Coco Gauff Hammers Gov. DeSantis for Bad Policies That Harm Black Floridians

Photo: Robert Prange/Getty Images (Getty Images)
Photo: Robert Prange/Getty Images (Getty Images)
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Under Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, Florida has been inhospitable, to put it mildly, toward Black people. He has led efforts to whitewash America’s racist history in schools and set up barriers to block eligible former felons (disproportionately Black) from voting.

It’s no wonder tennis star Coco Gauff slammed the GOP-led government when asked last week at the Italian Open what it’s like to be a Florida resident these days.

“It is a crazy time to be a Floridian, especially a Black one at that,” the reigning U.S. Open champion told The Associated Press in the video below.

“We aren’t happy with the current state of our government in Florida, especially everything with the books and just the way our office operates,” Gauff said about controversial book bans in Florida schools.

Indeed, Florida had the nation’s highest number of book bans, with 3,135 from July 2023 to December 2023, according to PEN America, a literary and free expression advocacy group. The bans targeted books on race, racism, LGBTQ+, and transgender identities.

DeSantis’ office rejected Gauff’s perspective, telling the AP that her comments overlooked record-breaking tourism to the Sunshine State.

But DeSantis’ political antics prompted the NAACP Board of Directors in 2023 to issue a formal travel advisory “in direct response to Governor Ron DeSantis’ aggressive attempts to erase Black history and to restrict diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs in Florida schools.”

Last year, DeSantis set off a wave of conservative governors rejecting the College Board’s Advanced Placement African American Studies course, saying it lacks educational value.

DeSantis, a Donald Trump wannabe, has given us a glimpse of the likely policy agenda of a second Trump administration. If re-elected, Trump vows to champion the white supremacist fight against so-called “anti-white racism.”

Gauff, 20, declined to reveal her presidential choice but urged young people not to sit out the 2024 presidential election.

“So I encourage everyone to vote, and use your voice regardless of who you vote for,” she told the AP. “I will say there’s no point in complaining (about) the political climate of the world if you don’t exercise your right to vote. That’s just how I was raised personally.”

Gauff is no stranger to civil rights advocacy. At a 2020 BLM rally, she denounced racial injustice after a white police officer murdered George Floyd.

“I think it’s sad that I’m here protesting the same thing that (my grandmother) did 50-plus years ago,” Gauff, 16 at the time, said in a video posted by ABC’s Good Morning America.

“So I’m here to tell you guys that we must first love each other no matter what. We must have the tough conversations with our friends. I’ve been spending all week having tough conversations, trying to educate my non-Black friends on how they can help the movement. Second, we need to take action.”

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