It must be something in Florida’s drinking water that has given rise to the likes of Marco Rubio, Matt Gaetz and Ron DeSantis, the latter of whom has declared war on the LGBTQ+ community, libraries and Disney’s fairy princesses.
Swimming around in Florida’s swampy politics is Daily Salinas, the Miami Lakes mother who petitioned her children’s school to ban students’ access to “The Hill We Climb,” a poem written by Amanda Gorman. The poet, a 25-year-old Black woman, read her poem at President Joe Biden’s inauguration.
Salinas challenged the Gorman poem—which she says she hasn’t read in its entirety—on the grounds that it contains “indirect hate messages.” The review committee said it “erred on the side of caution” in deciding to limit students’ access.
Salinas also petitioned the school to restrict children’s books about the Black poet Langston Hughes and about Black and Cuban history. After a committee reviewed her challenges, the Miami-Dade County school district opted to restrict all but one book about Cuba from grades K-5, while leaving them available to middle school students.
The Miami Herald identified Salinas as the petitioner. After the story about her was published, a left-wing group, Miami Against Fascism, called attention to a Facebook account it identified as hers. The account, which the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) reviewed, features a flood of political posts reflecting right-wing ideologies—and the antisemitic The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the most notorious and widely distributed antisemitic publication of modern times.
Salinas’ post about the Protocols included a list of steps depicting how “Jewish Zionists” would achieve world domination.
Salinas apologized to JTA for the post, but not for appearing with the ultra-right Proud Boys at a rally for Moms For Liberty, a “parents’ rights” group active in pushing for book removals across the country.
The fact that Salinas had yet to read Ms. Gorman’s poem before asking for its being restricted, spells out that Salinas’s objection is to the fact that the poet is a Black woman. Period.
But don’t take my word for it. Please read the poem (which follows in its entirety). I’ve read it four times in the past few days and find only hope and inspiration in its beautiful expression. And it seems only appropriate for this weekend when we take a few moments to honor those who gave their lives for our freedom.
Photo illustration by Courtney A. Liska
The Hill We Climb
When day comes, we ask ourselves, where can we find light in this never-ending shade?
The loss we carry. A sea we must wade.
We braved the belly of the beast.
We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace, and the norms and notions of what “just” is isn’t always justice.
And yet the dawn is ours before we knew it.
Somehow we do it.
Somehow we weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken, but simply unfinished.
We, the successors of a country and a time where a skinny Black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president, only to find herself reciting for one.
And, yes, we are far from polished, far from pristine, but that doesn’t mean we are striving to form a union that is perfect.
We are striving to forge our union with purpose.
To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and conditions of man.
And so we lift our gaze, not to what stands between us, but what stands before us.
We close the divide because we know to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside.
We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another.
We seek harm to none and harmony for all.
Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true.
That even as we grieved, we grew.
That even as we hurt, we hoped.
That even as we tired, we tried.
That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious.
Not because we will never again know defeat, but because we will never again sow division.
Scripture tells us to envision that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid.
If we’re to live up to our own time, then victory won’t lie in the blade, but in all the bridges we’ve made.
That is the promise to glade, the hill we climb, if only we dare.
It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit.
It’s the past we step into and how we repair it.
We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation, rather than share it.
Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy.
And this effort very nearly succeeded.
But while democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated.
In this truth, in this faith we trust, for while we have our eyes on the future, history has its eyes on us.
This is the era of just redemption.
We feared at its inception.
We did not feel prepared to be the heirs of such a terrifying hour.
But within it we found the power to author a new chapter, to offer hope and laughter to ourselves.
So, while once we asked, how could we possibly prevail over catastrophe, now we assert, how could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?
We will not march back to what was, but move to what shall be: a country that is bruised but whole, benevolent but bold, fierce and free.
We will not be turned around or interrupted by intimidation because we know our inaction and inertia will be the inheritance of the next generation, become the future.
Our blunders become their burdens.
But one thing is certain.
If we merge mercy with might, and might with right, then love becomes our legacy and change our children’s birthright.
So let us leave behind a country better than the one we were left.
Every breath from my bronze-pounded chest, we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one.
We will rise from the golden hills of the West.
We will rise from the windswept Northeast where our forefathers first realized revolution.
We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the Midwestern states.
We will rise from the sun-baked South.
We will rebuild, reconcile, and recover.
And every known nook of our nation and every corner called our country, our people diverse and beautiful, will emerge battered and beautiful.
When day comes, we step out of the shade aflame and unafraid.
The new dawn blooms as we free it.
For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it.
If only we’re brave enough to be it.