Not only should critical race theory be banned in Florida public schools, but racism against African Americans is no longer an issue in the United States because Barack Obama was elected President and served two full terms, according to Sen. Ileana Garcia.
In an interview that aired one day before Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Garcia told CBS 4 Miami investigative reporter Jim DeFede she believes the Black experience in America is “not at all” different from that of White people.
“That’s why we had Obama as President,” she said. “That’s the best example in the world. Obama was President not for four years, for eight.”
Garcia’s comments came shortly after DeFede asked Garcia, a Miami-Dade County Republican and the founder of Latinas for Trump, whether she supported Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Stop W.O.K.E. Act. The proposed law, which stands for Stop Wrongs Against Our Kids and Employees Act, would among other things codify the state Department of Education’s June 2021 ban on critical race theory, empower parents to sue districts that implement critical race theory policies and allow the defunding of schools that hire critical race theory “consultants.”
Proponents of the ban say critical race theory aims to divide populations along racial lines by defining White people generally as historic oppressors and people of color generally as historically oppressed.
Those against the ban argue critical race theory isn’t even taught in schools and is being used as a trigger word to rile up the GOP base. Where it is taught, they say — such as in certain college classes — it’s used as a lens through which students can recognize socioeconomic structures that formed during slavery and in the days of segregation and continue to contribute to imbalances today.
Garcia, who chairs the Children, Family and Elder Affairs Committee, said there are better things to teach.
“The children need to be more nurtured on other issues like financial literacy,” she said. “We see, especially after COVID, children having a lot of issues with anxiety and these minor dysfunctions. Those are the issues we need to be addressing rather than add more fire to the situation. I think those critical race theories, they just add more gasoline to the fire versus putting it out. They just bring things to the forefront that just aren’t necessary. Let the children be children.”
Asked by DeFede to define critical race theory, Garcia instead explained that she believes it compels people to focus on their experiences being discriminated against, which she said people should avoid.
“Critical race theory is, I think, that bringing to the palate — bringing to the plate — the fact that in the past we have had situations where there have been discrimination,” she said. “I don’t think we should take it personally. I think we should grow from it, and I think that exactly what should be taught and nurtured in the education system, that we will confront obstacles and difficult situations due to xenophobia. I like to refer to it as xenophobia.”
DeFede then asked Garcia if she could name one school district or even a single classroom that has taught critical race theory. She declined to say yes or name a classroom or district but said she knew of situations in which teachers were pressured into discussing race issues.
“I do know of conversations where teachers come in and feel that they need to have this conversation with students and suggest this is something we need to be aware of, that there is a division,” she said. “And there isn’t a division, Jim. We’re all races. We’re White. We’re Black. We’re poor. We’re rich. Once again, I’m not about feeding the fire. I’m about having a conversation, balancing it out and if there was something that was done wrong, we should study history so that we can get beyond it.”
But that wasn’t the case when she was growing up, Garcia continued. As a Cuban American growing up in a predominantly Black neighborhood in Miami, she said, she was the frequent target of racial discrimination.
“I grew up in a primarily African American neighborhood, and I was discriminated (against) on all fronts,” she said. “But as an adult now, I understand that it was part of a new community coming into a community that wasn’t used to Hispanics as part of a xenophobic process. But it’s not something I’m going to succumb to and feel that I need to be repatriated for. No, it taught me and helped me grow.”
Asked to elaborate, Garcia said: “At that time, we were the minority, and as a child I didn’t know any better. But I remember going home and my mother didn’t make it a point of festering on that, and neither (does my family). I don’t at all. I look at it as a learning experience, and I’ve moved on. And I think people should move on from it.”
Later that same Sunday, Garcia posted a video on Twitter of her dog, Isaac, who died three months ago, to highlight her opposition to a ban some housing communities have on certain dog breeds.
“Many families have to choose and separate from their pets due to ‘breed discrimination’ in housing communities,” she wrote. “I am looking to help alleviate this for both family and shelters.”
Some responses she received were less than sympathetic.
“Garcia was elected by 34 votes thanks to an illegal ghost candidate scheme by an indicted Republican operative and, on #MLK weekend, she says there’s no discrimination against Black People in America, then tweets about dog discrimination,” documentarian Billy Corben wrote.
Another user commented: “You should probably just move on from it. I mean, those breeds have won (American Kennel Club championships), so there’s really not a problem anymore, right? Perfect example. Just using your own ‘logic.’”