Florida School District Will Protect Little Kids From Joe Biden’s Socialist Inauguration Poem

In the latest news from the school censorship battlefield — along with the Washington Post investigation (gift link) which found that most challenges to books in US schools were filed by just 11 people, yes really — we learned yesterday that Miami-Dade County Public Schools restricted access to a book version of “The Hill We Climb,” Amanda Gordon’s poem from Joe Biden’s inauguration in 2021.

Remember what a joyful, beautiful reading Gorman gave us that day?


Previously: After Vogon Poetry Years Of President Before Biden, Let’s End Our Day With Amanda Gorman’s Inauguration Poem

But darn it, the poem and some books about Cuba and Black history were simply too much for one angry parent, who demanded that they all be removed forever so they wouldn’t fill little kids with Wrongthink, according to documents released by the kick-ass anti-censorship nonprofit The Florida Freedom to Read Project. Specifically, and ungrammatically, the complaint about the poem explained it “is not educational and have indirect hate messages.” The parent who complained also listed “Oprah Winfrey” as the author, apparently because Oprah’s name is on the cover — she wrote the foreword.

In a statement, Gorman said she felt “gutted” by the action against her poem, noting that book censorship frequently targets those “who have struggled for generations to get on bookshelves,” and that the “majority of these censored works are by queer and non-white voices.”

She said that she’d written “The Hill We Climb”

so that all young people could see themselves in a historical moment. Ever since, I’ve received countless letters and videos from children inspired by The Hill We Climb to write their own poems. Robbing children of the chance to find their voices in literature is a violation of their right to free thought and free speech.

Well sure, but what about all the hidden hate messages, which were in fact so well hidden that we couldn’t even find them in the text of the poem that the parent complained about:

We’ve braved the belly of the beast.
We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace,
And the norms and notions of what “just is”
Isn’t always justice

And yet the dawn is ours before we knew it.
Somehow we do it.
Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed
A nation that isn’t broken, but simply

I guess it must be CRT because discrimination is in the past so why bring it up? Or the Mad Mom thought it invoked the chant “No Justice, No Peace”?

The Miami Herald, which first broke the story (subscriber-only link), explains that as a result of the challenge, four of the five titles the parent was unhappy about were placed on the middle school shelves at one school that houses kindergarten through 8th grade, but not removed entirely — just de facto unavailable to kids up to fifth grade. Stephana Ferrell, director of research and insight for Florida Freedom to Read, told the Herald that moving the books

underscores a growing trend to redefine what is considered age appropriate, “especially regarding books that address ethnicities, marginalized communities, racism or our history of racism.”

“Books written for students grades K-5 are being pushed to middle school [libraries and] out of reach for the students they were intended for,” she said. The books aren’t being banned from the district, she argued, “but they’re banned for the students they were intended for.”

Before you know it, schools will be insisting that moving the Gay Penguin book to county nursing homes isn’t censorship, it’s simply about making it available to an “appropriate” age group.

The Herald spoke to Daily Salinas, who is not a newspaper in California but actually the parent who complained about the poem and other titles, and who wanted them removed “from the total environment,” although she also said she isn’t for censorship, no, not at all. In addition to “The Hills We Climb,” she objected to four other titles, The ABCs of Black History,Cuban Kids,Countries in the News: Cuba, and Love to Langston,all four of which are aimed at elementary school readers.

After the Herald story published, the Florida Freedom to Read Project posted to Twitter the complaint forms for the four books, in which Salinas complained the Cuba books indoctrinated students with “socialism” and “communism” because duh, it’s Cuba and “Castros are the dictators.” The other two books have Black people in them, so they are of course filled with “CRT” and “indoctrination,” because little kids are ripe for critical race theory, the law school area of study. Also, The ABCs of Black History allegedly includes both “CRT and Gender Ideology,” whatever that might mean to Ms. Salinas.

