By: Abe Asher
Mr DeSantis’ claim came in the midst of a broader tirade against so-called critical race theory, a catch-all term for education that deals with the country’s history of racism, colonialism, and inequality.
“You have people that are teaching — and actually his [Mr Crist’s] running mate has said this in the past — that teaching the United States was built on stolen land,” Mr DeSantis claimed. “That’s inappropriate for our students. It’s not true.”
In fact, the United States was built on land violently seized from Indigenous Americans by European settlers. The entirety of land we now know as the US was inhabited by Indigenous nations for centuries prior to the arrival of Europeans, who perpetrated what many experts consider a genocide against them.
Florida, the state Mr DeSantis governs, is the ancestral homeland of numerous Indigenous tribes including the Pensacola, Apalachee, Guale, Timucua, Potano, Ocale, and Tocobaga, as well as the Seminole Nation — a fact reflected in the state’s place names, mascots, and current population.
Mr DeSantis earlier this year signed a bill banning so-called critical race theory in Florida schools, and has made cultural issues and race a centerpiece of his governing and political strategies.
“If you look around the country, they do have programmes, unfortunately, where they will take a student, look at their race, say, ‘Okay, you’re white, you’re an oppressor, you’re Black, you’re oppressed,’ and think about what that does to a six or seven-year-old kid,” Mr DeSantis said at another point. “That’s wrong, you’re seeing that.”
Mr Crist used his response to defend Florida teachers and students and criticise Mr DeSantis for focusing on what may or may not be happening in other states.
Mr. DeSantis has held a comfortable leader over Mr Crist, a former governor and current congressman from the Tampa area, throughout the autumn. He is seeking to win re-election this November as he prepares for a potential presidential campaign in 2024 — another viral topic from Monday night’s debate.