Movement for Black Lives Statement on Defending Our Freedom to Learn
In response to recent attacks on Black studies, the Movement for Black Lives issued the following statement:
The organizations and individuals that make up the Movement for Black Lives Ecosystem express our collective outrage at the persistent racist attacks on Black studies, critical race theory, intersectionality, and queer studies—frameworks for analyzing and explaining the workings of race, class, gender, sexuality, and power in our society. These intellectual projects help students think critically about how society is organized by concrete systems of power while creating direct links to contemporary struggles. These projects strengthen our society by rejecting anti-Blackness and including all of us.
To thwart progress and stir division ahead of a highly contested presidential election, some state officials are waging disinformation campaigns against Advanced Placement African American Studies, a course for high-school students designed by the College Board. Ron DeSantis, presidential hopeful and governor of Florida, refused to approve this course; according to him, it violates Florida’s draconian yet ridiculous “Stop Woke Act,” which bans the teaching of so-called “divisive concepts.”
As of this spring, 28 states have adopted a so-called “anti-woke” measure that bans the teaching of these frameworks. These measures impact more than 22 million children in public schools and millions more students in public universities. Under these laws, virtually any analysis or explanation of how race, class, gender, sexuality, and power operate in our society can be deemed “divisive” and summarily banned. Crucial ideas are censored or at risk of being censored nationwide.
Suppression of critical ideas is a historic hallmark of fascism and authoritarianism worldwide. By censoring this knowledge, leaders of the so-called “anti-woke” agenda are advancing a vast and dangerous attack on Black and other social movements that are not limited to banning books and curricula. Rather, they extend into the criminalization of protest; the right-wing capture of judicial and legislative institutions; the entrenchment of forced birth; and the restriction of transgender people’s freedoms, rights, and healthcare access.
Despite saying otherwise, the College Board, a billion-dollar corporation that controls the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and other exclusionary tests, caved to political pressure by erasing or downgrading critical frameworks, including intersectionality, queer studies, and critical race theory.
The relationship between liberatory frameworks like Black studies and a more free society is not abstract. These study areas threaten the status quo because they reveal longstanding myths and lies about U.S. power structures and inspire students to better understand their collective and individual experiences. These frameworks emerged from the lives of oppressed groups and their struggles for freedom and justice in the U.S. and globally. Crucially, they connect the legacy of oppression and resistance to the present. For example, the murder of Emmet Till seven decades ago and the emergence of protests in its wake is directly connected to today’s movement against vigilante and state-sanctioned racialized violence.
Bad-faith actors wage the attack against “wokeness” under the guise of “protecting children.” But by seeking to censor Black studies and critical analysis like queer theory and intersectionality, these right-wing forces have made their intentions clear: They intend to erase and suppress any focus on systemic racism and other forms of oppression, in order to thwart resistance and undermine our collective future.
Previous generations fought hard for Black voices, stories, struggles, and biographies to be written, heard, and made part of the curricula. We will not settle for a watered-down version of Black studies that disadvantages students. We will not cave to the attempts to censor and muzzle ideas and knowledge that are key to our work. Nor will we be silent in the face of authoritarian efforts at thought control designed to undermine our movements for freedom and justice.
Make some noise on May 3. Our ancestors demand it!
To resist, we call for a National Day of Action against these attacks on May 3. We call for:
- The reinstatement of the original curriculum by the College Board
- The resignation of the College Board CEO
- A commitment from universities that they will support uncensored Black studies and not endorse AP tests based on censored curricula
You can also participate by:
- Coordinating an event (e.g., teach-in, banned book reading, town hall convening, rally, etc.) at your school, on your campus, outside, in your public library, or at your community gathering space
- Coordinating activities at state capitols or state offices where anti-CRT and anti-DEI laws, book banning, anti-trans legislation, voter suppression, anti-abortion laws, and rejection of the AP African American Studies courses have been enacted or are being proposed (for those in the states where no such laws have been enacted or proposed, coordinate activities in support of expanding equity initiatives in your state)
The Movement for Black Lives is a national network of more than 150 leaders and organizations creating a broad political home for Black people to learn, organize and take action. M4BL includes activists, organizers, academics, lawyers, educators, health workers, artists and more, all unified in a radical vision for Black liberation and working for equity, justice and healing.