A review committee examined the books and found that none of them were guilty of “indoctrination,” hooray, but the committee also decided that only one book, Countries in the News: Cuba, was “balanced and age appropriate in its wording and presentation,” so it could stay in the elementary section of the library. The other four were found to be “more appropriate” for middle schoolers, although how exactly that was determined seems iffy.

The committee sent Gorman’s poem to the middle school shelves because its “vocabulary” was “of value to middle school students”; it was also found to be “of historical value” and therefore not too indoctrinatey.

Despite Love to Langston being labeled for ages 8 to 11, it too was sent up to middle school, because the “content and subject matter of poems in this collection were determined to be better suited to middle school students.” The poetry, we’ll add, is by the author, Tony Medina, as a biography in verse of Langston Hughes. Maybe it’s just too incendiary for nine-year-olds. The content in Cuban Kids was also found to be better for middle schoolers, although it’s mostly just a collection of, as the title says, photos of kids in Cuba.

Finally, the most absurd decision sent a freaking alphabet book, The ABCs of Black History, to the middle school shelves, with the bizarre logic that

although the book’s illustrations, presentations, and book jacket indicate this book was written for ages 5 and up, the [committee] determined the vocabulary and subject matter presented was more appropriate for middle school students.

We all know how jazzed kids in grades six through eight are about learning their ABCs, or perhaps in the minds of the committee, their BLMs and their ACABs.

So let’s all celebrate that instead of being banned, these works have been relegated to the middle school shelves of the library, where only the Gorman poem is likely to ever be picked up by an actual student. (Have you met middle schoolers? They tend to react to anything they think is for little kids like it was Kyryptonite Jr.)

The Herald asked Ms. Salinas, who is not for censorship, what she thought of the decision to retain one book in the elementary section and move the others to the middle school section. She wasn’t too happy, saying that

the books should have been removed for all students. School libraries are meant “to support the curriculum of the school and I don’t see how these books support the curriculum,” she said.

And finally, we should note that, according to a Twitter thread, with photos, posted by “Miami Against Fascism,” Ms. Salinas isn’t only a would-be schoolbook censor who rallies with Moms for Liberty/Censorship; she’s also attended Proud Boys events and appears to have posted to Facebook a summary of the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” so that’s nice.

[NBC News / Miami Herald (subscribers only) / Florida Freedom to Read Project / WaPo (gift link) / Amanda Gorman on Twitter / Florida Freedom To Read Project on Twitter]

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Ron DeSantis Wants Very Own Chinese Exclusion Act

Fresh on the heels/heel turn of his stupid fight with Disney, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis seems to have found another strategy to be awful to Floridians and to damage Florida’s economy in the pursuit of the 2024 GOP nomination. The Florida state House yesterday passed a bill aimed at preventing the Chinese Communist Party from buying land in Florida, but goes well beyond that by forbidding anyone who’s “domiciled” in China from owning any real estate in Florida, unless they’re a US citizen or permanent resident. The bill also includes other restrictions on some foreign ownership of properties near military bases or “critical infrastructure,” but the blanket ban on owning any property in Florida applies only to Chinese nationals.

By golly, it’s a throwback to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, when America decided it could admit loutish Irish, swarthy sex-crazed Italians, and anarchist Rooshians, but Chinese immigrants were some kinda threat.

Supporters of the measure, Senate Bill 264, claim it’s absolutely necessary for US national security, and for that matter some say that anyone opposing it is probably a Chinese agent too.

That’s exactly the kind or rhetoric that has led real estate interests and Asian Americans in Florida to say that the bill is rooted in xenophobia, and will lead to anti-Asian discrimination, particularly since, as the Miami Herald explains,

it would require home and land buyers to sign an affidavit that they’re not prohibited from buying land. Realtors would be subject to “civil or criminal liability” if they have “actual knowledge” that the transaction violates the law.

At hearings on the Senate version of the bill last month, the Herald notes, more than 100 people testified that they’ve been subjected to racist slurs already as paranoid rhetoric about China “gobbling up” huge tracts of US land has ramped up in rightwing media. On Saturday, Asian Americans across Florida rallied against the bill, arguing that it will lead to stereotyping and more acts of discrimination, and that it could imperil their own small businesses if they run afoul of the law, which requires Chinese “domiciled” owners to divest their Florida properties within two years.

