

08 March 2023

ORLANDO, Fla. — It’s midday on Saturday in Orlando’s Greenwood Cemetery, and just up an incline from an algae-covered pond a group of students encircle a grave. Many are holding a book — some clutching it to their chests the way a preacher holds a Bible.

That book, “A History of Florida Through Black Eyes,” was written by Marvin Dunn, an emeritus professor at Florida International University, who is among those gathered. He quiets the group before telling the gripping story of the man beneath the tombstone. The man was Julius “July” Perry, a Black voting rights activist who was killed — arrested, then dragged from jail by a white mob and lynched — on Election Day in 1920 during the Ocoee Massacre, the culmination of a tragic chain of events set in motion, according to accounts, by a Black man attempting to vote.

The stop at the cemetery was part of the second “Teach the Truth” tour, a field trip to historic Black sites in Florida, organized by Dunn in response to the threat to teaching comprehensive Black history posed by the anti-woke hysteria of the Republican governor, Ron DeSantis.

“Teach the Truth” is full of visits to the graves of Black people killed by white racists, cases Dunn told me he focuses on “because those are the ones that are easiest to forget” — the “hard stories” that are, as he says, the ones most in need of preservation.

Marcus Green outside his home in Hialeah, Fla.Credit…Damon Winter/The New York Times

On this tour there are about two dozen students. One of them is Marcus Green, a 15-year-old Black boy, tall and thin, with searching, almond-shaped eyes, a crown of finger-length braids and a quiet, deliberative demeanor that occasionally surrenders a smile.

As we stand under a shade tree waiting for the tour bus, Marcus tells me what it feels like for him to be a student in Florida right now, that he is balancing a sense of empowerment and fear. I asked why he invoked fear, and he said: “Because you can’t help but feel it.”

His mother tells me that she signed him up for the tour because he was frustrated by the feeling that there was so much of his history that he didn’t know.

The next tour stop was in Live Oak, at the graveside of Willie James Howard, a teenager lynched because he wrote a love letter to a white girl. Her father kidnapped Howard from his home at gunpoint, took him to a bluff overlooking the Suwannee River and offered the boy an impossible choice: take a bullet from a barrel aimed at his head or jump — with his hands and feet bound — and take his chances in the water.

The boy chose the river. The river won.

As Dunn told the story of Howard — whom he has described as Florida’s Emmett Till — Marcus’s face rippled as he repeatedly clenched his jaw and furrowed his brow. Howard was then the same age as Marcus is now: 15. As he told me: “That could have been me.”

Dunn called the students forward to touch Howard’s gravestone, which they did, one at a time. Marcus held back, but eventually stepped forward, bent down and pressed his open palm to the stone. He held it there, then slowly released, later telling me that when he touched it, he “felt a sense of serenity.”

As the group made its way to the spot along the river where Howard leapt to his death, a local radio station replayed an interview between DeSantis and Sean Hannity in which DeSantis called the Advanced Placement course in African American studies that he has vocally opposed “garbage” and “neo-Marxist indoctrination.”

The message — like the message in several of DeSantis’s broadsides aimed at academic freedom and so-called wokeness — is a medley of buzz-wordy circumlocution.

Too much of the debate about DeSantis’s cynical censorship craze has centered the opinions of adults, the theories of politicians and the feelings of white children — feelings presumed to be hurt if they encounter, in class, some of our history’s bleakest episodes.

But what about the other children, the roughly 600,000 Black students in Florida’s public schools, like Marcus, searching for a history that includes them — a history of them — who now feel targeted and afraid? Do they not matter in this debate? What about their needs and their feelings?

My conversations with Marcus echo those I recently had with another 15-year-old student from Florida, Adrianna Gutierrez, who identifies as Afro-Latina and as a lesbian, and therefore feels the brunt of both DeSantis’s anti-Black studies and history push and his anti-L.G.B.T.Q. push, including his state’s Don’t Say Gay law.

Adrianna called the situation in Florida “surreal” and said it feels like things are in a “state of chaos,” all of which has pushed her toward activism.

