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Political activists in Florida have called out the “hypocrisy” of multi-billion dollar corporations that use Black History Month to denounce racism while clandestinely donating to the state’s far right-wing governor, Ron DeSantis.
Amazon, AT&T, Comcast, Disney and Walmart were among the many global conglomerates publicly espousing their commitment to anti-racist values, in particular, after the 2020 police murder of George Floyd.
Yet, research by the Center for Political Accountability, a non-profit organization that tracks corporate political spending, confirms that these same businesses donated directly and indirectly to the 2022 re-election campaign of Ron DeSantis, who has imposed draconian restrictions on American history in Florida schools.
“These corporations can say that they stand with the Black community but then also fund the governor and his work around dismantling Black history,” said Jasmine Burney-Clark, founder of Equal Ground, a progressive group based in Orlando, Florida. “It’s a huge level of hypocrisy.”
Corporations have increasingly used Black History Month and Juneteenth as opportunities to take public stands on social and racial justice issues while also promoting themselves with cringeworthy half-measures and generic statements of equality, often not replicated by their business practices.
From Amazon and Walmart, DeSantis delivers racism to your door
According to the Center for Political Accountability, Amazon, AT&T, Coca-Cola, Comcast, DoorDash, Google, General Motors and Walmart have all made public statements in celebration of Black History Month. Yet, each company also donated significant sums of money to political groups that prominently supported DeSantis.
Earlier this month, the governor announced plans to block state colleges from having programs on diversity, equity and inclusion as well as critical race theory, or CRT.
The DeSantis administration also blocked a new advanced placement course on African American studies from being taught in high schools, saying it violates state law and is historically inaccurate. In the new framework, topics including Black Lives Matter, reparations and queer theory are not included in the exam.
And last year, DeSantis signed the “Stop Woke Act” that restricts certain race-based conversations and analysis in schools and businesses.
According to The Guardian, Jeanne Hanna, the Center’s research director, said: “Companies are trying to engage in politics as usual but consumers and employees and shareholders are recognizing the change in the cultural norms around companies and political engagement. They want to see companies taking proactive stances to back up their values with action and then who they engage with when it comes to politics.”
The Ron DeSantis War on American History continues
This week, Ron DeSantis went even further, suggesting the state could find an alternative to the College Board, the nonprofit entity that administers the AP program as well as other critical components in the college admissions process, including the SAT and PSAT exams.
“Nobody elected (College Board) to anything,” DeSantis said during an appearance to talk about “woke” banking practices. “They’re just … providing services, and so you can either utilize those services or not. They have provided these AP courses for a long time, but … there are probably some other vendors who may be able to do that job as good or maybe even a lot better.”
DeSantis’ policy will have a damning impact on Florida’s high school students, but for many, the damage has been done. USA Today reports Black students are already underrepresented among AP test-takers, both nationally and in Florida.
In the Sunshine State, Black students accounted for 21% of Class of 2021 high school graduates but just 12% of AP test-takers and 7% of the exam population scoring a 3 or higher (usually the minimum score for a student to receive college credit).
“This is the American dream; it’s a melting pot,” said Rev. RB Holmes of Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in Tallahassee, Florida. “Come who want to come legally. This is a great country, and Florida cannot become the laughing stock of this nation because someone wants to use this to become president of the United States of America.”