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DeSantis refuses to say 'Black' or 'white supremacist' in response to Florida shooting
The crusading "anti-woke" governor and GOP presidential candidate is dog-whistling to far-right extremists
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Florida Governor Ron DeSantis was booed at a vigil yesterday for three Black people shot and killed at a Dollar General store in Jacksonville, Florida, on Saturday by an avowed racist who shot and killed himself after engaging in mass murder.
The white supremacist killer said, "I hate Black people," leaving behind a manifesto of vile racist hate. The 21-year-old was steeped in the extremist ideology of groups that have flocked to Florida and have been organizing there, largely because DeSantis has made it easy for them.
DeSantis left the presidential campaign trail amid the aftermath of the shooting and as a hurricane appears headed toward Florida. But in two statements he’s made on the shooting, he’s refused to condemn white supremacy, stopped short of calling the shooter “a racist,” and didn’t even acknowledge that the shooter was motivated by hate specifically against Black people.
By contrast, President Biden, in a deeply felt and strong statement, said, "White supremacy has no place in the United States."
Calling the shooter a "major league scumbag," at the vigil, DeSantis repeated the line he’d used in a video he released on Saturday:
This shooting, based on the manifesto they discovered from the scumbag that did this, was racially motivated. He was targeting people based on their race. That is totally unacceptable.
"Targeting people based on their race" doesn’t cut it because that is something white supremacists claim they are targeted for by people of color. It’s actually a way of acknowledging their gripe—equating it—because you’re not specifically pointing out the long history of hatred against Black people in the United States.
"Racially motivated" again is not specific and only feeds ideas that white people are attacked for their race—especially if you’re a governor with a history of feeding white grievance with anti-woke laws designed to censor the teaching of history in this country about enslaved people. And using the meek term, "totally unacceptable,” is… totally unacceptable!
Calling the killer a "scumbag" too is a cop-out. As a heckler at the vigil said to DeSantis in response, "He’s a racist!"
DeSantis seems to have done everything not to acknowledge racist hate and the targeting of Black people in this shooting. This is the mode of someone coddling white supremacists—someone who passed laws that in fact allowed this kind of hate to fester and lead to violence.
As Florida state Rep. Angie Nixon, whose district includes Dollar General, said on MSNBC:
Look, at the end of the day, the governor has blood on his hands. He has had an attack, an all-out attack on the Black community with his anti-woke policies, which we know very well was nothing more than a dog whistle to get folks up and riled up in the way in which it just happened yesterday. As I listened to him for the first time with that statement, my blood is literally boiling.
DeSantis has allowed bigots and racists to easily arm themselves and carry guns openly, pushed through his "anti-woke" policies and laws, and supported censoring the teaching of Black history with a curriculum that discusses slavery as having a "personal benefit."
And as the Anti-Defamation League noted in its report last year, "Hate in the Sunshine State" he’s made Florida a comfortable place for haters:
In Florida, new white supremacist groups have formed, including White Lives Matter, Sunshine State Nationalists, NatSoc Florida and Florida Nationalists, while existing neo-Nazi and accelerationist groups have broadened their audience both online and on the ground activities. Other extremist groups such as Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys have shifted their strategies to focus on the local level, disrupting school board meetings and even running for political office.
The killer at Dollar General didn’t just come out of nowhere. He came from within a state whose governor has put out the welcome mat for white supremacists—a governor who’s even refused to condemn neo-Nazis protesting at Disney World holding up campaign signs with his name earlier this year.
And after a neo-Nazi gathering in Orlando last year that Senator Rick Scott called "hateful and anti-Semitic," DeSantis’ only response was that it was an attempt by Democrats to try to "smear" him.
DeSantis, running for president on an extreme MAGA agenda supercharged by white grievance, knows exactly what he’s doing in not using the word "Black" or the term "white supremacist," or even "racist” in discussing these killings.
He’s courting, through his policies, the very people who promote the hate that led to this mass shooting. And through his language, he’s making sure not to condemn them in the only way they should be: as vile, racist white supremacists.