She said the first protest she attended, late last year, was “scary” because although she knew some people didn’t like her for who she was, she had never come face-to-face with hate as intense and concentrated as it was among the counterprotesters who were there.

As she recalled it, many of the counterprotesters brought young children with them, carried signs with slogans about school being a “place to learn and not teach about transgenderism” and they yelled, “Protect our children.”

But who’s going to protect children like Marcus and Adrianna, children who want to know our full history; who want to find themselves and be themselves and deserve to feel safe in the pursuit? Hiding the complexities or harsher truths of the past from them is to rob them of tools they need to navigate and survive in a still-hostile world, one in which horrors aren’t confined to graves nor queer people confined to closets.

On the last stop of the “Teach the Truth” tour, Dunn drove the group down an ivory-colored dirt road in the Rosewood community to a wooded area he’s converting into a remembrance park for the victims of the Rosewood Massacre.

He told the children about a tense encounter in September, when he visited the site with another group, including his son, and the neighbor across the street charged at them in his truck while yelling the n-word and “almost killed my son.” The neighbor was arrested and charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

As Dunn told the story, a placard next to the neighbor’s fence was visible. It read: “DeSantisland: Land of Liberty.”

46 thoughts on ““Protect the Children” They Say … WHICH Children???

  1. Pingback: “Protect the Children” They Say … WHICH Children??? — Filosofa’s Word | Ned Hamson's Second Line View of the News

  2. Wow, I am out of words. I know that racism was and unfortunately still is a reality in some countries. However, it is shocking every time again to read something like that. And it is the worst when it comes to children.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sadly, racism and other forms of bigotry, particularly anti-LGBTQ phobia, are on the rise here … you can see it almost daily. Sigh. And, as is the case with most forms of inhumanity, it is the children who suffer most.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think that is always happening when the calls for a change are getting louder. There are always those who want everything to stay as it was or as they want it. So, actually, when some feel threatened and try to act against the development, the process has already reached a critical size. Unfortunately, that process can afford quite some time and yes, the children are those who suffer the most.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Good points, my friend. Yes, commonly people resist change, repel those they see as ‘other’, and cling to the old ways. And today, we have loud-mouthed politicians encouraging them, telling them that ‘other’ are here to take away their autonomy, their livelihoods, and sadly they believe what they are told. Do you remember the Peter, Paul & Mary song “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” There is a line in there … “when will they ever learn?” … I think that is as fitting today as it was in 1962 when the Kingston Trio first recorded it. When WILL we ever learn?

          Liked by 1 person

          • Oh, yes, that’s so true. It is the fear of losing something. They are not aware of the fact that they cannot lose something but gain so much in addtion. But that is how many politicians still function who are at that position to fulfill their personal ego dream instead supporting the progress for the well-being of the people they are responsible for. That song has often come to my mind lately, btw…

            Liked by 1 person

            • We seem to be moving further and further from having leaders who have the best interest of the people at heart. Most these days are notoriously greedy and arrogant. Yes, the song is not likely to lose its relevance in our lifetimes, if ever.

              Liked by 1 person

  3. The thing I wonder about the republicans is this. they say that crt is couching neomarxism but what specifically are they talking about? What part of the necessity to learn all of our history points to this theory/
    Now, the “don’t say gay bill” was totally dumb because the word gay wasn’t even in the writing so that was just partisan hyperbolicism designed to put fear into the hearts of people but this? I really don’t get it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good question, Scott. CRT is about the history of racism and bigotry in this country, including how it has so often been part of the systems under which we live, such as education, law enforcement, voting rights, etc. Why should that be kept from our young people? Granted, I don’t necessarily think it’s appropriate to teach the story of Emmett Till to kindergarten children, but by 5th or 6th grade, they are mature enough to have compassion and to understand what has been done in the name of white supremacy.

      As re the “Don’t Say Gay” bill … no those words are not in it, but it DOES forbid teachers from discussing anything pertaining to gender. Now, picture the child whose parents are both male … and he sees that his family is different than the families of the other children, but he’s confused and has questions. Why shouldn’t his teacher be able to talk to him about that???


