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The White domestic terrorist attack in Jacksonville, Florida that killed three Black people on Saturday is the strange fruit watered by the thinly veiled racist rhetoric from far-right politicians across the country.

Whether emboldened by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ “war on woke” or the state’s legacy of racial terror, the White terrorist, identified as 21-year-old Ryan Christopher Palmeter, desired to find and destroy the lives of Black Americans with an AR-15-style rifle. The attack at a Dollar General store represented another “dark day.”

By Sunday afternoon, the victims had been identified as 52-year-old Angela Michelle Carr, 29-year-old Anolt Joseph Laguerre Jr., known as A.J. and 19-year-old Jerrald De’Shaun Gallion.

Credit: First Coast News
29-year-old Jerrald De’Shaun Gallion

“This is a dark day in Jacksonville’s history,” Jacksonville Sheriff T.K. Waters told CNN.  “Any loss of life is tragic, but the hate that motivated the shooter’s killing spree adds an additional layer of heartbreak.”

Palmeter traveled from his parents’ house in Clay County to Jacksonville. First he tried to enter the historically Black college of Edward Waters University before being turned away. He then set his sights on an easier location to cause mayhem.

Two Black men and a Black woman were mercilessly gunned down after the White domestic terrorist reportedly told non-Black customers to leave the store. With swastikas drawn on his rifle, the coward took the lives of three people before turning the gun on himself.

Yet this latest mass murder against Black people didn’t occur in a vacuum. It was given oxygen by far-right politicians who campaign against racial equity and the true telling of history in an effort to gain and maintain political power.

Authorities respond to the scene of a mass shooting in Jacksonville, Florida on August 26, 2023. (Associated Press)

Anti-Black campaign leads to real-world violence in Jacksonville

Just next door to Florida, Georgia is the center of the country’s focus after Donald Trump became the first former president to have his mugshot taken in an election subversion case being prosecuted by Fulton County’s Fani Willis.

Some worry that the White domestic terrorist attacks against Black people in Charleston, SC in 2017, in Buffalo, NY in 2022 and now in Jacksonville, Florida, may spill over into Atlanta, Georgia.

Ryan Palmeter was named by police as the gunman. Pic: Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office

Gerald Griggs is the 13th Georgia NAACP president and the current NAACP president for Atlanta’s local chapter. In a phone interview on Sunday, Griggs said these attacks are the new normal.

“There seems to be White supremacist attacks on Black communities all over the country,” Griggs told The Black Wall Street Times. “I think the country has to have a real conversation about the anti-Black campaign that is going on online as well as in person.”

Residents talk with police near the scene of a domestic terrorist attack in Jacksonville, Florida on August 26, 2023. (Associated Press)

As politicians from Florida to Oklahoma seek higher office, their efforts to compete for who can create the most anti-Black policies have real-world consequences.

Florida Gov. DeSantis arguably started the anti-Black campaign with his legislation targeting lessons on race and history in the classroom–legislation that has been exported to other Republican-controlled states across the nation.

In Oklahoma, the site of the nation’s worst domestic terrorist attack against Black people, survivors of the Tulsa Race Massacre continue to fight for reparations at the Oklahoma Supreme Court even as the state Superintendent and other lawmakers downplay racism.

Politicians revive a legacy of anti-Blackness that leads to racial terror

Meanwhile, the Jacksonville terrorist, armed with a tactical vest, AR-style rifle and a handgun, left behind writings that made it clear his intentions were to murder Black people.

“Plainly put, this shooting was racially motivated, and he hated Black people. He wanted to kill n*ggers.”

DeSantis, from the presidential campaign trail in Iowa, released a brief statement calling the White domestic terrorist a “scumbag.” Yet his own actions make his words hollow as the trees from which vigilantes hanged innocent Black souls.

“It’s kinda hard to believe Ron DeSantis and his “condemnation” of the shooter, when he continually pushes anti-Black policies. A white man in his early twenties specifically went to kill BLACK PEOPLE. The governor of our state of Florida has created an environment ripe for this,” Florida state Rep. Angie Nixon (D-13) posted on Saturday.

Some seeking to distance themselves from their own racist talking points will try to focus on the White domestic terrorists’ personal history of violence. He was involved in a domestic violence case in 2016 and was forced to temporarily give up his weapons under Florida’s Baker Act in 2017, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff.

Yet politicians play a role as well. DeSantis and others like him are continuing an American tradition of tapping into the insecurities, fears and hatred of White voters to divide populations and score political points. The danger of ignoring racism is matched only by these politicians depraved desire to keep up the racist rhetoric even after these events occur, especially in a place stained with the blood of Black ancestors.

Florida’s legacy of racial violence

Before the civil war, in 1860, nearly half of Florida’s entire population was made up of enslaved Black people. After freedom for Black people had been secured, the politics of Jim Crow sought to keep them terrorized and marginalized.

Between 1877 and 1950, 319 documented lynchings of Black people took place in Florida, the 7th highest of any Southern state, according to the Equal Justice Iniatitive. In Duval County, home to Jacksonville, eight documented lynchings have been recorded.

The White mobs who carried out these extrajudicial crimes were emboldened by the racist rhetoric from segregationists who demanded White supremacy remain the law of the land.

For Atlanta, Georgia NAACP President Griggs, the two eras don’t seem so distant from each other.

“It feels like they’re trying to take us back to 1950 or 1850,” Griggs told The Black Wall St. Times.

“The NAACP [of Florida] has responded to the policies with a travel advisory, and so we’re trying to warn people of the growing tide of hate that is directed at Black people. We have to be cautious about where we travel.”

Deon Osborne was born in Minneapolis, MN and raised in Lawton, OK before moving to Norman where he attended the University of Oklahoma. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Strategic Media and has...

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