“They are stripping us of so many of our freedoms in order for them to be comfortable,” the Democratic representative says of GOP-backed measures, from restrictive voting laws to ‘Don’t Say Gay’ and the 15-week abortion ban.
Congressmember Yvonne Hinson, who represents Florida’s District 20, an area in southeast Florida that includes most of the majority-Black precincts in and around Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, along with parts of Pompano Beach and Sunrise, is passionate when it comes to the issues that matter to her as a mother, an educator, and the small business owner of Childstart Leaning Solutions, a supplemental education program.
As she prepares to run for reelection ahead of the midterm elections, the Gainesville native, who for 14 years served as principal of an elementary magnet school, and for 3 years served on the Gainesville City Commission, talked with Floricua about some of the state’s most pressing issues.
Florida ranks #2 in the nation in mass shootings. What do you think of the state’s majority GOP Legislature’s refusal to pass common-sense gun safety laws like universal background checks, and banning the sale of assault weapons?
Of course, we need to make our gun restrictions even stronger. I would agree with banning any weapon that is used for war. Those weapons should not be on the streets, and they should not be accessible to common folk. I don’t even believe police officers need to have assault rifles. The Democratic Legislature is now asking the new Secretary of State, Cord Byrd, who probably won’t do anything that the governor doesn’t allow him to, to call another special session on gun violence, so that we can make more rigid restrictions to gun acquisition. We don’t think 18-year-olds should be able to get an assault rifle. There are laws that we can put into place that can make our schools, our hospitals, and our events venues safer for our people.
As an educator, what is your opinion on arming teachers, as some Republicans have suggested?
Man! [Long sigh] As I read on Facebook, if the Uvalde police, well prepared, well protected, well armored, are afraid to go in to confront an assault weapon, why are we asking teachers to do something the police force is scared to do?
What is your opinion of House Bill 5, the 15-week abortion ban signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis?
Since the ban, I’ve said that government is all up in our uterus. I don’t think they have a right to be there. They are stripping us of so many of our freedoms, in order for them to be comfortable. To strip women of the freedom of their bodies, may be the ultimate egregious act against humanity.
The Use and Misuse of Federal Funds
Gov. DeSantis has been doling out millions of dollars to mostly Republican rural Florida counties, never mentioning that the funds come from President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan (ARP) that DeSantis voted against.
I called the Congressional Black Caucus leader and I said, “I don’t know who you know and who you can get to, but President Biden needs to know that our governor is taking Biden bucks all up and down the state of Florida, campaigning with them, leaving them in red counties.” I think Biden and the federal government need to start bypassing the state and sending those dollars directly to communities.
What do you think of DeSantis’ and state Republicans’ so-called ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law, which bans age-appropriate discussion on gender in elementary school classrooms?
According to them, it doesn’t say that, but we know what they are saying. They are saying ‘Don’t speak of it’ in the classroom. They are uncomfortable with quite a few things, and the things they are uncomfortable with, they seem to be bold enough and just inhumane enough to try to make a law to keep it from existing in front of them. God.
Again, as an educator, why do you think books like Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” or Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” are being banned in schools?
Because they make the right-wing conservatives uncomfortable. Did you see some of the pages that they are banning from math books [alleging they teach Critical Race Theory]? These books are nationally recognized books [that portray] history as it actually happened. We need to keep them as part of our history. It’s not just Black history, it’s American history.
Freedom, But Not for All
Republicans call themselves “the party of small government”, while enacting laws that impact people’s private lives, such as some of the laws we’ve talked about. What are your thoughts?
I don’t see how they can call themselves the party of small government, because not only have they taken all of our freedoms away that we fought for and got approved over the years, but they are also taking local government control. They are going to make the final decision in what local governments can do in their own cities, in their own communities. That’s not less government, that’s more government.
Gov. DeSantis calls Florida “the freest state in the nation” at the same time that he enacts laws that suppress the rights of the LGBTQ community, bans peaceful protests in front of a home, retaliates against private companies, like the Disney Corporation, that defy his laws, and makes it harder for communities of color to vote. What are your thoughts?
Not only have they rolled back many of our voting rights, but they have also suppressed voting access points that minorities used successfully in the last campaign. Now this governor has his own elections police. That’s frightening! What is he planning to do with it?
I’ve said all along, ‘Freedom for whom’? It appears that there’s freedom for some, and there’s almost a return to oppression for others. This is not the freest state in the nation for everyone.