For several months now, "The ReidOut" has featured Floridians who are on the ground pushing back against Gov. Ron DeSantis’ repressive education restrictions.
But it’s time to stretch our legs a little bit! This Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET, catch us in the Sunshine State covering the National Action Network’s scheduled demonstration at the State Capitol. The event is billed as an activist response to the DeSantis administration’s anti-democratic attacks on voting rights and education equality.
As a preview, I figured it’d be great to hear from Joy herself about why we’re planning to pull up. So check out our brief Q&A below!
Ja'han Jones: You have personal ties to Florida that go way back. What’s it been like seeing the state transition into a hotbed of extremism, especially when it comes to education?
Joy Reid: My husband and I raised our kids in Florida. We lived there for 14 years. They went through the South Florida public school system. And even when we were there, there was a challenge to make sure that my Black children felt affirmed in Florida schools. So I know these schools well. And now you have a governor who’s taking his ideology, which is deeply reflective of white supremacy, into every single classroom in that state and depriving not just Black children, but white children, brown children, all children.
Jones: What accounts for Florida’s lurch to the right in recent years?
Reid: Florida really is the tip of the sphere in the right-wing crusade to roll back facts of American history, and to inculcate this gauzy, fake version of American history. The facts about Florida are that it was a Confederate state that seceded from the Union, specifically to protect slavery. But it’s become a vanguard for this right-wing movement because of who’s in charge of it. As Andrew Gillum said, “I’m not calling DeSantis a racist. I’m simply saying the racists believe he’s a racist.”
[Check out Gillum's heated exchange with DeSantis during a Florida governor race debate in 2018 here.]
Jones: You’ll be meeting with students protesting Florida’s curriculum bans while you’re down there, including students protesting restrictions on a newly established AP African American history course. What do you have to say to white parents about the impact of these bans on their kids?
Reid: What benefit was there for me, as a Black student, to learn European history? I’m not European. My people were either colonized by Europe or enslaved by Europeans. What was the benefit to me? White children get the same benefit from learning African American history that I got from learning European history: a knowledge of the world. And you can’t know this part of the world without knowing Black history. Why do jazz, hip-hop, and rock 'n' roll exist? How was rice transported to the States during the Middle Passage? How did Irish people become classified as "white"? Why are Black people on average poorer than white people? Sorry, if you don’t understand these things, then you don’t understand the society we live in.
Jones: What are you looking forward to most about this trip?
Reid: I’m excited to go because I’ve been a little mad at Florida since I left, because I feel like there’s been a kind of learned helplessness taking hold in the state. They helped Obama become president and helped re-elect him. They really came close to electing Andrew Gillum, who would have been their first Black governor. And then I feel like, in a lot of ways, Florida’s progressive community folded. They kind of allowed DeSantis to roll over them.
But people like Maxwell Frost and his fellow students from Parkland — they’re exciting. That’s what it looks like when students fight back, when young people refuse to be cowed and subdued by power.
So I’m excited to stand in front of the old Florida Capitol that is a remnant of the Confederacy. And to watch people like them shout out to Ron DeSantis that you will not control what we are allowed to know and what we’re allowed to read.