U.S. Senator Tim Scott, the most visible Black candidate in the Republican presidential primary for 2024, has criticized Florida Governor Ron DeSantis over the state’s newly adopted Black history curriculum, claiming “there’s no silver lining” in slavery.
Scott joined a rising chorus of opponents of Florida’s new standards, which mandate that public school kids be taught that some slaves learned talents that “could be applied for their personal benefit.” DeSantis has defended the rules, accusing critics of partnering with Democrats on the subject.
Asked about the curriculum at a campaign stop in Iowa on Thursday, Scott told reporters, “Any benefits that people suggest you had during slavery, you would have had as a free person,” according to video posted on messaging platform X, formerly known as Twitter.
“What slavery was really about was separating families, about mutilating humans and even raping their wives. It was just devastating,” Scott said.
Without naming DeSantis, Scott said he hoped that every candidate in the Republican field “would appreciate that.”
Scott’s remarks came after another prominent Black Republican, U.S. Representative Byron Donalds of Florida, also criticized the new standards. That triggered outraged pushback from DeSantis’ campaign online, which suggested Donalds was a supporter of Democrat Kamala Harris, the first Black vice president.
Harris last week delivered a fierce rebuke of DeSantis and the history curriculum while on a trip to Florida. Donalds, a rising star in the Republican party, endorsed former President Donald Trump over DeSantis in April.
On Friday, another Republican Black U.S. representative, John James, blasted DeSantis over the curriculum as well as his criticism of fellow Black Republicans.
“There are only five black Republicans in Congress and you’re attacking two of them,” James posted on X. “You’ve gone too far. Stop.”
The backlash comes when the Republican Party is looking to take advantage of President Joe Biden’s middling approval ratings and make new inroads with Black and other voters of color in next year’s general election – voters with whom the party has traditionally struggled.
DeSantis has argued that he is the most electable Republican in the field because he won over swing voters, including large numbers of Latinos, in his gubernatorial re-election victory last year.
The Florida Board of Education, whose members are appointed by the governor, adopted the new standards after the state legislature last year passed a law at DeSantis’ urging that required discussions about race be taught in an “objective” manner.