  4. Jill, well said. Even today, the Republicans are going to try and cut Medicaid benefits, which will impact poor people. This includes poor people of all colors. And, there are 11 states that still have not expanded Medicaid to complete the implementation of the ACA which would help, you guessed it, poor people. While most poor people on public services are white, the percentage of those who are black versus all blacks is higher.

    As a former Republican, I have been saying for fifteen years that more than 1/2 of Republicans are voting against their economic interests and have no idea they are. Children are impacted by this white washing of history as it gives more obscurity to a key mission of the Republican Party, giving more money to the wealthy and helping them keep it.

    We must focus on solving problems and using data and facts to do so. I am all for a healthy discussion of the right mix between our existing socialistic programs and a fettered capitalistic economy, but let’s do this thoughtfully and not to win PR points in a zero-sum game. Keith

    Liked by 2 people

    • It would seem that the Republican Party, in particular, are lacking in humanitarian values. They don’t care about people living far below the poverty line, yet will bend over backward for those with billions of dollars in their net worth column. And you are right … the average Republican is indeed voting against his own interests but doesn’t realize it. We really must do a better job of educating people about governance and how it SHOULD work. It was criminal when they stopped teaching Civics classes in schools.

      I fear ‘healthy discussion’ is hard to come by these days. There is so much hatred, so much anger, so much propensity toward solving problems with guns instead of words. Where does it end? When do we wake up and see what we are doing to each other?


  5. When elephants fight it is the grass that suffers. Outrage at the sufferings of innocents is the appropriate and necessary reaction to their afflictions. It seems bad but it is good. The exposue and the desperate attempt to rebury this ignoble history is exposing it to disinfecting sunlight. The two teenagers in the article are being seen not as monsters but as peers by their age cohort. This is not a dark hour, the bigots are losing!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I agree with RawGod. There are no words. It feels like reality is turning on it’s head. And I’m saying that from watching the UK trying to get a law through that makes refugee rights illegal, many of which are children. What is the problem with these people? Can’t they get a hobby and leave the rest of us alone? 🤗

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Pingback: “Protect the Children” They Say … WHICH Children??? — Filosofa’s Word – Coalition of the Brave

  8. There are no words that can fill the holes in my spirit for the thousands of students of colour in “DeSantisland”!
    Even worse, how are their parents supposed to tell their children they are less than meaningless in the new Florida.
    They cannot move out en masse. Therefore DeSantis and hos biddies must be the ones to go. I’m sure Texas will welcome them with open arms.

    Liked by 2 people

        • I’ve always said that I live in Texas, I wasn’t born here so that either helps or it leave me open to an unwarranted amoune of criticism based solely on my location.

          I, on the other hand, wouldn’t make fun of someone based on their geographical location, it’s silly and demonstrates true neanderthalism.

          As the young kids like to say today, “just saying” or as jill would say “think about it.”

          Liked by 2 people

          • I wasn’t making fun of anyone. I was making a statement of the overall consciousness of people in Texas, Florida, and other Republican states. They are not keeping up with the average consciousness of most people of European backgrounds.

            Liked by 3 people

          • Thought about it. Walking the dog yesterday we passed a tree with a step ladder ready to go and a rake lying on the ground. The dog didn’t “see” that the jokes sometimes write themselves. I recently conversed with a person who has lived and worked around the world, fascinating. I have never lived farther than ten miles from my current geography. If I say “Ohio man” and you picture Jim Jordan have you slurred me? Did I drop the rake when I fell from the tree? Sometimes a joke is just a joke but sure let us slur the peaceful Neanderthal.
            “If I can’t dance to it, it’s not my revolution.”
            ― Emma Goldman

            Liked by 1 person

    • I wish that all those who do NOT like DeSantis and his agenda could/would move out of Florida, which would be a big black mark against DeSantis and his future hopes. However, as you say, they cannot. He must go, but we said the same about Trump and he’s still front and center, so I have little hope that DeSantis will go, either.


