Listen to this article here
Sign-Up for a free subscription to The Black Wall Street Times‘ daily newsletter, Black Editors’ Edition (BEE) – our curated news selections & opinions by us for you.
As Republican-led states like Florida continue to target marginalized groups through legislation, a Black Florida state Senator is calling out his ultra-conservative colleagues. From limiting discussions of race in the classroom and launching a war on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), to silencing LGBTQ+ students, Sen. Shevrin Jones is sounding the alarm.
Speaking about bills that have passed in Florida following the nationwide uprising for racial justice in the wake of the police lynching of George Floyd, Sen. Jones, who is both Black and gay, didn’t mince words.
“It’s a white backlash,” state Sen. Jones told The Black Wall Street Times in a recent interview.
Seeing a multicultural effort to equitably transform the U.S. “moved many of our white brothers and sisters to make some of these changes with the elimination of diversity, equity and inclusion because now, who America really was and is was presented to them on live TV, so they couldn’t turn away from that,” Sen. Jones said.
Florida State Sen. Shevrin Jones is “Emotionally drained”
Florida has become center stage for Republican efforts to rollback voting rights, weaken, Black political representation and deny students from Kindergarten to college access to an authentic understanding of the role systemic racism plays in our nation’s history and present.
On top of targeting Black Floridians, Republican presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis and his supporters have targeted immigrant communities and continues to place ever-more stringent rules on trans Floridians seeking gender-affirming care.
“Anyone would feel drained when they feel that they are in constant defending of their existence,” state Sen. Jones told The Black Wall Street Times.
“Trying to fight as a Black man against the injustices in this country and state, then you have to convince people, ‘no I’m not a groomer I’m actually a human being’.”
“Parental rights cloaked in bigotry”
Like DeSantis, other Republican leaders have hid behind the banner of “parental rights” to pass legislation that many deem anti-Black.
In defending his stance against certain books and DEI initiatives, Oklahoma Republican State Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters has repeatedly claimed the actions were needed to protect parental rights. He’s even brought conservative activists from Moms for Liberty to stand behind him during state school board meetings as proof of support for his planned policies.
“They pulled away from the Heritage Foundation to do their dirty work. Now they got Moms for Liberty doing it for them as if it’s grassroots,” Florida state Sen. Jones said. “Parental rights cloaked in racism, cloaked in bigotry,” he added.
Ultimately, instead of controlling what and how students learn, Sen. Jones would like to see the party of “limited government” focus on moving people forward and elevating communities.
“What government was created to do. It was created to help people. It wasn’t created to put more distress in communities. That’s authoritarianism. That’s fascism,” he said.
“You belong here”
In recent years, the suicide rates for Black men and teens has increased, while the Trevor Project notes legislation targeting LGBTQ+ individuals also raises the risk of suicide attempts.
Despite the constant attacks, such as hate crimes inspired by right-wing rhetoric, state Sen. Jones wants young Black people and young queer people to know they belong.
“You belong here. You’re supposed to be here, and you matter.” He also hopes his message will inspire more young Black and queer people to seek political office.
“There’s a seat at the table that’s waiting for you. When you get it, don’t waste it.”
Leave a comment