In the News: Yohuru Williams Leads ‘Teach-in’ in Florida

Yohuru Williams, history professor and founding director of the Racial Justice Initiative at the University of St. Thomas, recently spoke with Inside Higher Ed about why he led 24 hours of teaching and education on the anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education from St. Petersburg, Florida.

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From the story:

Williams, who also leads St. Thomas’ Racial Justice Initiative, said his work “pivots around historical recovery.” He told Inside Higher Ed that’s the “idea that we consistently find ourselves in these George Floyd moments, these Breonna Taylor moments, these Florida moments” because “we don’t know our history.”

During one of the speeches last week, he mentioned Ron DeSantis, the Republican governor of Florida, and Glenn Youngkin, the Republican governor of Virginia.

“What DeSantis and Youngkin and others have done is alter the way that people are thinking about our reality: that, somehow, diversity, equity and inclusion are a bad thing,” Williams said. “That, somehow, talking about our history undermines the fabric of democracy when, in fact, that’s always what has propelled democracy forward.”

He also quoted former Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who said knowledge about how our government works isn’t passed down through “the gene pool.”

“Every generation,” Williams said, “must take on the responsibility of building that muscle by educating its own, and so therefore anyone who seeks to deny them the opportunity to do that is not simply anti-intellectual, they’re undemocratic.”