By Rosetta Miller-Perry

Unless you are old enough to remember the 50s and 60s, then such names as George Wallace, Lester Maddox, Ross Barnett, Richard Russell, or Strom Thurmond (before he switched parties)  won’t mean anything. But to those of us who are  veterans of the Civil Rights Movement and those of us who were living in that time, these people were the embodiment of legislative racism. 

They were governors and/or legislators who actively aided, endorsed and were advocates of Jim Crow laws, preventing Blacks from  voting, protecting criminals including people who participated in murder and lynching, and being both supporters and members of white supremacist organizations. One other thing: they were all Democrats.

But today that script has totally been flipped. The Republican Party has become the party that embraces and supports racism, hatred and bigotry. One declared Presidential candidate, former President (and just writing that is sickening) Donald Trump has already met with Nick Fuentes, a well known Neo-Nazi and white supremacist, although Trump  later claimed he didn’t know who this guy was.  Another apparent racist  hasn’t yet declared, it’s  pretty apparent that Florida governor Ron DeSantis also plans to run for President, as he continually shows his racist inclinations with various legislative actions and public statements.

Last year DeSantis began accelerating his campaign to be the voice of white backlash. He made the absurd move of prohibiting educators from teaching critical race theory in K-12 classrooms, part of a bill  he claimed would put an end to “corporate and educational indoctrination in Florida.” 

Aside from that statement being both a lie and complete misunderstanding and perversion of critical race theory, the bill showed DeSantis is just as ignorant about critical race theory as many other Republicans in Tennessee and nationwide. Anyone remotely familiar with either the definition and purpose of critical race theory or who is teaching it should know, this is at minimum college level material, and at best graduate level study.  Only stupid fools and racists think K-12 teachers would even try to present these complex ideas about history, culture, economics, politics and social movements to children. 

But that’s been the false claim of right-wing Republicans the past few years and they ignore every admonition from the people who actually teach it regarding where it belongs. DeSantis and his cronies in Florida recently prevented a proposed African American studies advanced placement course that would be taught in Florida high schools from being implemented.

Newsweek, which once was a respected journalistic magazine but has now evolved (or devolved) into just another right-wing rag, marked by radical  extremists  promoting authoritarian leaders said that the proposed course had flaws in it, and that the Florida Department of Education might review and revise its decision not to approve the course for state high schools if those flaws were fixed. Of course, Newsweek never said what flaws it was citing, so that attempted defense is as worthless as DeSantis’ claims.

Here’s what DeSantis, through his press secretary, said about the course. He claimed “as it currently exists it lacks historical accuracy,” and “educational value.” That statement lacks specificity and is just as flawed as it maintains the course to be.  Unanswered questions include In what areas is it historically inaccurate? Who determines what “educational value” means in regards to this or any other course? Were these the findings of a group of educators or a bunch of right-wing bureaucrats and politicians?”

Just like his opposition to the 1619 project, which judging from his comments DeSantis never bothered to read before having its teaching banned in K-12, this GOP loud mouthpiece has once more chosen racist overreaction as a strategy to increase his national popularity among the right-wing voting bloc. He continues to present himself as the champion of everything backwards and oppressive, from being a homophobe to anti-Muslim rhetoric, so it’s no surprise he has also embraced racism as a foundation for campaign enhancement.

But he and Trump are just the most visible Republicans who celebrate racism through their rhetoric and behavior. There’s also the likes or representatives like Marjorie Taylor Greene, another known friend of white supremacists who is being rewarded by the new, spineless Speaker of t he House Representative Kevin McCarthy with plum positions on key House committees. 

McCarthy was so anxious to be Speaker that after failing to be elected multiple times, he literally bent over to the reactionary faction in his party and promised them whatever they wanted.  When this bunch bring the nation to the brink of a fiscal meltdown later this summer by playing games with the debt ceiling, maybe (and it’s a big maybe) the people who voted these clowns in might finally realize their mistake.

Let’s also not forgot the actions of the Republicans in this state, who’ve passed their own ludicrous critical race theory bill, and have created a situation through gerrymandering that has effectively stripped Nashville of representation and disenfranchised thousands of voters, many of them Black and people of color, as well as the poor, LGBTQ, the homeless, essentially anyone not white and privileged. That’s their contribution to the new strategy of the Republican Party in the 21st century being what the Democratic Party was for many years before: a party committed to injustice, hatred, bigotry and white supremacy.

Anyone who still questions the importance of voting, participating in politics, and getting actively involved in their community, needs their head examined. The current Republican Party is a menace to society at the state, local and national levels, and everyone committed to progress. economic opportunity, and social justice must vigorously and continuously oppose them.