TALLAHASSEE (Fla.) — Ron DeSantis’ policies towards the Black community have come under renewed scrutiny following the shooting death of three Blacks at a Dollar General in Jacksonville by a racist gunman. The Justice Department is investigating the attack as a hate-crime.
After the 11-minute spree, in which Palmeter also took his own life, his parents found more than 20 pages of writings by Ryan Christopher Palmeter, a white gunman from Clay County. These included open racist statements toward Black people.
“I can say with certainty that he didn’t like Black people,” said Jacksonville Sheriff T.K. Waters spoke at a press conference in response to the shooting. “He made it very clear.”
Florida’s Black Community and others have spoken out against the DeSantis Administration’s efforts to eliminate higher education diversity programs. They also oppose the teaching of institutionalized racism to students in public schools, the scrutiny of African American history classes, and the redistricting of the northern Florida’s one and only Black performing congressional seat which included Jacksonville.
In May, NAACP even released a travel advisor for Florida due to DeSantis “aggressive efforts to erase Black History and to restrict Diversity, Equity and Inclusion programs.”
“How long can we let the governor keep his foot on us and not say anything?” asked state senator Shevrin J. Jones, a Miami Democrat of Black descent. This is the outcome of all that. Not only is it the result but it also gives those who did this an excuse to appear as if it was okay.
DeSantis has used race and education as part of a larger culture war agenda. This agenda was a hallmark in his presidential campaign of 2024. He is regularly at odds with civil right leaders, who claim that his “war on awakeness” is an attempt to target people of color in Florida and other marginalized groups.
Angie Nixon, a Black Democrat from Jacksonville, , told MSNBC Sunday that “he has launched an all-out assault on the Black Community with his anti-woke policy, which we very well know was nothing more than a whistle to get people riled up.”
DeSantis said on Sunday that he will step down from his presidential campaign and return to Florida in order to concentrate on the response to the Tropical Storm Idalia. The storm is expected to become a hurricane within the next 24 to 48 hours.
DeSantis’ office did not respond to a request for comment on this article.
The mistrust between DeSantis, the Florida governor, and the Black community in Florida was clearly displayed Sunday at a Jacksonville vigil held for the victims.
DeSantis referred to the gunman as a “scumbag” at the vigil. Jeffrey Rumlin was a Jacksonville Pastor who spoke after DeSantis. He was even more direct.
Rumlin stated, “At the very end, Governor, he wasn’t a scumbag.” ” He is a racist.”
DeSantis announced on Monday that he would be donating $1.1 million towards the enhancement of campus security at Edward Waters University. This historically Black university is located near the site where this shooting occurred.
DeSantis stated, “We will not allow our HBCUs (historically Black colleges) to be targeted by hateful scumbags.” “I have instructed my administration to utilize every resource to ensure that the Edward Waters Campus is safe after this shooting, and to assist the families in their grief.”
Jones said that he was not impressed by DeSantis’ attendance at the vigil. Jones pointed out that DeSantis visited the Pulse Nightclub Massacre in Orlando, which resulted in 49 deaths, when he was a congressman.
“He was present, but it didn’t change his attitude towards the LGBTQ community.” Jones said that his appearance in Jacksonville resembled a campaign stunt by someone running for the presidency. “You cannot take three or four year of his actions, and then go to the Black Community saying, ‘I Stand with You.’ No, no, you do not.”
DeSantis’ focus on the Black Community is largely in the education sector. He has led the charge to ban diversity and equity programs within Florida’s higher educational system. He was also among the first Republicans to call for to be banned from critical race theory, the study of the impact of systematic racism on American society.
DeSantis has recently defended his Department of Education’s release of education standards which include the idea some Black people ” received personal benefit from slavery.
DeSantis, who was struggling to restart his presidential campaign following a slow start for weeks, insisted that slaves had learned , how to be a blacksmith, while they were enslaved. This position drew a flood of criticisms from those who felt it was another political slight against the Black community.
The DeSantis Administration’s insistence that the curriculum be included drew rebukes from both sides, including several Black Republican congressmen. Rep. Byron Donalds, a Florida Republican who had been a DeSantis ally for many years but now supports Donald Trump’s campaign as president, was one of the most notable.
Donalds tweeted that “the new African-American Standards in FL are good robust & accurate,” in July. “The attempt to highlight the personal benefits slavery is wrong and needs to be corrected.” This was not the intention & I am confident that FLDOE can correct it.
DeSantis supporters went after Donalds for several days on social media. They framed the governor’s critics as being Kamala Harris sympathizers, who had traveled to Jacksonville days after the curriculum proposals were made public to denounce them.
She said that “these extremists, so-called leader should model what we already know to be correct and right approach, if we are really invested in the wellbeing of our children,” at an event held at the Ritz Theater and Museum in one of the predominantly Black neighborhoods of the city.
Jacksonville is not the first place that it has played a part in the sometimes open hostility between DeSantis’ and the Black residents of the state.
During Florida’s redistricting in 2022, maps drawn by DeSantis’ office removed the only Black congressional seat from northern Florida. The seat ran from Tallahassee-Jax, and was held by Black Democrat Al Lawson. Lawson lost reelection to a newly configured position. The new map increased the number of GOP members in Florida’s 28 member delegation to 20 and helped Republicans maintain their slim majority in the House following a disappointing midterm election cycle in 2022.
A coalition of groups including Black Voters Matter and Equal Ground as well as the League of Women Voters of Florida immediately filed a legal challenge against the new congressional map. They claimed that the changes disenfranchised voters in northern Florida – a region which included slave plantations – and violated Fair Districts. Fair Districts are amendments to the state constitution, which stipulate that new seats cannot “diminish the ability” of minority voters to elect someone of the voters’ choice.
During a four hour court hearing in Tallahassee last week, Circuit Judge Lee Marsh expressed open skepticism towards the state’s argument about removing the northern Florida seat.
Nixon, a Jacksonville Democrat and other Democratic legislators gathered on the Florida House Floor to protest the passage of these maps in April 2022. They wanted the Republican majority draw a new map of Congress that included a Black-performing seat in north Florida.
Nixon stated at the time, “What we are dealing with is a group that’s worried and afraid about the browning and darkening of the country.” “They’re trying to hold onto power so hard that they’re changing the rules.”