We are not a real estate lawyer, but we can imagine how that could screw with a small business that’s operated by a Chinese American family but owned by a relative in China. If the American branch of the family can’t come up with the capital to buy out the relative, or the relative doesn’t want to sell — or give it as a gift and eat the tax losses — well, here come the fines, and the forfeiture of the property. The LA Times notes that such property grabs were a common feature of anti-Asian laws back in the 19th Century, too.

In an editorial yesterday, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel argued that DeSantis’s push for the property ban and other anti-immigrant legislation will “cast a spotlight on anyone who talks with an accent. Or wears clothes that reflect a different heritage. Or speaks a language other than English,” regardless of their actual citizenship or immigration status, which of course is the point for DeSantis.

The editorial argues that the impact of the bill will be pretty obvious:

Anyone who looks Asian will become much more likely to be questioned or turned away from financial transactions, and potentially have their homes or businesses seized. We can’t imagine anything in modern law that comes close to that.

Now, sure, realtors who simply refuse to sell to Asian Americas may then face discrimination lawsuits, but they may end up trying to balance which set of potential legal penalties they’d rather face. Discrimination suits have only civil penalties, while knowingly selling land in violation of the law would also have criminal penalties.

As we mention, the prospect of being in jeopardy for good faith business transactions has the Florida real estate bidniss worried too, and those folks have some serious economic interests in the state.

Bizarrely, some Florida pols are suggesting that the bill is actually super popular with Chinese Americans, but that you’re only seeing protests by opponents because that’s exactly what the CCP wants, and welcome back to McCarthyism. State Rep. David Borrero (R) insisted that “Chinese Americans and Chinese residents who are here in Florida have been silenced, likely by China, for merely speaking out in support of this bill,” and Democratic co-sponsor Katherine Waldron

told lawmakers that she heard the protesters were bused in from Texas. She and Borrero said they know of Chinese Americans who have been threatened from speaking in favor of the bill and silenced on WeChat, the dominant phone app in China.

“Do not be intimidated by the vocal and aggressive actors we’ve seen in the past few weeks, who do not have our country’s best interests in mind,” Waldron said. “The communist threat to our nation is real.”

Ergo, no “good” Asian Americans really oppose the bill; those people saying it’ll lead to discrimination are OUTSIDE AGITATORS AND COMMUNIST AGENTS TRYING TO WHIP UP FEAR BECAUSE THEY HATE AMERICA. Please remain calm and purge them, so we can institute government by conspiracy theory.

The Miami Heraldhelpfully fact checks that claim about non-Floridians testifying against the bill, noting that

Records from the meeting show that nearly all of the opponents of the bill listed Florida addresses, and several were quickly verified through home ownership records. Several of the speakers said they were professors at Florida universities.

DeSantis has not yet demanded an investigation into whether the Miami Herald is secretly run by the Chinese Communist Party, but for all we know he’s too busy drafting a ban on any cast members at Walt Disney World depicting characters from Mulan.

SB 264 doesn’t only direct its fear toward China, although Chinese nationals who “domicile” in China are the only people outright banned from owning property in Florida. The bill originally prohibited nationals of “countries of concern” — Russia, Cuba, Venezuela, Syria, Iran, and North Korea, just in case there are any property moguls from Pyongyang — from owning land within 20 miles of any “military installation or critical infrastructure,” like airports, refineries, or power plants, but the House amended that to just one mile, so the Senate will have to pass the revised version again before it goes to DeSantis for a signature. Current targeted owners of such properties would also have to divest them within two years of the bill becoming law.

Yr Wonkette would say more about what a terrible idea this law is, but we have to hurry up and meet with our CCP spymaster soon, comrades. Why don’t you play some solitaire to pass the time?

[National Archives / Miami Herald / Sun-Sentinel / LAT / Florida SB 264 / Photo: John Spade, Creative Commons License 2.0]

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