      • If your wish should come to pass, I want to point out to those looking for a new home that Gym Jordan IS “Ohio man” so think about having to live amongst us.
        Hope is for losers! Best to lose what little you have left and hold tight to the faith that we are stronger!

        Liked by 1 person

        • True, Gym and now JD Vance are the shame of this state, but the biggest shame is the people who elected them despite everything. I would disagree, though, that ‘hope’ is for losers. If we stop hoping, then we stop trying to make things better, and then …

          Liked by 1 person

              • And now YOU have returned the favor in spades! When a salesman looks backward what he sees is an ocean of NO. What they often fail to see is the sometimes narrow but frequently the wide beaches of YES that that have enabled a drier future. I’ve sold a lot of crap but it has always given someone a job.
                I’m sure you have heard of the young lad on the storm tossed beach littered with dying starfish. When an old man saunters by and observes him flinging them back one at a time. In his wisdom the old man remarks “You can’t save them all” too which the lad demonstrating “true” knowledge replies “I can save this one”. Like dogs we seek a hole to hide in when we are hurt. Depression is just hole for when we are hurt. We must not let the darkness and comfort of the hole limit our vision to the bright future.
                We fight, we heal, we fight again, there will always be needy on the beach.

                Liked by 1 person

                • Rather like I’ve often said, sometimes I know that with this blog I am spitting in the wind, that my words have little impact, but every now and then I hear someone say that what I wrote made them stop and think about things differently, or helped them to understand something or view it in a different light, and then I know that what I do DOES matter. Maybe I’m not a great journalist and my voice is heard by relatively few, but what I’m doing matters. And yeah, I sometimes fall into a rabbit hole, but with help I climb back out and fight again!


                  • One of the first of many, many books my grandfather gave me was about a small boy who had his name. Out late, the diminutive Dutchman found the ocean leaking into his home threatening everything he knew and loved. He put his finger into the hole and endured the cold dark night standing attention holding back the whole ocean with his finger. The search party found him there the next day and repaired the leak.
                    One small girl or even a boy can do so much with just a finger and a thought. Your fingers touch more than you know.
                    One of my favorite authors as a boy was Jack London. He had also written a semi-autobiography “Martin Eden”. It was the story of a prolific writer without a publisher. The extremity of work without reward. My marriage was falling apart, my son was in a gang, my girlfriends husband was looking to kill me and my job was. I was 53 and it was all black. That book saved me! (one of three random events a single lecture about fear of change and a performance of “You can’t take it with you” by he Sinclair College playhouse). Martin does not fare well and I realized that I was NEVER going to want success as much as Martin did. I was just not going to work that hard. Authors must and will sweat blood for their creations to be born. I don’t envy you in any way but I do admire you. I consider it an honor to stand guard at your door if you need a rest. I’m to lazy to walk your path. We can not know the effects of the ripples from the pebbles we throw. Books and writing changes lives throughout the world and time.

                    Liked by 1 person

                    • Awwww … thank you so much, my friend! I well remember the story about the little Dutch boy putting his finger in the dike and saving the village! Your words give me hope and bring a smile to my face! I, too, loved Jack London, though I never read “Martin Eden”. It certainly sounds as if you’ve known your share of troubles in life, and I’m glad you found some balance. Yes, we can spend our lives beating our heads against a brick wall, and where do we end up? Thank you for being the guard at my door, willing to pick up the reins when I drop them, or give me a little nudge when I need it. You’re a good person!

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • I’ve mentioned it in some posts and when I mentioned it to the Reverend the other day he explained “I know that story”. We go to the same church but we have different religions.
                      It is the story of a farmer, Sāi Wēng and his horse. It is about the vagaries of chance and whether something is “good’ or “bad”. Keep your powder dry young lady in that last judgement.
                      What kind of world do we live in? Two days ago I went grocery shopping without my wallet. I went back to a young woman who had self identified with me as a thief. Without any form of ID or personal knowledge that I am me she gave me $200 cash. I’ve been selling since I came to life. I sometimes forget how good I was at it. The reality might be that I am bad man trying to do some good.

                      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s